Match Stats/Report - Nalbandian vs Federer, Year End Championship final, 2005


Hall of Fame
David Nalbandian beat Roger Federer 6-7(4), 6-7(11), 6-2, 6-1, 7-6(3) in the Year End Championship (Tennis Masters Cup) final, 2005 on carpet in Shanghai, China

It was Nalbandian's only title at the event. He was ranked 12th and had made it to the final draw after a number of higher ranked players withdrew. Federer, ranked 1, had won the previous two editions and would go onto win the next 2. The result took the head-to-head 6-3 in Nalbandian's favour, including a Federer win in the round robin stage. A win would have seen Federer match John McEnroe's 82-3 win-loss record from 1984. This was the last edition of the tournament to be played on carpet

Nalbandian won 206 points, Federer 178

Serve Stats
- 1st serve percentage (137/196) 70%
- 1st serve points won (91/137) 67%
- 2nd serve points won (30/59) 51%
- Aces 2
- Double Faults 6
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (37/196) 19%

- 1st serve percentage (111/188) 59%
- 1st serve points won (76/111) 68%
- 2nd serve points won (27/77) 35%
- Aces 10 (1 not clean), Service Winners 2
- Double Faults 8
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (43/188) 23%

Serve Pattern
Nalbandian served...
- to FH 28%
- to BH 59%
- to Body 12%

Federer served...
- to FH 32%
- to BH 58%
- to Body 10%

Return Stats
Nalbandian made...
- 137 (37 FH, 100 BH), including 3 return-approaches
- 11 Winners (5 FH, 6 BH)
- 31 Errors, comprising...
- 13 Unforced (9 FH, 4 BH)
- 18 Forced (7 FH, 11 BH)
- Return Rate (137/180) 76%

Federer made...
- 153 (46 FH, 107 BH), including 3 runaround FHs & 6 return-approaches
- 3 Winner (2 FH, 1 BH), including 1 runaround FH
- 35 Errors, comprising...
- 17 Unforced (8 FH, 9 BH), including 3 runaround FHs & 1 return-approach
- 18 Forced (9 FH, 9 BH)
- Return Rate (153/190) 81%

Break Points
Nalbandian 11/14 (13 games)
Federer 6/20 (10 games)

Winners (including returns, excluding aces)
Nalbandian 58 (22 FH, 20 BH, 6 FHV, 9 BHV, 1 OH)
Federer 46 (21 FH, 8 BH, 7 FHV, 4 BHV, 6 OH)

Nalbandian's FHs - 10 cc (2 returns), 2 dtl (1 pass), 3 inside-out (1 return), 4 inside-in (1 return) and 3 drop shots (2 at net - 1 a running-down-drop-shot)
- BHs - 5 cc (1 return, 2 passes), 8 dtl (3 returns), 3 inside-out returns and 3 drop shots

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

- 2 from return-approach points - 1 BHV and 1 BH drop shot at net

Federer's FHs - 5 cc (2 passes), 4 dtl (1 pass), 5 inside-out (1 at net), 3 inside-in (1 runaround return), 2 longline, 1 running-down-drop-shot cc at net and 1 net chord dribbler return
- BHs - 2 cc passes (1 Nalbandian left), 1 dtl pass, 2 inside-out (1 return), 1 longline pass, 1 drop shot and 1 running-down-drop-shot cc at net pass

- 3 from serve-volley points
- 2 second volleys (2 OH)
- 1 fourth volley (1 OH), which struck an at net Nalbandian

- 4 FHVs were swinging shots - 1 of them from no-man's land which has not been counted a net point

Errors (excluding returns and serves)
Nalbandian 83
- 50 Unforced (23 FH, 24 BH, 3 BHV)
- 23 Forced (15 FH, 15 BH, 2 BHV, 1 Tweener), with 2 FH running-down-drop-shots at net & 1 BH running-down-drop-shot at net
Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 49.8

Federer 103
- 65 Unforced (29 FH, 32 BH, 3 FHV, 1 BHV)
- 38 Forced (13 FH, 20 BH, 1 FH1/2V, 1 BHV, 2 BH1/2V, 1 OH)... with 1 FH running-down-drop shot at net & 3 BH running-down-drop-shots at net. the OH was a flagrantly forced baseline attempt to cope with a Nalbandian smash at net
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 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
Nalbandian was...
- 34/55 (62%) at net, including...
- 2/2 serve-volleying, both 1st serves
- 2/3 (67%) return-approaching
- 1/2 forced back

Federer was...
- 41/65 (63%) at net, including...
- 8/11 (73%) serve-volleying, comprising..
- 8/10 (80%) off 1st serve and...
- 0/1 off 2nd serve
- 4/6 (67%) return-approaching
- 1/3 (33%) forced back/retreated

Match Report
Conditioning is the key factor in the final result. Nalbandian undergoes the usual - and significant - wear that comes with playing a long five setter but Federer is a lot worse. He's struggling at the latest by middle of third set and appears severely hampered by the end. Nonetheless, the defending champion makes a very brave fight of it. Down 0-4 in the fifth and having lost the last 10 games, he engineers a most unlikely fightback and reaches 30-0 serving for the match. Its as close as he gets to reversing the result

Action varies drastically across the full match. There's plenty of glorious, all court, attacking play on a fast carpet court, based on point construction and combinations of shots rather than pure shotmaking. There's a good number of attacking errors that come out of striving for such play. Federer's BH is apt to dish out routine errors. Neither player serves strongly. Nalbandian returns very well. Lots of drop shots (especially from Nalby), lots of net play. Movement isn't great from either and Federer's in particular deteriorates as match goes on. Some bad line calls, most of them against Nalby

On the positive front, I would signal out Nalby's punishing returning, use of drop shots and smart net game as impressive, while he manages to make the most of an average serve. On the down side, Federer's movement is below his norm from the start and gets worse and worse longer match goes. His serve is also not too damaging on a court where there was potential to be

Some background. Federer had entered the tournament before fully recovering from an ankle problem, which apparently had him on crutches just weeks before the event. He's wearing a brace on his right ankle, which he would continue wearing all the way to the Australian Open in 2006. Nonetheless, he made it through to the final without loss of match, having in double bagelled his opponent in the semi-final

Serve & Return
Nalbandian's serve is average, as 2 aces in 137 first serves would suggest; nothing in it to do damage or hurt Federer. He makes most of it by serving to the body on big points. 12% to the body isn't large, but that's his go-to serve in trouble

The power and precision (or lack thereof) of Nalby's serve is such that its the only way to pressure Fed with the shot. Anything 'wide' tends to be easy to reach and swing through. Very few forceful serves from Nalby

Note Fed with 17 UEs to 18 FEs on the return... that's a very high proportion of UEs on a fast court. And even most of the FEs are well-makeable. A serve like that is at its best when its at the body and gives Fed that little extra less bit of time to hit it. The body serves themselves aren't particularly good - often not precisely at the body and of no greater force than serves anywhere else - but the best he can do

Fed returns surely at 81%. There's scope to attack the return that's beyond him to do orthodoxly and on rare occasions where he attacks, its with chip-charges or runaround FHs. Just 9 such returns combined (plus 4 errors trying) is a small figure and a fair reflection of Fed's returning strategy: He puts returns in play consistently, not trying to attack unduly. A fair strategy when action in play favours the returner. In this match, it never clearly does favour Fed... he'd probably have done better to attack with the return more

Nalby's returning is the high point of serve-return complex. Note the high 11 winners (just 1 pass) and including 6/8 basic return types (everything but FH dtl and BH inside-in). How often does one see so many return winners in a baseline match?

And all that while returning with high consistency of 76%. Going into a match with Roger Federer on a fast carpet court, that return rate would be a good outcome, even without all the damage his return does. To get both is outstanding from Nalby

He regularly whacks Fed's serves - including the firsts - wide of the server. The winners are the minority success'.... most such returns push Fed on the defence or force errors via some combination placement in particular, sometimes coupled with power and/or depth. These shots often see him take charge of points from the 4th ball

Nalby's returning has a big hand in Fed's very low 35% second serve points. For last 3 sets, the figure is a good deal lower than that even - 11/47 at 23%, which is atrocious. But even prior to Fed's physical problems, Nalby keeps Fed to a relatively low 16/30 second serve points won (in same period, Nalby wins 16/33 of his second serve points)... a good outcome, given the greater weight of Fed's serve (in that period, at least)

Fed's serving isn't good, especially third set onwards. 23% unreturned rate is distinctly low in these conditions. He seems to be serving within himself of power, though regularly sends first serves damagingly wide

Most aspects of quality of Fed's serve falls as match goes on
- for first 2 sets, serves at 68%, theraefter its 50%

Serve is more damaging in second part, where he needs it to do more of the work as his court game isn't holding up, but he struggles to hit the necessary damaging ability. Plenty of unforceful first serves in second part.

In short, when free of fitness issues, Fed perhaps holds back on first serves some. After the issues crop up, he goes for more, finds himself not able to be as effective but its best he can manage. All his 8 double faults come in second part too
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Hall of Fame
Should be noted that Fed's serve in this period was a good ways below what it would be it would come to be, and odd unforceful first serves wasn't uncommon for him

I would give more credit to Nalbandian's returning than discredit Fed's serving, though both are warranted

Play - Baseline & Net
First couple of sets feature high quality, attacking play from both players, and not just off the baseline

Serve doesn't give either player much advantage. Federer gets more and makes hay off it. Both are able to gain advantage with the return at times too - Nalbandian more. Most points though start neutrally or near neutrally - and both look to seize initiative from there

Honours are about even. Nalby maybe with an edge based on Fed's BH tending to make neutral errors more than any other shot. UEFI has captured this - Nalby with a high 49.8, Fed a moderate 46.2. Rate of making attacking errors are roughly the same for first two sets

Fed's movement is not slow by a general standard, but is down from his own right from the start. This is most apparent when he's up against Nalby's moderate attacks. He tends to be forced into error to a greater extent than his norm, due to movement. Still mostly credit to Nalby, with just a note on Fed's defenses being down. Fed's showing in this area is reminiscent of his typical performance in later years, say 2014-2015, when it wasn't too difficult to force errors out or him. In '05 by contrast, he was generally excellent in defense

Of movement, the two are about equal - which is comparative win for Nalby

Nalby's also better at moving Fed around. Not just side to side, Nalby's use of the drop shot is one of the keys to the match. He has 7 winners with the shot, forces 4 errors strongly and a number of his volley winners come of drop-shot approaches, while Fed has just the 1 winner running a drop shot down. Fed uses drop shots effectively too (1 winner, forcing 3 errors) but doesn't use it as often

Nalby's attacks tend to be more complicated combinations of shots, while Fed deals more in 1-2s (and later, shots out of regulation positions). Nalby's looks better, but there's more steps for something to go wrong in - which happens not infrequently.

Both neutrally and offensively, Nalby has advantage on the BH. Fed's BH is the only genuinely loose shot on show and finishes with match high 32 UEs. His FH isn't far behind with 29 but that number grows towards end, when he's using it with offensively to low percentage degree (wisely, given his physical struggles). Nalby by contrast is able to hit the extra wide cc off the BH, pressuring Fed and drawing errors (both forced and otherwise - Fed's BH also has match high 21 FEs, while the other 3 groundstrokes on show are all within 2 shots of each other) and opening court. He also hits a very large number of dtl shots, especially of the BH to both start and finish attacks

While FH numbers are near even -
- Winners - Nalby 22, Fed 21
- UEs - Nalby 23, Fed 29 (Fed's figure going up as match goes on)
- FEs - Nalby 15, Fed 13

... Nalby runs away ahead on the BH side - +12 on winners, - 8 on UEs and -7 on FEs... more his credit than Fed's discredit for the advantage

Both players do well at net, its more unusual for Nalby so it stands out more for him. Approaching from rallies, Fed win 29/48, virtually identical with Nalby's 30/50. Nalby's approaches are off all kinds - he comes in after gaining advantage from back but also makes quick dashes forward from regulations positions - bold moves, and not overdone. Fed tends not to make dash approaches or manufacture them. He comes in after outplaying Nalby from back. And serve-volleys and chip-returns far more often

Good stuff all around at net, both players instincts and volleying. Fed might be a bit better as he faces the stronger passes. His own BH pass is again, the weakest shot on show at dealing with the man at net. Fed's forced into 4 volley or half-volley errors, Nalby 2. Fed's success doesn't go down as match goes on, it actually goes up. There is a suggestion in this that he could make a match by leading with net play altogether

Note Fed winning 8/10 points serve-volleying off first serve. Great number, but the way Nalby returned would make a non-natural serve-volleyer think twice before overindulging in it

Match Progression
Some spectacular shot making and point ending combinations from both players in the opening set. Match begins with a bang (or two) as players trade holds. Nalbandian first breaks with attacking shot making with FH, though he finishes with a BH dtl that forces the error. Then he's broken - playing similar attacking shots, only now they miss. The two sides of shotmaking in a nuthshell

They trade breaks in the middle of the set too. Its Fed who breaks first, bringing up a third point in the game from OH and BH inside-out return winners - the first consummating a well constructed point, the second, a spectacular shot. Not as spectacular as the next point - a corner to corner FH cc winner

Nalby's not to be undone though and breaks right back just as attackingly. From 30-0 down, he strings together 4 strong points - an error forcing FH dtl return, a net approach, a beautiful drop shot and like Fed, saves the best for last. An approach behind a strong BH cc return that he finishes with a perfect BH drop shot winner at net

Fed's the slightly error prone and apt to cut short rallies on his BH by going for (and missing) dtl attacking shot. In tiebreak, Nalby blinks first by missing a routine BH to go down a mini-break. The set ends on a lucky note with Fed's FH return dribbling over for a winner

Play continues in the same vein in the second, both players looking for attacking shot making (Nalbandian more), but there are more regulation errors (Fed's BH particularly). Fed breaks to go up 3-2 in a 16 point, error riddled game

Fed goes on a mini error bender for a couple of games to get broken back and as Nalby holds to love to follow. Fed raises 2 break points that would leave him serving for the set... but makes 4 errors on the trot.

Tie break is a strange affair. There are spectacular shots from both, and also regulation errors. 5-3 up, Nalby's FH cc is called out as game gets back on serve. It was actually on the line and a clean winner

Fed has the first two set points and eventually converts his 4th (Nalby also had 3), with a BH longline return that Nalby can't put back in play

Strange third set. Fed double faults twice to be broken to start it. Nalby saves 2 break points a bit later, partially brought up by a terrible line call giving him a double for a ball that was more inside the court than on the line. Fed's movements are down, a bit lazy looking and he's prone to casual errors. Having gone down a second break, seems a good time to save energy. Instead, Fed extends Nalby to an 18 point game as the Nalby serves out set, saving 3 break points along the way. Plenty of drop shots and net approaches by Fed in the game. Despite the relatively high error rate of the set, there's still plenty of high quality shot making, especially by Nalby

Fourth set is genuinely weak from Fed and he loses 6 games in a row. Nalbandian continues to hit some wonderful shots - now, its more stand alone shots than combinations - but Fed's movements are well down. To me, he looks more tired than injured. Commentators make the point too that the treatment he receives at changeover isn't in line with injury, just a massage of his thigh

First Nalby breaks to love, with a stunning, running BH cc pass winner followed by a thumped BH inside-out return winner and finally, takes net to force an error
Next, Fed is broken from 40-0 up, having hit 3 winners to get there. Again, Nalby's shots are impressive and he forces a number of errors, somewhat aided by Fed's movement difficulties, but game ends on a pair of bad errors from Fed, including a double fault
Finally, Fed's broken to love again - 3 devastating returns from Nalby (2 of them winners) and a routine volley miss by Fed serve-volleying

Fed looks a goner at start of fifth and goes down 0-4. He's lost 10 games in a row. While down, his movements are still adequate at least, but he's error prone and Nalby's outhitting him comfortably from the back

Against all odds, Fed manages to level at 4-4, coming to net regularly and running on fumes. Nalby doesn't falter unduly either... he misses a few attacking shots, but nothing drastic. 4 UEs from Nalby in the 4 games Fed wins to bring match back to level. All credit Fed

Then Fed breaks to go up 6-5 and leaves himself serving for the match. 2 FHV winners - 1 set up by a drop shot - start him off and Nalby misses back to back winner attempts of either wing to end the game

Nalby breaks back, from 30-0 down, starting with a BH inside-out return winner, ending with another top class BH dtl winner and Fed misses 2 attacking third balls in between. The ending is reminiscent of the '88 final between Boris Becker and Ivan Lendl

The key point in the tiebreak is Fed missing a FHV he tried to drop fine. Nalby misses an easy BHV chip-charging the point after, but its only a return point for him. Match ends with back to back Fed neutral errors

Summing up, the highlights reel for this match is as good as it gets - countless outstanding plays, let alone shots, from both players. In between, there's a good number of sloppy errors. Fed looks a goner by set 4 shows terrific guts to not just keep at it, but come within a hair of winning. A well earned win for Nalby, who's at least equal in play for two sets and shows great variety in his attacks - with dtl shots and combinations from the baseline, lots of drop shots and very good net play - and is the physically stronger. The last part is the main one, but very good match from the winner, and a very gutsy one from the runner-up


Hall of Fame
This match is what stops me from putting 2005 Federer as the best 1/2 season from 2005 Wimbledon.