Match Stats/Report - Nadal vs Federer, French Open final, 2011


Hall of Fame
Rafael Nadal beat Roger Federer 7-5, 7-6(3), 5-7, 6-1 in the French Open final, 2011 on clay

Nadal was defending champion and this was his 6th title at the event, tying Bjorn Borg's record. To date, he has 12 titles. Federer, champion in 2009, was playing his 5th and to date, last final at the event

Nadal won 143 points, Federer 130

(Note: I'm missing a point, which appears to have been a second serve by Nadal that he lost
From commentary and stats presented, its been deduced to be a double fault - and included as such
Missing point - Set 3, Game 1, Point 1)

Serve Stats
- 1st serve percentage (106/147) 72%
- 1st serve points won (69/106) 65%
- 2nd serve points won (21/41) 51%
- Aces 4
- Double Faults 3
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (34/147) 23%

- 1st serve percentage (80/126) 63%
- 1st serve points won (55/80) 69%
- 2nd serve points won (18/46) 39%
- Aces 11, Service Winners 3
- Double Faults 1
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (29/126) 23%

Serve Pattern
Nadal served...
- to FH 10%
- to BH 81%
- to Body 8%

Federer served...
- to FH 34%
- to BH 65%
- to Body 2%

Return Stats
Nadal made...
- 96 (41 FH, 55 BH), including 9 runaround FHs
- 2 Winners (1 FH, 1 BH)
- 15 Errors, comprising...
- 4 Unforced (2 FH, 2 BH)
- 11 Forced (4 FH, 7 BH), including 1 runaround FH
- Return Rate (96/125) 77%

Federer made...
- 110 (25 FH, 85 BH), including 12 runaround FHs
- 2 Winners (1 FH, 1 BH), including 1 runaround FH
- 30 Errors, comprising...
- 21 Unforced (7 FH, 14 BH), including 5 runaround FHs
- 9 Forced (1 FH, 8 BH)
- Return Rate (110/144) 76%

Break Points
Nadal 7/15 (8 games)
Federer 5/15 (7 games)

Winners (including returns, excluding aces)
Nadal 33 (19 FH, 10 BH, 2 FHV, 2 OH)
Federer 41 (16 FH, 11 BH, 8 FHV, 1 FH1/2V, 2 BHV, 3 OH)

Nadal's FHs - 2 cc, 7 dtl (1 return, 3 passes - 1 at net), 9 inside-out and 1 inside-in
- BHs - 8 cc (3 passes), 1 dtl pass (a net chord flicker), and 1 inside-out return

- 1 OH was on the bounce

Federer's FHs - 5 cc, 1 dtl, 1 dtl/inside-out at net, 5 inside-out (1 runaround return), 2 inside-in and 2 drop shots
- BHs - 1 cc, 4 dtl (1 return) and 6 drop shots

- 4 from serve-volleys points
- 3 first volleys (3 FHV)… 1 of which can reasonably be called an OH
- 1 second volley (1 BHV)

- 3 swinging FHVs - 1 not a net shot
- 1 OH on the bounce from no-man's land
- the FH1/2V was net-to-net

Errors (excluding returns and serves)
Nadal 57
- 29 Unforced (15 FH, 14 BH)… with 1 FH pass & 1 BH at net
- 28 Forced (15 FH, 13 BH)… with 1 FH at net
Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 44.8

Federer 75
- 52 Unforced (22 FH, 28 BH, 1 FHV, 1 OH)
- 23 Forced (13 FH, 9 BH, 1 FHV)
Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 46.2

(Note 1: all half-volleys refer to such shots played at net. Half -volleys played from other parts of the court are included within relevant groundstroke counts)

(Note 2: the Unforced Error Forcefulness Index is an indicator of how aggressive the average UE was. The numbers presented for these two matches are keyed on 4 categories - 20 defensive, 40 neutral, 50 attacking and 60 winner attempt)

Net Points & Serve-Volley
Nadal was...
- 8/11 (73%) at net

Federer was...
- 30/43 (70%) at net, including...
- 9/12 (75%) serve-volleying, comprising...
- 7/9 (78%) off 1st serve and...
- 2/3 (67%) off 2nd serve
- 1/2 forced back

Match Report
A very good match that differs from the pair's norm in some key ways, though not enough in the most key one to alter the outcome: unforced errors - Nadal going into "never-going-to-miss-a-ball" mode and the vulnerability of the Federer BH

Other notable features of the match are Federer's excellent serving, up from norm attacking returns, stellar use of drop shots and a 10 minute rain delay that seems to lower bounce of court

Federer dominates the early part of the match and the standout feature is his returning. He steps in and takes BH returns early, always swinging (i.e. not blocking or chipping) and its enough to rush Nadal on the third ball. He serve-volleys some and sparingly comes to net at other times effectively. And he's also quite consistent off the ground, which means a reasonable number of longer rallies go his way with Nadal making the error

Nadal is also error prone by his standard. The effects of the light ball that flies faster is in evidence. While the court seems typically slow with high bounce, the 'flying' quality of balls more typical of high-altitude Madrid is also on show

Down 2-5, Nadal serves to stay in the set and Fed reaches break and set point, on which he misses an ill-advised BH inside-out drop shot. He'd go onto use the shot exceptionally well in the match, but here, the ball wasn't really there for the shot and Nadal well placed to run it down even had it landed in. Nadal goes on to hold

Fed is broken serving for the set and he makes 1/6 first serves. In his previous. In his previous 4 service games, he'd made 18/22. Thereafter, Fed's BH falters a bit against the usual Nadal stream of FH cc's. Nadal breaks again with some great counter-net play - 2 different types of FH dtl passes, and forcing Fed back from net twice - coming in himself to finish one of the points and takes the set

Nadal enters full scale can't-miss-a-ball mode in the second, breaks early and is near flawless in play. Fed's BH by contrast is cracking. Its his serve that keeps him in the match. Some strong attacking play gets Fed the break back late in the set, but Nadal breaks right back

With Nadal serving for the set at deuce, there's a 10 minute rain delay, too short for the court to be covered. On resumption, Nadal's broken on back-to-back FH errors

Tiebreak is soft from Fed. He opens by missing a routine FH, misses another third ball winner attempt and 2 second serve returns. Nadal wraps up the set with a third ball FH inside-out winner

In set 3, Federer utilizes drop shots of both wings and play is about even. He plays a poor game to be broken to love in game 6, but a very strong one to break back right away by the same score. He gains decisive break with another very played game, with FH dtl doing the damage, and this time, serves out the set with 3 winners - a BH dtl, a BH drop shot and on set point, a third ball FH inside-out winner

Carrying on the good work, Fed leads 0-40 in opening game of the 4th. Nadal, who'd done little more than spin in first serves all match, throws out some big serves to commandingly save the break points and then hold. And then again enters can't-miss-a-ball mode. First point of the set had been a Nadal UE. rest of the match, he makes just 1. Fed has 10. Nadal takes it easily in the end 6-1


Hall of Fame
Serve & Return
Nadal with 72% first serves in. he's not doing much with the serve, though he was most capable of so doing during this period. Just spinning it in for the most part. When under the gun a bit in the 4th set, he starts banging down them down more strongly. Down 0-40 in the first game of the 4th, he sends down an ace and forces a return error with a slightly wide serve … 21/30 return errors he's drawn have been marked unforced and most were against first serves, to indicate how rare that was for him

His returning is far more impressive. Federer serves as well as he's capable - yet the unreturned rates remain equal at 23%. From Nadal's point of view, that alone is very good and the cherry on top is he's less safe (a better way of describing it than 'more attacking') with the second shot. Fairly deep returns from Nadal... far more so than the pair's earlier matches at the venue

Federer serves superbly. Note the 11 aces and 3 service winners (Nadal has 4 aces). High numbers against Nadal on clay. Lots of other challenging wide serves too. The huge 30% gap between his first serve and second serve points won is good indicator of how important the first shot is for him, and how well he delivered on the shot (Nadal's gap is 14%... his superiority is based on court play more than needing an advantageous starting point for rallying)

76% return rate against Nadal serving gently on clay is not a good figure for Fed. 21 return UEs is big number (Nadal has 4). Lots of makeable or even routine misses by Fed and even the 9 FEs are mostly on the more makeable than not

The numbers speak to a basic relative weakness on the shot in terms of his consistency because he actually returns well and smartly. For large parts of the match, he takes returns early and hits them firmly, if not aggressively. It was necessary - his preference for safely chipping or blocking returns back in play had got him into all kinds of trouble with Rafa in the past. While a step up for him, its still less than great. The way Rafa serves of power and predictable direction (81% to BH... which is actually low for him to Federer), there's scope to really go after the Nadal serve. Attacking weak serves isn't a strong point of Federer's game in general

Fed uses runaround FH returns in this match the way Rafa does... more or less neutrally, with aim of getting into central court position for the upcoming rally. Note Fed with 3 more such returns (also 4 more errors). This is a good move - unlike Rafa, Fed's runaround FH is a distinct step up in firmness than the BH - and its also not how he usually uses the shot

Generally, runaround returns from Fed tend to be very aggressive shots, usually winner attempts. And usually doesn't work with Rafa on clay. Wise move to play it more neutrally... he needs every bit of extra weight on the return he can get

Gist of serve-return complex is -
- Fed serving very well
- Nadal serve nondescript
- good sure returning by Nadal against strong opposition
- good choice to be a bit more forceful on the return by Fed, but his neutral returning has much room for improvement of consistency

The last point might be a subtle deciding point of match. With match so close, Fed - as late as game 3, set 4 total points are equal and also note break point figures (both with 15 chances, Rafa in one more game) - the relatively large chunk of makeable returns that Fed misses could well have been difference between victory and defeat

Play - Baseline & Net
Quality of play varies across the match, even Nadal's. At the heart of play is Nadal hitting FH cc's to Federer's BH. The norm for the match-up. What comes out of it is a mixed bag

Overall picture is good from Nadal's point of view. 28 BH UEs from Fed (Nadal has 29 total. Fed 52). While Nadal is typically consistent with his FH cc, Fed's BH looks more vulnerable overall then usual. In other matches, the feel of play is 'beat down' type errors. Here, its more 'outlast' or even 'just making routine errors' … the Nadal FH cc isn't as heavy as it often is, and Fed's BH folds regularly regardless. To an extent that it looks weak in and of itself, as opposed to Nadal's FH being too strong for it

On the other hand, Fed gains significantly more counter-play with his BH than normal. 11 winners (to 16 off the FH) is very high for him (admittedly, most are drop shots and not a part of the Nadal FH - Fed BH match up). Some very good dtl attacking shots, including 3 winners in play and even some sharp, error forcing or at least initiative snatching cc shots

Finally, the rain break has a hand. Prior to it, balls were reaching Fed upper-ribs to shoulder height and he was struggling to hit with any authority (and Nadal was not wading into the weaker shots coming out of this). After the break, balls reach Fed lower-ribs to stomach height... and he makes more BHs and with more punch

Getting errors out of the Fed BH, productive as it is, isn't the main point of Nadal's game. The persistent FH cc'ing pins Fed to that side of he court, and Nadal lets loose on the other side with FH inside-out. Note the 9 Nadal FH inside-out winners and Fed's 13 FH FEs

Usually, Fed attacks with FH and net approaches. In this match, there's the drop shot too... some of the best drop shotting you'll see. No less than 8 winners with the shot, very few errors (the one on set point first set was a particularly bad shot choice). FH aggression is measured rather than overwhelming (read: low percentage/dumb), which leads to among other things Nadal not playing too far behind the baseline. which makes all the drop shot success even more praise worthy. Nadal doesn't usually try to run them down

Fed's at net 43 times, winning 70% of point up there. He comes in off strong approaches, behind which you'd back a player to win a hefty amount. Against Nadal, even that isn't a give in. Fed's come in on approaches just as strong in other matches, even on faster surfaces and been passed repeatedly. So Nadal isn't his best on the, but I'd overwhelmingly credit Fed

Hitting difficult passes against hard hit, wide and/or deep balls against a good volleyer regularly isn't practical. That Nadal manages to do so quite regularly is one of the strongest parts of his game - and not something even he can count on doing every day. That he pulls it off so regularly also highlights the tough decisions Fed has to make. With Nadal predictably winning bulk of baseline points, coming to net more naturally suggests itself. While highly successful up front, Federer would know better than anyone its not likely to last

Still, 43 approaches in 273 point match is on the low side when getting beaten from the back. The decision to come in more though is complicated by gap from the back not being too wide, though clear. Fed gets sufficient counter-play with FHs, drop shots and even some BHs that he wouldn't necessarily feel helpless from the baseline - and thus be driven to come in more

No easy solutions to Rafael Nadal on clay. Not far from no solutions, period

From the back, Fed has a go at turning the tables on Nadal with FH cc's to attack the BH, and using that to hit into half-open court. Some success, but not much, probably a net negative for Fed. Nadal's BH rarely yields errors (14 UEs - lowest of 4 groundstrokes on show) and bops BH cc's back with about equal power. These rallies are 50-50 affairs, not Fed attacking and Nadal defending. Fed has more success hitting to half-open FH court, forces 15 Nadal FH errors and has 4 inside-out winners. Its not a consistent point winner... Nadal runs many balls down and goes back cc at sharp angle, putting Fed back on the defensive. Fed's runaround FH inside-out, like his runaround return, is more often used neutrally... a firmer shot than the feeble BHs, but not strong. Nadal tends to remain in charge of points against it or at least, remain untroubled

Summing up, a good step up from Federer through a combination of pinpoint serving, moderately attacking returning, excellent drop shots and balanced moderate attack from the back. Nadal remains comfortably the better player though for all the old reasons - at times, it seems he couldn't miss a ball if he tried and he's able to exploit the frail Fed BH both to win points outright and to open the other side of the court to launch attacks to. One of the pair's better and closer clay matches

Stats for pair's other French Open matches
2005 -
2006 -
2007 -
2008 -