Match Stats/Report - Nadal vs Federer, French Open semi-final 2005

Waspsting

Hall of Fame
Rafael Nadal beat Roger Federer 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 in the French Open semi-final 2005 on clay

Nadal would go on to win his first Slam at the event and the first to date of 11 French Open titles

Nadal won 124 points, Federer 114

Serve Stats
Nadal...
- 1st serve percentage (89/120) 74%
- 1st serve points won (55/89) 62%
- 2nd serve points won (15/31) 48%
- Aces 2 (1 a second serve)
- Double Faults 4
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (11/120) 9%

Federer...
- 1st serve percentage (72/118) 61%
- 1st serve points won (46/72) 64%
- 2nd serve points won (18/46) 39%
- Aces 3, Service Winners 1
- Double Faults 5
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (18/118) 15%

Serve Pattern
Nadal served...
- to FH 9%
- to BH 90%
- to Body 2%

Federer served...
- to FH 54%
- to BH 46%

Return Stats
Nadal made...
- 95 (62 FH, 33 BH), including 8 runaround FHs
- 1 Winner (1 FH)
- 14 Errors, comprising...
- 3 Unforced (2 FH, 1 BH), including 1 runaround FH attempt
- 11 Forced (5 FH, 6 BH)
- Return Rate (95/113) 84%

Federer made...
- 105 (26 FH, 79 BH), including 15 runaround FHs and 1 return-approach (which was a runaround FH)
- 9 Errors, comprising...
- 4 Unforced (2 FH, 2 BH), including 2 runaround FH attempts
- 5 Forced (1 FH, 4 BH)
- Return Rate (105/116) 91%

Break Points
Nadal 9/13 (9 games)
Federer 6/12 (6 games)

Winners (including returns, excluding aces)
Nadal 21 (10 FH, 6 BH, 2 FHV, 1 BHV, 2 OH)
Federer 37 (17 FH, 4 BH, 5 FHV, 7 BHV, 4 OH)

Nadal's FHs - 3 cc (1 a pass), 4 dtl (including 1 pass and 1 return), 2 inside-out and 1 drop shot

- BHs are all passes - 3 cc, 2 dtl and 1 inside-out hit from mid-court

- 1 FHV was a swinging shot

Federer's FHs - 1 cc (a pass), 2 dtl, 10 inside-out, 3 inside-in and 1 at net

- BHs - 3 passes (2 cc, 1 dtl) and 1 drop shot

- 5 from serve-volley points - 3 first volleys (2 FHV, 1 BHV) and 2 second volleys (1 FHV, 1 BHV)

- 1 BHV was from his sole return-approach point

Errors (excluding returns and serves)
Nadal 56
- 32 Unforced (20 FH, 12 BH)
- 24 Forced (12 FH, 12 BH)
Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 45.5

Federer 85
- 62 Unforced (38 FH, 21 BH, 3 FHV)
- 23 Forced (12 FH, 3 BH, 2 FHV, 1 BHV)
Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 46.7

(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 a measure of how aggressive of intent the average UE made was. 60 is maximum, 20 is minimum. This match has been scored using a four point scale - 2 defensive, 4 neutral, 5 attacking, 6 winner attempt)

Net Points & Serve-Volley
Nadal was 10/17 (59%) at net, with no serve-volleying

Federer was 37/56 (66%) at net, including 7/11 (64%) serve-volleying - 6/9 (67%) off first serves and 1/2 (50%) off second serves - and 1/1 return-approaching
He was 0/1 when forced back

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Match Report
This was the first meeting between these two players on clay - and it is the purest in the sense that there were no mental issues or known patterns of play going into the match: Simply, Nadal plays his game and Federer plays his - and ultimately, the best man wins.

Other than the second half of the final set, the match lives up to the hype. Both play outstandingly - Nadal the more consistent immovable object, Federer the more aggressive irresistible force. One would expect the former to come out ahead. Nadal's game is more sustainable he wears down the Swiss to record a well deserved win

There's something prophetic in the very first point of the match. Federer drags Nadal out wide with the serve, hammers a FH into the opposite corner (which would have been a winner against most) and takes the net as an insurance policy. Only to watch as Nadal changes direction, scoots over to the opposite end of the court and lets loose with a running FH dtl pass for the winner. Welcome to the rest of your clay life, Mr. Federer.

With Federer serving 1-3 down, the two, the next 5 games are all break of serves. Both are playing well, and the thin line of difference is in Nadal passing superbly, and Federer having occasionally lapses at net. In the decisive game of the set, he serve-volleys 3 times - twice losing with unforced volleying errors.

Second set is high quality all the way. Federer seems to being breezing through it at 5-1 - his offense being too strong for the Spaniard. But Nadal stages a fightback to make the scoreline respectable. The third set continues as high quality and even, until Nadal raises his level in the final game to break for the set. He wins 3/5 of the points Federer makes to the net in the game - wrapping up by forcing him back and approaching himself to dispatch a swinging FHV on set point.

Federer starts the fourth with a chip-charge return which he wins with a BHV. In a host of Nadal-Federer clay matches I've watched recently, this is the only instance of the Swiss return-approaching. I think he missed a trick in the rivalry of not going for it more. Fed breaks first in a game where Nadal surprisingly makes 3 errors in a row.

However, down 2-3, Nadal reels off the last 4 games to take the match. Fed's play is relatively poor in this period. He commits 9 unforced errors in them, mostly of the aggressive variety. He yields the decisive break with a peculiar BH error where he sends a routine ball well out of the court

Playing Dynamics
I've been rewatching a number of old Nadal-Federer clay matches recently and will use the norm as a frame of reference to describe play

Serving & Returning
It goes without saying that Federer has a much stronger serve than Nadal. Occasionally on clay, he's content to roll the serve in, but not in this match; he's banging down big serves regularly. Nadal's ability to return these and neutralize the point are excellent. Return-rate of 84% is tip top and holding Federer down to just 39% of second serve points speaks to quality of the Spaniards second shot. And he isn't returning from as far back as he would come to in years to come

A general relative weakness Federer shows is on the return. Nadal, as is his pattern in the match-up, serves incessantly to the BH (90%) and his serve is a bit gentler than it would come to be. Federer has a tendancy to make unnecessary return errors - against both serves. In this match, that isn't the case... and he returns a healthy 91%

But, fitting in with general patterns, he can't find a way to actually attack with the return. He's prone to error when he runs around the BH return to hit a FH - and when he doesn't, still can't snatch the initiative of play with the shot (by contrast, Nadal in general and in this match, plays more runaround FH returns and keeps almost all of them in play)

This is one of the biggest keys to the rivalry - Federer's inability to attack the relatively soft Nadal serve. Contrast with Novak Djokovic, who frequently goes to town on the Nadal serve. Another key, though an understated one, is Nadal's solidity in returning the impressive Federer serve

Baseline Play
The general pattern that was to emerge was Federer's BH caving against a bombardment of Nadal FH cc (for example, in Monte Carlo and French Open 2006). That isn't the case in this match. Watching this as a stand alone match, one wouldn't think there was any particular issue with Federer's BH. He hits them hard and well

Rather, its his FH that lets him down. Unlike with the BH, he's out and out aggressive with the FH. When he gets it right, it looks wonderful, but he also makes plenty of errors. Not infrequently, against weak short balls

Nadal's BH is another key - one which has been understated. Federer can't do to Nadal what Nadal does to Federer regularly (continuous FH cc to the BH) because Nadal's BH is too strong. He just hits the ball back cc just as powerfully. This is true of this match as well as generally

This leaves Federer having to attack with FH inside-outs. He's largely successful, but loses occasional (sometimes critical) points when Nadal can just block the ball dtl into the open court with it

In this match, Nadal also mainly attacks Federer's FH, which is atypical. Given how steadily Federer hits the BH, understandable from the teenager.

Net Play
Federer's second line of attack (after the FH) is net play. He wins a healthy 66% at net, but there is a catch

He needs strong approach shots to get him to that position, and rarely makes 'daring' ventures to the net, preferring to lash out with the FH instead. His FHV in particular is less than ideal and he tends not to put it deep or place it away from Nadal on medium height volleys. And Nadal, of course, hits tremendous passing shots

----

Summing up, a great match but for the let down at the end by Federer. Both returning well. Federer living and dying off aggressive FHs, Nadal playing steady and showing astonishing defensive skills. No issues with Fed's BH 'weakness' - its all on his FH. And Nadal's game appearing to be more sustainable for long term success.

Even had Federer come out on top, given their ages (Nadal was 19) and the prospective percentages of their styles of play - it seems inevitable that Nadal would soon have superseded him.

Credit also to Nadal's mental strength. Round about this time, most opponents were thoroughly intimidated by Federer - and with good reason - but Rafa apparently was able to just play his own solid game without undue mental blocks
 

AnOctorokForDinner

Talk Tennis Guru
All good observations once again as usual, thanks for these great stat posts.

Nadal basically takes Federer out of his comfort zone on clay more than the other way around, and Fed is unable to zone on both FH and BH with required quality; if the BH holds up alright, as in 05 and 07 RG, then the FH starts failing. Federer struggles with Nadal's serve are also well-documented. With the better return in their specific rivalry, equal FH, better BH and epic passes against Fed's volleys, Nadal's basic claycourt game is too good, and serve alone can't cross that bridge.
 

Waspsting

Hall of Fame
A point I forgot to mention - we see Federer hitting a number of old school, Rosewall-ian slice-drives in this match

Not many because he usually comes over the BH, but more often than regular slice

Didn't see him doing this in 2006 and I don't recall him having ever used this shot much

Doesn't seem to bother Nadal - no surprise there
 

ghostofMecir

Hall of Fame
Errors (excluding returns and serves)
Nadal 56
- 32 Unforced (20 FH, 12 BH)
- 24 Forced (12 FH, 12 BH)
Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 45.5

Federer 85
- 62 Unforced (38 FH, 21 BH, 3 FHV)
- 23 Forced (12 FH, 3 BH, 2 FHV, 1 BHV)
Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 46.7
So many of those unforced errors on crucial 30-30, 40-30,deuce, etc., points as well.
A general relative weakness Federer shows is on the return. Nadal, as is his pattern in the match-up, serves incessantly to the BH (90%) and his serve is a bit gentler than it would come to be. Federer has a tendancy to make unnecessary return errors - against both serves. In this match, that isn't the case... and he returns a healthy 91%

This is one of the biggest keys to the rivalry - Federer's inability to attack the relatively soft Nadal serve. Contrast with Novak Djokovic, who frequently goes to town on the Nadal serve. Another key, though an understated one, is Nadal's solidity in returning the impressive Federer serve

Federer became better at returning these predictable serves to his BHand Nadal had to adjust. In the 2008 Wimby final, Nadal’s serve to the Fed FH (a surprise tactic) helped him win that tournament. In the last 5 matches (and last 4 I’m particular), Federer has been able to attack the Nadal serve so much with his BH that Nadal stopped serving exclusively to the Federer BH in the second set in IW and in Miami, but things didn’t work out serving to Fed’s FH. It will be interesting to see if Fed cons make this happen on clay.

Summing up, a great match but for the let down at the end by Federer. Both returning well. Federer living and dying off aggressive FHs, Nadal playing steady and showing astonishing defensive skills. No issues with Fed's BH 'weakness' - its all on his FH. And Nadal's game appearing to be more sustainable for long term success.

Great summary and post.
 

Waspsting

Hall of Fame
Federer became better at returning these predictable serves to his BHand Nadal had to adjust. In the 2008 Wimby final, Nadal’s serve to the Fed FH (a surprise tactic) helped him win that tournament. In the last 5 matches (and last 4 I’m particular), Federer has been able to attack the Nadal serve so much with his BH that Nadal stopped serving exclusively to the Federer BH in the second set in IW and in Miami, but things didn’t work out serving to Fed’s FH. It will be interesting to see if Fed cons make this happen on clay.

Wimbledon 2008 - I have Nadal serving 23% to FH, 68% to BH, 8% to body
Wimbledon 2007 - its it was 10% FH, 85% BH, 5% to body
Australian 2009 - 11% FH, 84% BH, 5% body

And in all the clay matches I've done, its 85-90% to BH

So I think Nadal's default plan was to send everything to the BH, but he adjusts if its not going well.

On clay, Fed can't seem to hurt him at all with the BH return. His only attacking option is to runaround and hit a FH.... but he -
a) makes errors doing this
b) the extra weight on the shot doesn't seem to do significantly more damage than the routine BH return

So many of those unforced errors on crucial 30-30, 40-30,deuce, etc., points as well.

Yes, I agree

But I'm not sure there's disproportionately more at these critical points than there are at other times. When he's in aggressive mode, Fed makes errors regularly at all times. Maybe its just we notice the errors on critical points more?

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The gist of what I'm getting looking at this rivalry on clay is
- Nadal is always consistent, so its Federer's performance that'll determine how the match goes
- Federer can't match Nadal for consistency from the baseline (who-blinks-first-tennis - the classic clay court style), so he has to go on the attack and...
- … errors come with the territory of that style of play

Federer might get hot for short or even long bursts.... but playing that aggressively and against such a great defensive player, inevitably he'll have let downs and error strewn runs.

And that's all Nadal needs to win
 

beltsman

G.O.A.T.
TRUTH is that the "legendary" Federer FH was largely unable to consistently hurt Bull, particularly CC to Bull's BH.

It's pretty laughable really. Easy pickings for the teen.
 
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Towny

Hall of Fame
Thanks very much for the detailed report @Waspsting . Love your comment about the very first point of the match. I've always thought that it aptly sums up the Fedal rivalry, especially on clay
 

Waspsting

Hall of Fame
TRUTH is that the "legendary" Federer FH was largely unable yo consistently hurt Bull, particularly CC to Bull's BH.

Fed's favourite FH attacking shot is FH inside-out... and that one does do damage, even to Nadal on clay

I guess he developed it as a weapon to target the right-handers weaker BH side, but against a GOAT-ish left-handed FH like Nadal, its obviously plagued with risk

Nadal's BH is underrated when its not taken into consideration that its in the firing line of every right handers most natural FH... could even Djokovic withstand a regular barrage of FH cc's from all the top players in the world? As a right hander, he doesn't have to worry about it

If there was a right hander who had Nadal's BH, people would talk about it as a GOAT shot. Probably his FH wouldn't get as much credit though

Aus 2009 final was a great example of what Nadal can do with the BH. Federer flirted with playing FH cc's... only for Nadal to reply with BH cc's with power interest. Fed had to pull back, and concentrate on inside-out attacks

I assume that Nadal is right footed? That'd mean he moves slightly faster to his BH side than FH.... which would account for some of the effectiveness of the BH.
 

nolefam_2024

G.O.A.T.
When I used to watch these old matches between Fedal, I used to think that Federer forehand is so good even on clay that Rafa is trying to avoid it.

What I see though, Nadal was too young. He was very fast and had great skills but he lacked depth to push Fed back. Fed actually got a Nadal who was beatable, especially for a world number 1. But Federer himself was so error prone. This man had never played in RG semifinal until now. He was 23.8. There must be a reason. His forehand was so poor, time after time he just kept overhitting.


The nadal fans now blame Alcaraz for making so many errors vs Nole in 2023 RG. But their own guy was making similar errors here. The difference is Djokovic in 2023 RG was better than Federer in 2005 on clay. Federer made 66 UE in rallies here. He was very sloppy.
 

Quaichang

Semi-Pro
TRUTH is that the "legendary" Federer FH was largely unable to consistently hurt Bull, particularly CC to Bull's BH.

It's pretty laughable really. Easy pickings for the teen.
But it was the Nadal FH and slice serve to Fed OHBH that was the insurmountable challenge for Fed. This caused him to over compensate on the FH.
 

nolefam_2024

G.O.A.T.
But it was the Nadal FH and slice serve to Fed OHBH that was the insurmountable challenge for Fed. This caused him to over compensate on the FH.
That's true but being as dominant as he was between 2004 to 2007, he had to overcompensate. This was his best chance. He made 40 FH UE.
 
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