Match Stats/Report - Nadal vs Thiem, Madrid final, 2017


Hall of Fame
Rafael Nadal beat Dominic Thiem 7-6(8), 6-4 in the Madrid final, 2017 on clay

It was Nadal's 4th title at the clay version of the event and Thiem's first Masters final. Nadal had recently won his 10 titles in Monte Carlo and Barcelona and would go on shortly after to win his 10th French Open, beating Thiem in the semis along the way. Before that, the two would meet in the Rome quarters, with Thiem winning and it being Nadal's only loss on clay for the season

Nadal won 88 points, Thiem 79

Serve Stats
- 1st serve percentage (60/87) 69%
- 1st serve points won (43/60) 72%
- 2nd serve points won (16/27) 59%
- Aces 4
- Double Faults 4
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (22/87) 25%

- 1st serve percentage (59/80) 74%
- 1st serve points won (40/59) 68%
- 2nd serve points won (11/21) 52%
- Aces 4
- Double Faults 1
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (21/80) 26%

Serve Pattern
Nadal served...
- to FH 30%
- to BH 66%
- to Body 4%

Thiem served...
- to FH 33%
- to BH 67%

Return Stats
Nadal made...
- 58 (17 FH, 41 BH), including 2 runaround FHs
- 17 Errors, comprising...
- 7 Unforced (3 FH, 4 BH)
- 10 Forced (5 FH, 5 BH)
- Return Rate (58/79) 73%

Thiem made...
- 61 (28 FH, 33 BH), including 12 runaround FHs & 1 return-approach
- 18 Errors, comprising...
- 8 Unforced (3 FH, 5 BH)
- 10 Forced (4 FH, 6 BH)
- Return Rate (61/83) 73%

Break Points
Nadal 2/8 (4 games)
Thiem 1/6 (3 games)

Winners (including returns, excluding aces)
Nadal 22 (10 FH, 8 BH, 2 FHV, 1 BHV, 1 OH)
Thiem 21 (14 FH, 2 BH, 3 BHV, 2 OH)

Nadal's FHs - 1 cc at net, 3 dtl (1 at net), 4 inside-out (1 at net) and 2 drop shots
- BHs - 5 cc (1 pass), 1 dtl pass and 2 drop shots

Thiem's FHs - 3 cc (1 pass at net), 4 dtl, 1 inside-out, 1 inside-out/dtl, 4 inside-in and 1 longline at net
- BHs - 1 cc and 1 dtl

- 1 from a serve-volley point, a first volley BHV

Errors (excluding returns and serves)
Nadal 33
- 18 Unforced (13 FH, 5 BH)
- 15 Forced (5 FH, 9 BH, 1 FHV)
Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 45

Thiem 43
- 30 Unforced (22 FH, 7 BH, 1 BHV)
- 13 Forced (5 FH, 6 BH, 1 FHV, 1 BHV)... with 1 BH running-down-drop-shot at net
Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 48

(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...
- 15/20 (75%) at net, including...
- 3/3 (100%) serve-volleying, all 1st serves
- 0/3 forced back/retreated

Thiem was...
- 10/20 (50%) at net, including...
- 1/3 (33%) serve-volleying, all 1st serves
- 0/1 return-approaching
- 0/2 forced back/retreated

Match Report
Very high quality and very close encounter. Nadal's defensive retrieving and a possible mental let-down from Thiem gives the winner a thin edge on a slow for Madrid court

Madrid usually plays much faster than other clay courts, both due to the court and the altitude and action is almost hard court like. This court looks slower. Thiem's shots (including the serve) in particular that would go for winners (even against Nadal) in typical Madrid conditions tend to come back

The first set is as good as clay court tennis gets, with both players hitting hard and heavy. Emphasis on heavy, thickly top spun shots - the kind that when persistently hit, breakdown even top players groundies. On top of that, the power of Thiem's FH is also top notch. Nadals' FH is just as heavy of spin, but not as hard powerful

Nadal has the better BH though. Its heavy and hard enough to stay in there in cc rallies with the Thiem FH more or less evenly. Thiem's BH resists giving up errors to the Nadal FH, but lacks punch

So similar net results across both cc rallies -
Thiem FH - Nadal BH... Thiem with greater power and spin, but Nadal's also loaded
Nadal FH - Thiem BH... Nadal with greater power and spin (but less than Thiem's FH), and Thiem able to hang in without packing a punch

Hitting and rallies are intense. Nadal looks to breakdown Thiem's BH with FH cc's. He's able to draw weak balls (after a fair few shots, Thiem's BH isn't weak, just not as strong as Nadal's FH over series of shots), but doesn't get many errors. Chances for Nadal to step in and attack the weaker balls (as in look to hit winners dtl or inside-out or come to net behind a bigger groundstroke), which he mostly doesn't do. Rather, he continues raining down FH cc's looking for the error, which tends not to come unless he goes attackingly strong with the cc

Nadal does look for the drop shot after pushing Thiem back. Its good ploy and Thiem's apt to fall well back, but is usually up to racing the drop shots down. Or coming to net, where Nadal's 12/18 when rallying forward

On flip side, Thiem hammers his FHs even harder than Nadal does, and Nadal's forced to hit back loopy BH cc's without being pushed back. Thiem's willing to look for the FH dtl point finisher or at least dynamic changer to get Nadal running. Amidst loopy BH cc's, Nadal smacks the odd one flat counter-attackingly

Lots of running after very hard hit shots to do by Nadal. And he proves remarkably upto it, resisting giving up the error. The odd, adventuous shot choice misses from Thiem's FH - usually attackingly inside-out or dtl

Essentially, Nadal plays higher percentage, will crash through after wearing Thiem down game when he has the inititatve. Thiem takes more risks in trying to end points when he has it. And from reactive position, both put up a mule-stubborn fight - Nadal having to runaround on top of fend back Thiem's heavy hitting, Thiem having to do less running

Early on, Thiem misses most first serves. He quickly rectifies that and then serves at high in-count. His serve is genuinely powerful to extent even Nadal struggles to get it back in play. By contrast, just regulation, serving from Nadal, that Thiem copes with comfortably, even running around to hit FHs to the odd 1st serve. Both players return from well behind the baseline - for Nadal its necessary, for Thiem you'd think not (but 2nd set raises doubts about that, more on that later)

And that's the first set. Top quality stuff, lasting 75 minutes. 1 break apiece. Several long games beside. Serving at 4-5, Thiem's down 0-40 but wipes out each break/set point with aggressive 3rd ball FHs before going on to hold

No let downs in the tiebreak either. Both continue to hammer their groundies and now, both come to net too. All 4 set points are return points - Thiem has the first and then they alternate

Tiebreak finally ends 10-8 with Thiem missing a third ball FH inside-in winner attempt,

2 key points. A serve-volleying Thiem hits a hefty smash, that Nadal anticipates and strikes about as well as possible. Thiem's left with a makeably difficult, low-ish volley that he can't get over. Nadal also loses a service point where he's unable to putaway a smash, retreats to baseline and Thiem goes on to win the point. Neither smash is easy

Top class set of tennis, and razor thin difference between the 2 players

The second set is different. Whereas every point and even shot was a struggle in the first, the second is relaxed by comparison.

Nadal breaks to start with Thiem missing attacking FHs and then endures a 14 point hold (1 break point). Then easy, routine holds

It looks like Thiem's lost stomach for the fight-tooth-and-nail for every point action. Understandable, if disappointing. Nadal eases off too, but he can afford to with the early break (which he gets thanks to Thiem tuning out of the struggle)

Thiem experiments with taking returns earlier. He's not very good at it, and misses a bunch of routine returns

Nadal threatens to break to end the match in game 9, but Thiem holds on. Nadal's lost 1 point in his last 3 service games and won 15 of last 16 service points as he steps up to serve for the match

He has to save 4 break points - all of them dealt with aggressively, before finally closing it out a BH drop shot winner followed by a BHV one. A throwback to first set game from Thiem - and for that matter, Nadal

Top quality first set, a big let down in 2nd (it wouldn't have been possible for it to go up, but going down wasn't necessary) but a hell of an end though

How does it look in numbers?


Hall of Fame
Stats & Play
Nadal a bit better, with his defensive retrieving and Thiem's attacking shot choices questionable. The 2 are related

1st serve points won - Nadal 72%, Thiem 68%
2nd serve points won - Nadal 59%, Thiem 52%

Sufficient advantages to not be off set by Thiem's 74% to 69% first serve in count lead

Unreturned serves near identical (Nadal 25%, Thiem 26%) is a relative win for Nadal, given he's facing a much bigger serve. All numbers related to unreturned serves are virtually the same

Aces - both 4
Forced return errors - both 10
Unforced return errors - Nadal 7, Thiem 8

Thiem's serve is huge. Lots of forceful serves come back and the ones that don't are very difficult, potential aces/service winners even
Nadal's isn't. Just normal pace serves. Odd ones to FH and body catch Thiem out when he's taking returns early. The FEs he's drawn are considerably more returnable than the ones Thiem does

Nadal always takes returns from well-back position. Thiem does so for most of the match (including all of the top quality 1st set), but has a phase when he steps upto normal, around baseline position to return. Its then that he falters, gets rushed on regulation returns and misses good number

Nadal's serve is such that Thiem's able to runaround to hit FHs against first serves occasionally when well back. Nadal also exploits the position with serve-volleying, where he's 3/3 and adjusts his serve to Thiem moving forward by serving a bit harder (and directing more to body), but little blackmark against's Thiem's inability to take returns from normal postion. Its doable.

Unreturned serves or freebies being virtually equal is a win for Nadal. Serves being what they are, Thiem could reasonably look to have advantage - either on freebies or in getting returns off more attackingly or both. He's able to achieve neither

In play -

Winners - Nadal 22, Thiem 21
Errors forced - Nadal 13, Thiem 15

Virtually equal there too. Balance of strenght of groundies come out too in breakdown of winners -

FH winners - Nadal 10, Thiem 14
BH winners - Nadal 8, Thiem 2

... with Nadal's BH holding reasonably upto Thiem's bigger FH, but Thiem's BH left puny against Nadal's bigger FH

The big difference comes through in UEs, particularly the FHs

UEs - Nadal 18, Thiem 30, including...
BHs - Nadal 5, Thiem 7
FHs - Nadal 13, Thiem 22

First, great job by both players to hold up with their BHs
Second, the FH UE differences is key to match. Note also big difference in UEFI - Nadal 45, Thiem 48

Breakdown of UEs
- Neutral - Nadal 13, Thiem 15
- Attacking - Nadal 1, Thiem 6
- Winner attempts - Nadal 4, Thiem 10

So virtually even neutrally (amidst top class hitting).
Points ended aggressively (winners + errors forced) - Nadal 45, Thiem 46
'Aggressive UEs' (attacking + winner attempt UEs) - Nadal 5, Thiem 16

As described earlier, the 2 approach attacking in different ways. Nadal persists with more and heavier FH cc's to take apart Thiem's BH (as opposed to stepping in against weaker replies to dispatch ball more aggressively, or come to net). Thiem turns to FH shotmaking when he finds Nadal's BH holding up (and Nadal's BH doesn't dish out many weak replies)

There's a lot of running, scampering and falling well behind baseline to fend balls back defensively to do by Nadal. His ability to resist Thiems' power hitting is largely behind Thiem turning to more aggressive options. Some element of Thiem choosing wrong ball, or going for too much (but he's under pressure to, with moderate or even heavy attacking shots coming back) involved too. Also spells of Thiem getting frustrated and playing overly ambitious shots without proper set up and in second set, just losing stomach to go 10 shots from the back

Summing up, very high quality match, particularly the 1st set where both players are willing to struggle it out for as long as needed to get what they need and play well enough that a lot is needed. The set is a coin flip. In second set, Thiem loses stomach for the fight to his detriment. So does Nadal to a degree, but he's up a break early and can afford it

Both players impressive in their hitting (with exception of Thiem's BH that's bullied) both of pace and power. Thiem's FH is the most powerful shot on show, but Nadal's BH holds up to it. On flip side, Nadal's FH outhits Thiem's BH, but can't break it down

Nadal sticking to wearing Thiem down, while Thiem turns to more aggressive ways to finish points. Nadal forced to defend for all he's worth against it. And doing it well enough that Thiem eventually overreaches. Some disheartened lack of heart from Thiem on show too after losing the 50-50 first set

Stats for Nadal's semi with Novak Djokovic - Duel Match Stats/Reports - Nadal vs Djokovic, Madrid & Rome semi-finals, 2017 & 2018 | Talk Tennis (


Nadal - Thiem, is in a way, the epitome of the so-called modern tennis.

Well, at least the variety of modern tennis that's not dominated by huge serves.