Match Stats/Report - Nadal vs Thiem, French Open final, 2018

Waspsting

Hall of Fame
Rafael Nadal beat Dominic Thiem 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 in the French Open final, 2018 on clay

Nadal was the defending champion and this was his 11th title at the event. He'd go onto win the next 2 also. Thiem was playing in his first Slam final. The two had met in the semi's the previous year and would meet again in the final the following year (Nadal winning both). The two had met twice in lead-up events coming into this match - Nadal won in Monte Carlo, Thiem in Madrid

Nadal won 105 points, Thiem 79

Serve Stats
Nadal...
- 1st serve percentage (56/82) 68%
- 1st serve points won (46/56) 82%
- 2nd serve points won (12/26) 46%
- Double Faults 3
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (17/82) 21%

Thiem...
- 1st serve percentage (59/102) 58%
- 1st serve points won (41/59) 69%
- 2nd serve points won (14/43) 33%
- Aces 8
- Double Faults 5
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (17/102) 17%

Serve Pattern
Nadal served...
- to FH 32%
- to BH 58%
- to Body 10%

Thiem served...
- to FH 27%
- to BH 69%
- to Body 4%

Return Stats
Nadal made...
- 80 (27 FH, 53 BH), including 7 runaround FHs
- 10 Errors, comprising...
- 5 Unforced (5 BH)
- 5 Forced (1 FH, 4 BH)
- Return Rate (80/97) 82%

Thiem made...
- 62 (36 FH, 26 BH), including 14 runaround FHs
- 1 Winner (1 FH)
- 17 Errors, comprising...
- 11 Unforced (6 FH, 5 BH)
- 6 Forced (3 FH, 3 BH)
- Return Rate (62/79) 78%

Break Points
Nadal 5/17 (8 games)
Thiem 1/3 (2 games)

Winners (including returns, excluding aces)
Nadal 25 (13 FH, 6 BH, 3 FHV, 3 BHV)
Thiem 26 (14 FH, 7 BH, 2 FHV, 1 BHV, 2 OH)

Nadal's FHs - 4 cc (1 pass), 3 dtl, 4 inside-out and 2 inside-in
- BHs - 2 cc (1 pass), 3 dtl (1 left by Thiem) and 1 lob

- 1 FHV was a swinging shot

Thiem's FHs - 4 cc, 1 dtl, 4 inside-out, 4 inside-in (1 return) and 1 running-down-drop-shot cc at net
- BHs - 2 cc, 2 dtl (1 pass), 1 inside-out/dtl and 2 drop shots

- 1 BHV was a non-net shot and a pass
- 1 OH was on the bounce and a non-net shot

Errors (excluding returns and serves)
Nadal 33
- 20 Unforced (11 FH, 9 BH)
- 13 Forced (7 FH, 6 BH)
Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 47

Thiem 58
- 40 Unforced (15 FH, 23 BH, 1 BHV, 1 OH)... the OH was on the bounce from the baseline
- 18 Forced (12 FH, 4 BH, 1 Tweener, 1 Back-to-Net BH)... with 2 FH running-down-drop-shot at net & 1 BH running-down-drop-shot at net
Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 47

(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 13/15 (87%) at net

Thiem was...
- 6/15 (40%) at net, including...
- 0/1 serve-volleying, a 1st serves
---
- 0/2 forced back

Match Report
Tough match for such a routine scoreline filled with muscling rallies and hitting both heavy of spin and hard of force. Nadal has particular advantage on the return (his is excellent, Thiem's is good) and is able to control baseline rallies to the tune of keeping majority of them on his preferred FH. Thiem's BH isn't weak, but not upto trading heavy shots with the Nadal FH and he's also more prone to loose errors to regulation balls (i.e. a bit sloppy at times)

There are some oddly coincidental stats, that aren't readily explainable, viz. the huge differences in first and second serve points won for both players

Nadal wins 82% first serve points, 46% second serve points for a difference of 36%
Thiem wins 69% first serve points, 33% second serve points for a difference of 36%

Leaving aside the coincidence of identical difference, there's nothing in serve-return complex or play that would promise such large difference. Unreturned serves are fairly low (Nadal 21%, Thiem 17%), neither player struggles unduly to return first serves and while both return second serves with great consistency, neither do so aggressively. Playing dynamics and nature of play is roughly the same on all 4 serves... hard hitting, heavily spun rallies from the baseline

In that light, why such a big difference? It looks like the kind of match where both players might have about equal percentages one on their first and second serve points. Neither player double faults unduly to lose second serve points (Nadal 3/26, Thiem 5/43) while Thiem does have 8 aces (Nadal 0)

Nadal does return deeper against 2nd serves and Thiem makes most of his return errors against regulation first serves... but wouldn't think either was to the extent resulting in 36% differential

Second coincidence concerns identical UEFI, with identical breakdown proportion. Both players score 47 and breakdown reads
- Neutral errors - Nadal 11, Theim 22
- Attacking errors - Nadal 4, Thiem 8
- Winner attempts errors - Nadal 5, Thiem 10

With Thiem +1 on winners, Nadal +5 in forcing errors... the two players are about as evenly matched in terms of who is more aggressive as can be. I'd say Thiem is slightly more so, and Nadal's greater ability to defend - and eke out a few points after being on defensive in rallies - makes up the near identical stats pertaining to aggression

Another point affecting those stats is Nadal not playing uniformly. When he's up a break - and he goes up a break early in second 2 sets (also first set, but Thiem breaks right back) - he doesn't fight for every last point on return games after. Instead, Nadal's apt to go for low percentage attacking shots or go for the winner when on the run. This is outside his old norm but maybe more common in 2017 and onward period. So a healthy chunk of Nadal's attacking and winner attempt errors come in return games when he's already leading in set. He probably wouldn't play these shots if things were on serve

Thiem has bouts of frustration when he lashes out with abandon, if not quite throwing all caution to the wind when his error rate goes up. Its as likely to happen in service games as return

The frustration is understandable. Thiem hits very hard shots, particularly off the FH and initially, serves in looking-for-ace/service-winner every first serve way. Off the ground, he hits with such vigour that even balls Nadal doesn't have to move for or move just a step or two are forceful or near enough to it on power grounds alone. Its extremely pressuring play to say the least and borderline attacking without the frills of having to hit wide - and would likely just crash through almost any other player. Even Nadal is strained is to resist it, though he ends up doing so overwhelming bulk of the time and putting ball back in play neutrally. Thiem is moved to go for more and more - in his case, hitting wider on top of with extreme force - and misses more in consequence. Nadal does a pretty good job putting the wider shots back in play also when he has to. This isn't a Nadal running down everything showing - when he's up in service game or up a break on a return game, he's apt to go for a winner from defensive position, not defend, defend, defend 'til Thiem over-reaches

Two differences between the two players stand out as being crucial

i) Nadal's stronger returning - particularly commendable in light of Thiem having significantly better serve. Thiem serves huge for all of first set and occasionally thereafter. Even on clay, unreturned rate of around 30% wouldn't be shocking. In the event, he gets just 17% and can draw just 10 errors while serving 8 aces

Usually, having as many aces as return errors drawn is a sign of extreme consistency of the return - and this is no exception. Anything short of unreturnable comes back. 130mph serves unless they're well wide, come back (actually, even the slightly wide ones do too). Nadal's standing well behind baseline to return, which helps him make the return, but also leaves him open to returning feebly or short. The latter doesn't happen... what comes back does so in way that Thiem would have to be proactive to maintain attacking position in rally (i.e. neutral shot is more natural third ball than attacking one). 2nd serve returns come back deeper, often looped (which somewhat explains difference in Thiem's difference in 1st and 2nd serve points one). Occasionally, Nadal throws out a flat wide return for good measure

Thiem's not bad on the return either. Nadal's serve is regulation in swing zone stuff, at most hefty of pace (he has 0 aces), and Thiem misses the odd return. 78% return rate is a good number from him. Nadal's being higher against a more challenging serve is testament to just how well the Nadal returned

Thiem's 'attacking' returns are similar to his groundstrokes, their effectiveness based on being thumped hard. As in play, Nadal is upto handling it

In nutshell, good returning from Thiem and great returning from Nadal
 

Waspsting

Hall of Fame
ii) Nadal directing baseline play & Thiem's BH cracking - play is dual winged and cc based and Nadal keeps central court position (not leaning on BH side, looking for runaround FHs). In that light, whoever has ball on their FH has the advantage in rallies. Nadal is able to orchestrate play so that he does majority of time. There are considerably more Nadal FH - Thiem BH based rallies than the other way round and Nadal coming out ahead in in those is main difference in play

Thiem ends with 23 BH UEs. Nadal has 20 total UEs (11 FH, 9 BH) and Thiem's non-FH UEs number 17. The errors don't come easy, rallies develop, Thiem's BH packs a good punch while keeping it going, but its not upto holding against the Nadal FH. When he changes to longline to get out of the rally, Nadal often replies with BH longline to restart

All other things are more or less equal - Thiem +1 on winners, Nadal +3 forcing errors. The latter number is related to net play, where Nadal wins 13/15 to Thiem's 6/15

Excellent numbers from Nadal on the whole. 25 winners, 20 UEs, forcing 18 errors. And that's with UEs beaten out of him and a very good job resisting Thiem power to keep his FEs down to 13. And about a quarter of his UEs being low percentage shots when score is in his favour

Thiem has 26 winners, 40 UEs and forces 13 errors to remain -1 on points ended forcefully/UEs differential. His play is better than those numbers might suggest. He's consistent while being heavy of shot only Nadal is more so accounts for good lot of the eventual UEs. The UEs are pressured out of him. On the other hand, he also lashes out and has occasional runs of unnecessary errors and benefits from Nadal taking it down a notch or 2 when leading in set

Nadal with some hard hitting BH play that isn't far of Thiem's FH force makes the Thiem FH - Nadal BH rallies look almost 50-50 deals. He edges UEs in battle between those shots (Nadal's BH with match low 9, Thiem's FH 15) and rarely goes longline to escape the rally. Thiem retains advantage in damaging ability sizably

In nutshell, Nadal keeping play on his FH and to Thiem's BH more often than not, pressuring errors out of Thiem's BH and holding even with his own BH when shoe is on the other foot

Match Progression
Couple of early breaks - Nadal breaking on back of Thiem's UEs, Thiem breaking back with successful attacking play - to leave match on serve at first change over

Rest of set very tough, grinding, dual winged baseline rallies. Neither player hits attackingly wide often, but hit with substantial power and spin. Thiem in particular tees off whenever he can with roundhouse shots that are challenging to cope with and Nadal is strained to do so, though manages

Thiem also serves huge, looking for aces/service winners with every first serve seemingly. It doesn't work and Nadal gets almost everything back. Without gaining a big reward for the attempt at overpowering serving, Thiem does get the negative of a low first serve in count, making just 19/42 at 45%. On flip side, Thiem misses the odd regulation first serve return

Nadal has better of play, holds comfortably enough and the long games and tough rallies are mostly on Thiem's service games. Thiem ends up serving 42 points in the set to Nadal's 26. Nadal's BH is the rock of the set and barely misses a ball, against very heavy hitting

Set ends with a break and a terrible game from Thiem, who misses 4 aggressive shots to be broken to love

Thiem's frustration is on show at start of second set and he takes to going for big attacking shots early in rallies without proper set up. Nadal counter-punches 'til Thiem misses and goes up 2-0, breaking in a 14 point game. Theim changes gears, takes something off the big serve and moves back a bit to return more consistently

It works in that he's able to get more first serves and returns in. On flip side, Nadal returns first serves with near same authority as seconds, loopily putting them in deep to keep Thiem blasting the third ball. Nadal takes it a bit easy (just a bit) on return games and Thiem holds comfortably for rest of set. Nadal's hit with a time violation warning in game 7, where he saves break point by drop shotting Thiem in and then passing him with BH cc winner

Thiem survives 4 break points and being down 0-40 to hold to open 3rd set but is broken second time of asking in 12 point game. Serving at 3-1, Nadal has a problem with his playing hand and rushes to sideline to receive treatment in middle of game. Apparently, he's lost feeling in his playing hand. He rushes back from trainer having a quick look at it and taking of wrist tapings to hold by taking net, more or less tanks the next game and has the trainer look at it over change over

Not sure what the issue is. According to commentary, if its cramps, he wouldn't be entitled to receiving treatment, but treatment would be necessary to establish that it was just cramps. Nadal serves more gently from thereon and breaks again before serving out the match. By end, he looks weary

Summing up, a match of intense baseline play, both players hitting heavy and hard. Nadal is excellent in returning neutralizingly a challenging serve, while Thiem misses odd regulation returns. In play, Nadal controls rallies to keep things on his FH most of the time from where he's able over time to wear down and outplay Thiem's BH, resists Thiem power hitting impressively, while his BH remains rock solid and hard hitting enough to be match for Thiem's FH. Thiem's play is based on roundhouse hitting without particular attention to placing the ball wide, which Nadal is able to counter-punch with effort and he has frustrated spells of loose, attacking play gone awry

Nadal's FH being better than Thiem's BH is main point of match. On whole, excellent showing by Nadal and a good one from Thiem.

Stats for '17 final between Nadal and Stan Wawrinka - (3) Match Stats/Report - Nadal vs Wawrinka, French Open final, 2017 | Talk Tennis (tennis-warehouse.com)
Stats for '20 Australian final between Thiem and Novak Djokovic - (4) Match Stats/Report - Djokovic vs Thiem, Australian Open final, 2020 | Talk Tennis (tennis-warehouse.com)
 
Thiem wilting easily as he sees Nadal struggle in the third set is a fair reflection of his mental approach to those matches. BBB (brainless ballbasher) at its typicalest.
 

Rafa4LifeEver

Hall of Fame
Rafael Nadal beat Dominic Thiem 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 in the French Open final, 2018 on clay

Nadal was the defending champion and this was his 11th title at the event. He'd go onto win the next 2 also. Thiem was playing in his first Slam final. The two had met in the semi's the previous year and would meet again in the final the following year (Nadal winning both). The two had met twice in lead-up events coming into this match - Nadal won in Monte Carlo, Thiem in Madrid

Nadal won 105 points, Thiem 79

Serve Stats
Nadal...
- 1st serve percentage (56/82) 68%
- 1st serve points won (46/56) 82%
- 2nd serve points won (12/26) 46%
- Double Faults 3
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (17/82) 21%

Thiem...
- 1st serve percentage (59/102) 58%
- 1st serve points won (41/59) 69%
- 2nd serve points won (14/43) 33%
- Aces 8
- Double Faults 5
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (17/102) 17%

Serve Pattern
Nadal served...
- to FH 32%
- to BH 58%
- to Body 10%

Thiem served...
- to FH 27%
- to BH 69%
- to Body 4%

Return Stats
Nadal made...
- 80 (27 FH, 53 BH), including 7 runaround FHs
- 10 Errors, comprising...
- 5 Unforced (5 BH)
- 5 Forced (1 FH, 4 BH)
- Return Rate (80/97) 82%

Thiem made...
- 62 (36 FH, 26 BH), including 14 runaround FHs
- 1 Winner (1 FH)
- 17 Errors, comprising...
- 11 Unforced (6 FH, 5 BH)
- 6 Forced (3 FH, 3 BH)
- Return Rate (62/79) 78%

Break Points
Nadal 5/17 (8 games)
Thiem 1/3 (2 games)

Winners (including returns, excluding aces)
Nadal 25 (13 FH, 6 BH, 3 FHV, 3 BHV)
Thiem 26 (14 FH, 7 BH, 2 FHV, 1 BHV, 2 OH)

Nadal's FHs - 4 cc (1 pass), 3 dtl, 4 inside-out and 2 inside-in
- BHs - 2 cc (1 pass), 3 dtl (1 left by Thiem) and 1 lob

- 1 FHV was a swinging shot

Thiem's FHs - 4 cc, 1 dtl, 4 inside-out, 4 inside-in (1 return) and 1 running-down-drop-shot cc at net
- BHs - 2 cc, 2 dtl (1 pass), 1 inside-out/dtl and 2 drop shots

- 1 BHV was a non-net shot and a pass
- 1 OH was on the bounce and a non-net shot

Errors (excluding returns and serves)
Nadal 33
- 20 Unforced (11 FH, 9 BH)
- 13 Forced (7 FH, 6 BH)
Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 47

Thiem 58
- 40 Unforced (15 FH, 23 BH, 1 BHV, 1 OH)... the OH was on the bounce from the baseline
- 18 Forced (12 FH, 4 BH, 1 Tweener, 1 Back-to-Net BH)... with 2 FH running-down-drop-shot at net & 1 BH running-down-drop-shot at net
Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 47

(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 13/15 (87%) at net

Thiem was...
- 6/15 (40%) at net, including...
- 0/1 serve-volleying, a 1st serves
---
- 0/2 forced back

Match Report
Tough match for such a routine scoreline filled with muscling rallies and hitting both heavy of spin and hard of force. Nadal has particular advantage on the return (his is excellent, Thiem's is good) and is able to control baseline rallies to the tune of keeping majority of them on his preferred FH. Thiem's BH isn't weak, but not upto trading heavy shots with the Nadal FH and he's also more prone to loose errors to regulation balls (i.e. a bit sloppy at times)

There are some oddly coincidental stats, that aren't readily explainable, viz. the huge differences in first and second serve points won for both players

Nadal wins 82% first serve points, 46% second serve points for a difference of 36%
Thiem wins 69% first serve points, 33% second serve points for a difference of 36%

Leaving aside the coincidence of identical difference, there's nothing in serve-return complex or play that would promise such large difference. Unreturned serves are fairly low (Nadal 21%, Thiem 17%), neither player struggles unduly to return first serves and while both return second serves with great consistency, neither do so aggressively. Playing dynamics and nature of play is roughly the same on all 4 serves... hard hitting, heavily spun rallies from the baseline

In that light, why such a big difference? It looks like the kind of match where both players might have about equal percentages one on their first and second serve points. Neither player double faults unduly to lose second serve points (Nadal 3/26, Thiem 5/43) while Thiem does have 8 aces (Nadal 0)

Nadal does return deeper against 2nd serves and Thiem makes most of his return errors against regulation first serves... but wouldn't think either was to the extent resulting in 36% differential

Second coincidence concerns identical UEFI, with identical breakdown proportion. Both players score 47 and breakdown reads
- Neutral errors - Nadal 11, Theim 22
- Attacking errors - Nadal 4, Thiem 8
- Winner attempts errors - Nadal 5, Thiem 10

With Thiem +1 on winners, Nadal +5 in forcing errors... the two players are about as evenly matched in terms of who is more aggressive as can be. I'd say Thiem is slightly more so, and Nadal's greater ability to defend - and eke out a few points after being on defensive in rallies - makes up the near identical stats pertaining to aggression

Another point affecting those stats is Nadal not playing uniformly. When he's up a break - and he goes up a break early in second 2 sets (also first set, but Thiem breaks right back) - he doesn't fight for every last point on return games after. Instead, Nadal's apt to go for low percentage attacking shots or go for the winner when on the run. This is outside his old norm but maybe more common in 2017 and onward period. So a healthy chunk of Nadal's attacking and winner attempt errors come in return games when he's already leading in set. He probably wouldn't play these shots if things were on serve

Thiem has bouts of frustration when he lashes out with abandon, if not quite throwing all caution to the wind when his error rate goes up. Its as likely to happen in service games as return

The frustration is understandable. Thiem hits very hard shots, particularly off the FH and initially, serves in looking-for-ace/service-winner every first serve way. Off the ground, he hits with such vigour that even balls Nadal doesn't have to move for or move just a step or two are forceful or near enough to it on power grounds alone. Its extremely pressuring play to say the least and borderline attacking without the frills of having to hit wide - and would likely just crash through almost any other player. Even Nadal is strained is to resist it, though he ends up doing so overwhelming bulk of the time and putting ball back in play neutrally. Thiem is moved to go for more and more - in his case, hitting wider on top of with extreme force - and misses more in consequence. Nadal does a pretty good job putting the wider shots back in play also when he has to. This isn't a Nadal running down everything showing - when he's up in service game or up a break on a return game, he's apt to go for a winner from defensive position, not defend, defend, defend 'til Thiem over-reaches

Two differences between the two players stand out as being crucial

i) Nadal's stronger returning - particularly commendable in light of Thiem having significantly better serve. Thiem serves huge for all of first set and occasionally thereafter. Even on clay, unreturned rate of around 30% wouldn't be shocking. In the event, he gets just 17% and can draw just 10 errors while serving 8 aces

Usually, having as many aces as return errors drawn is a sign of extreme consistency of the return - and this is no exception. Anything short of unreturnable comes back. 130mph serves unless they're well wide, come back (actually, even the slightly wide ones do too). Nadal's standing well behind baseline to return, which helps him make the return, but also leaves him open to returning feebly or short. The latter doesn't happen... what comes back does so in way that Thiem would have to be proactive to maintain attacking position in rally (i.e. neutral shot is more natural third ball than attacking one). 2nd serve returns come back deeper, often looped (which somewhat explains difference in Thiem's difference in 1st and 2nd serve points one). Occasionally, Nadal throws out a flat wide return for good measure

Thiem's not bad on the return either. Nadal's serve is regulation in swing zone stuff, at most hefty of pace (he has 0 aces), and Thiem misses the odd return. 78% return rate is a good number from him. Nadal's being higher against a more challenging serve is testament to just how well the Nadal returned

Thiem's 'attacking' returns are similar to his groundstrokes, their effectiveness based on being thumped hard. As in play, Nadal is upto handling it

In nutshell, good returning from Thiem and great returning from Nadal
The brutal performance by Nadal against an opponent who was bludgeoning the groundstrokes.
 

aldeayeah

Legend
Thiem would have been a worthy RG champion. Kinda sad to see him lose motivation and form these days when he should be doing his part at retiring the dinosaurs. I hear he has some physical issues involving his foot too, so I hope that gets better at the least.
 
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