Match Stats/Report - Nadal vs Federer, French Open semi-final, 2019


Hall of Fame
Rafael Nadal beat Roger Federer 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 in the French Open semi-final, 2019 on clay

Nadal, the double defending champion, would go onto beat Dominic Thiem in the final for his 12th title at the event. Federer was playing at the event for the first time since 2015. The two had previously met in the final in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2011 and in the semi's in 2005, with Nadal winning all the matches. The two would meet in the Wimbledon semi-final shortly after, with Federer winning

Nadal won 102 points, Federer 79

Serve Stats
- 1st serve percentage (72/88) 82%
- 1st serve points won (49/72) 68%
- 2nd serve points won (9/16) 56%
- Aces 3 (1 Federer whiff)
- Double Faults 1
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (23/88) 26%

- 1st serve percentage (55/93) 59%
- 1st serve points won (34/55) 62%
- 2nd serve points won (15/38) 39%
- Aces 3
- Double Faults 1
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (15/93) 16%

Serve Pattern
Nadal served...
- to FH 22%
- to BH 67%
- to Body 11%

Federer served...
- to FH 59%
- to BH 37%
- to Body 4%

Return Stats
Nadal made...
- 77 (46 FH, 31 BH), including 1 runaround FH & 1 runaround BH
- 2 Winners (2 FH)
- 12 Errors, comprising...
- 5 Unforced (4 FH, 1 BH)
- 7 Forced (3 FH, 4 BH)
- Return Rate (77/92) 84%

Federer made...
- 64 (19 FH, 45 BH), including 6 runaround FHs
- 20 Errors, comprising...
- 13 Unforced (4 FH, 9 BH), including 1 runaround FH
- 7 Forced (3 FH, 4 BH)
- Return Rate (64/87) 74%

Break Points
Nadal 6/16 (7 games)
Federer 2/4 (3 games)

Winners (including returns, excluding aces)
Nadal 29 (18 FH, 7 BH, 3 FHV, 1 OH)
Federer 20 (5 FH, 7 BH, 2 FHV, 3 BHV, 1 BH1/2V, 2 OH)

Nadal's FHs - 8 dtl (3 passes), 2 dtl/inside-out (1 pass), 6 inside-out (2 returns), 1 inside-in and 1 inside-in/cc
- BHs - 5 cc (1 pass), 1 inside-out/dtl pass and 1 lob

Federer's FHs - 1 cc/inside-in, 3 inside-in and 1 drop shot
- BHs - 1 cc, 2 dtl (1 pass, 1 at net - a slice), 1 dtl/inside-out, 1 lob and 1 drop shot

- 3 from serve-volleys points - all first 'volleys' (1 FHV, 1 BH1/2V, 1 BH at net)

- 1 OH was on the bounce

Errors (excluding returns and serves)
Nadal 43
- 26 Unforced (13 FH, 13 BH)... with 1 FH at net
- 17 Forced (11 FH, 4 BH, 1 FHV, 1 BHV)... with 1 BH running-down-down-drop-shot at net
Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 45.4

Federer 49
- 37 Unforced (18 FH, 17 BH, 1 FHV, 1 BHV)... with 1 FH at net
- 12 Forced (4 FH, 3 BH, 5 BHV)
Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 45.9

(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...
- 6/14 (43%) at net, with...
- 0/1 retreated

Federer was...
- 15/32 (47%) at net, including...
- 4/10 (40%) serve-volleying, comprising...
- 2/6 (33%) off 1st serve and...
- 2/4 (50%) off 2nd serve

Match Report
Extreme winds shape play, forcing both players to hit with particular care and making even routine shots at least tricky and at most, a lottery. Within that context, Nadal is top notch, with the passing in particular standing out. He's also able to remain consistent without taking too much of his shots

How 'extreme' and consistent are these winds exactly? It varies a bit across the match but at no point is less than extreme. At different points in time, fans are literally holding onto their hats to keep them from blowing off. Multiple times, play is interrupted by flying debris coming across court. At times, loose clay is flying all over the place like a sandstorm. Regular groundstrokes - not slices - are visibly blown sideways through the air... to a greater extent than I've ever seen and it happens throughout the match. Virtually all slices are blown off course, some landing out because of it. Nadal loses his vibration dampener on a point that he was on the baseline for in full - and has to pick it up from Federer's side of the court where its been blown

'Extreme' winds means EXTREME

By a normal standard, hitting is safe and gentle and play is above average at best. Given the conditions, match is top quality and Nadal's showing is outrageously good. Even Federer does fairly well, though he comes well behind

Compare to '12 US Open final, in similar conditions (less extreme) where two players as seasoned as Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic struggled to gently put routine balls in play - and the great job done here by Nadal in particular comes out the more

Nadal has 29 winners, 26 UEs while forcing 12 errors out of Fed - would be great numbers in any conditions or surface. In this, its almost a miracle

Serves at 82% first serves in
. At times, he's taking something off the serves, but also biff them down reasonably often. 7/20 Fed return errors have been marked FEs... for Nadal, that wouldn't be abnormal in normal conditions. He's good at catching Fed out with serves to FH. Serving 67% to BH is a big step down from him (in years gone by, he was apt to serve there 85-90% of the time) and he catches Fed out to serves to the FH.
Also impressive is his ability to get the body serves right on the line of the body... these aren't very conservatively placed serves that nominally get marked body serves, but genuine, cramping serves right at the body. He usually isn't precise enough for that

And he returns at 84%. This is helped by Fed taking quite a lot off serves to get them in... about half of Fed's first serves look like regular second serves, but there's still plenty of well placed wide ones and occasionally, ones sent down at full power. Nadal doesn't return from particularly far back by his standard and returns about as well as possible. The wind of course, makes putting even regulation returns (or any shot) tricky, with ball likely to hold up or do something funny at last minute

He runsaround his FH to hit a BH return once against a first serve. Very strange

In last set in particular, he's not far from hitting normally - and the winds raging as strong as ever. On whole, he takes a good lot off his groundies but maintains good consistency.

The absolute best part of his showing is the passing (including returning), which keeps Fed to just 15/32 at net (and 4/10 serve-volleying), despite just 3 UEs from Fed. Nadal has 7 passing winners (Fed has 8 'volley' ones) and hard forces 5 volleying errors

In windy conditions, with players struggling to keep simple groundies in play, making strong passes seems like a pipe dream - and taking net is always a good move. Nadal manages. His passes would be winners and force errors regardless of conditions

Fed has 20 winners, 37 UEs and forces 17 errors out of Nadal to finish dead even on winners + errors forced/UE differential. Very unusually for him he's got more BH winners than FH (7 to 5), which is related to playing dynamics (more on that later) and the gentle hitting

In returning, he takes careful, short swings, almost pushes. Subsequently, he's able to control direction and gets balls to Nadal's BH side well, though with little force

2 players combine for just 2 double faults - excellent in the conditions, especially Federer, who sends down 38 second serves (Nadal with his high in count has just 16)

So Nadal + 15 and Fed even on winners + errors forced - UEs. For comparison, in '12 US Open final, Murray was -21, Djokovic -16

A note on stat taking. With wind holding up balls and causing so much trouble, differentiating UEs from FEs is difficult. For consistency's sake, I've marked errors considering the ball faced alone. Realistically, the UE counts are inflated because due to wind, probably a good lot what appears UEs are actually, difficult shots. In this light, the numbers for both players are even more impressive


Hall of Fame
Playing Dynamics
Both players are forced to severely check their shots to keep from losing control in the wind. Nadal's able to play effectively while taking less of then Fed, most of all on the return, which is not far from normal

Fed serves quite gently, with about half his first serves looking like second serves. Still sends down a wide ones often enough. Nadal returns from closer than his norm, but well behind baseline. He's quick to move to side if necessary - even playing a runaround BH return against a first serve to get into center of court quickly

Fed serve-volleys 6 times off first serve and 4 off seconds. Rare enough that it would have the element of surprise to it. Nadal seems to see it - and blasts those particular returns. In general, he's excellent at adjusting to surprise serve-volleys, which isn't surprising seeing where he stands. Here, he's a little further forward then his norm, but still has no trouble spotting the surprise move - and dealing with. Nadal's able to get returns to Fed's BH as he'd like

On flip side, Nadal takes something off serves too, but does exceptionally well to get 82% first serves in. Fed returns with care, pushing the ball towards Nadal's BH. Nadal's able to runaround to hit first FH when he wants to anyway

Baseline hitting is gentle and careful from both players. Nadal turns back the years to play a leaning-on-BH-court and looking-for-runaround-FH game (as opposed to dual winged play with central position). His normal pattern from that position is to run his opponent side to side with combinations of FH inside-in/cc and FH inside-out. Here, he sticks to FH cc'ng safely. When he does go inside-out, he doesn't hit hard enough to end points

Its not necessary because he's able to hit his BH as hard, probably slightly harder, than the FHs. Note high 4 BH cc winners from Nadal... these are terrific shots from regular cc rallies, not shots into open court. Hitting BHs that well makes running around to hit FHs unnecessary, but that is what he usually does. He has the same number of FH inside-out winners as BH cc. But moving over so leaves half the court open. Fed forces match high 11 FEs from Nadal's FH as a result. By comparison, Fed has 12 FEs total and just 4 FHs, while Nadal has 8 non-FH FEs

Fed for his part almost looks to move around and strike FHs. He doesn't hit hard enough to be too challenging. The inside-outs are near neutral shots and Nadal covers them comfortably - and even dispatches a few FH dtl for winners. He has match high 5 baseline-to-baseline FH dtl winners - as many as Fed's total FH winners. Also goes inside-in a bit harder to test the Nadal BH. Again, without much success. The way he's hitting, he'd need Nadal to mess up to give up errors to shots of this kind of moderate force, which in the wind, is quite likely. Nadal though, usually holds steady

On the BH, Fed pushes the ball with care, directing it in general direction of Nadal's BH side or into open court. Again, not hard enough to be troubling. When he does play his usual BH cc drive, its typically loose. Though Fed's UEs are all but equal by wing (FH 18, BH 17), its the BH that gives up sloppy errors to regulation balls. The FH errors come from a bit more adventurous shots or are pressured out of him by Nadal

Both players utilize wrong footing shots. Nadal does better with them, as Fed struggles to change direction. Fed uses drop shot + approach plays to good effective but doesn't follow up too well. After Nadal makes the get, Fed's 2 best options would be lob-volley or smack the ball straight at Nadal. He doesn't play the first and isn't willing to the second, instead tries guiding the volley wide. Nadal's able to slap the volley away

Generally, in these net-to-net situations, Nadal is willing to hit straight at opponent. Its the high percentage shot, but many players avoid it. Fed apparently among them

Fed looks to take net to attack. He's only 11/22 rallying his way to the front and 15/32 overall (i.e. including serve-volleying). Tremendous passing from Nadal, who's able to get stuck into the ball as if there was no wind when Fed moves forward

Wind holds up balls unpredictably all match. Both players show good ability to adjust last minute to make their shots

Neither players movements are overly tested by the gentle hitting. Fed does seem to have a movement problem, though its not exposed. He just about manages to arrive in time to play balls from balanced position that with good movement, he would be in position for with time to spare.

Match Progression
Though scoreline is routine and Nadal is clearly the better player, its not by much

At start of match, both players hit gently to keep ball in play in the wind. Groundstrokes are visibly blown sideways as they go through the air. Both players show quick reactions to adjust to last second, held up balls. Nadal looks to get to Fed's BH, which is the loosest shot on show. Fed occasionally pushes BHs well wide to get Nadal running

Nadal saves a break point in opener with a strong serve, then breaks to move ahead, and consolidates to love with 3 unreturned serves. But Fed hits back with a break of his own in an error strewn game. The decisive break comes in an 18 point game where Nadal needs 6 break points to seal. And he's pushed to deuce in serving set out

There's some beautiful tennis in the second set - by far the best I've seen in conditions like this. Fed takes to net, pushes ball effectively to open side of court, hits wrong footing shots. Nadal retaliates with some astonishing passing shots

Its Fed who breaks first in the 2nd set, and its a tough game for Nadal to break right back in 10 points. Later on, in matches most dynamic part, Nadal holds deuce game featuring 5 winners with some increadible and unlikely passing shots, then breaks to follow up in another deuce game. On break point, Fed plays a net-to-net volley wide instead of at Nadal, and Nadal slaps it away FHV for a winner

Nadal's hitting improves to almost normal standard in third set, he pressures Fed more and has much the better of play. Still, the first break is mostly a matter of luck - a bad bounce stumping a serve-volleying Fed early on and a net chord flicking return doing the same on break point. Fed smacks a ball out the stadium after the game. Second break is more emphatic and Nadal follows up with a deuce hold

Fed holds for the last time with a first 'volley', BH1/2V drop winner against a thundering return, before Nadal serves out the match to 30

Summing up, extreme winds are at the heart of the match, making gently easing groundstrokes in play a challenge. In this light, the match is as good as possible, both players adjusting to be somewhat attacking and neither going error haywire. On the return and pass in particular, Nadal's able to hit almost normally and off the ground, looks to draw errors from Federer's vulnerable BH. Federer gains some counter-play with wrong footing shots, drop shots and approaching net, but his play from the back is limited to pushing balls wide with no great force

Well played by both in terrible conditions, Nadal particularly strong. Adjusting for conditions, this is up there as one of his most remarkable showings

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