Match Stats/Report - Rafter vs Philippoussis, US Open final, 1998


Hall of Fame
Pat Rafter beat Mark Philippoussis 6-3, 3-6, 6-2, 6-0 in US Open final, 1998 on hard court

Rafter was the defending champion and won Canada and Cincinnati in the lead-up to the event. This was the first of Philippoussis’ 2 Slam finals

Rafter won 118 points, Philippoussis 85

Rafter serve-volleyed off all but 3 serves (1 first, 2 seconds), Philippoussis off all but 2 (1 first, 1 second)

Serve Stats
- 1st serve percentage (62/86) 72%
- 1st serve points won (50/62) 81%
- 2nd serve points won (14/24) 58%
- Aces 6 (1 second serve)
- Double Faults 1
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (36/86) 42%

- 1st serve percentage (65/117) 56%
- 1st serve points won (40/65) 62%
- 2nd serve points won (23/52) 44%
- Aces 5
- Double Faults 13
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (32/117) 27%

Serve Patterns
Rafter served...
- to FH 25%
- to BH 58%
- to Body 18%

Philippoussis served...
- to FH 32%
- to BH 57%
- to Body 12%

Return Stats
Rafter made...
- 72 (19 FH, 53 BH), including 3 return-approaches
- 5 Winners (3 FH, 2 BH)
- 27 Errors, all forced...
- 27 Forced (14 FH, 13 BH)
- Return Rate (72/104) 69%

Philippoussis made...
- 49 (8 FH, 41 BH)
- 3 Winners (2 FH, 1 BH)
- 30 Errors, comprising...
- 1 Unforced (1 BH)
- 29 Forced (11 FH, 18 BH)
- Return Rate (49/85) 58%

Break Points
Rafter 6/20 (9 games)
Philippoussis 1/3 (2 games)

Winners (including returns, excluding serves)
Rafter 32 (8 FH, 9 BH, 5 FHV, 7 BHV, 3 OH)
Philippoussis 25 (3 FH, 4 BH, 4 FHV, 1 FH1/2V, 7 BHV, 5 OH, 1 BHOH)

Rafter had 14 from serve volley points -
- 9 first 'volleys' (3 FHV, 4 BHV, 1 OH, 1 FH at net)
- 5 second volley (1 FHV, 2 BHV, 2 OH)

- 2 from return-approach points (1 FHV, 1 BHV), both passes

- 15 other passes - 5 returns (3 FH, 2 BH) & 10 regular (4 FH, 6 BH)
- FH returns - 2 cc, 1 dtl
- BH returns - 1 dtl, 1 inside-in
- FHs - 3 cc, 1 inside-out
- BHs - 3 cc, 1 dtl, 1 dtl/inside-out, 1 lob/cc-down-the-middle, 1 running-down-drop-shot dtl at net (around net post)

Philippoussis had 19 from serve volley points -
- 13 first 'volleys' (3 FHV, 1 FH1/2V, 7 BHV, 1 OH, 1 FH at net)... the OH was on the bounce
- 6 second volley (1 FHV, 4 OH, 1 BHOH)

- 6 passes - 3 returns (2 FH, 1 BH) & 3 regular (3 BH)
- FH returns - 1 cc, 1 inside-in
- BH return - 1 dtl
- BHs - 1 cc, 1 dtl at net, 1 longline (that Rafter left)

Errors (excluding serves and returns)
Rafter 27
- 4 Unforced (1 BH, 1 FHV, 2 BHV)
- 23 Forced (4 FH, 8 BH, 6 FHV, 1 FH1/2V, 3 BHV, 1 BH1/2V)
- Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 55

Philippoussis 37
- 12 Unforced (4 FH, 1 BH, 4 FHV, 3 BHV)... with 1 FH at net & 1 BH at net
- 25 Forced (6 FH, 8 BH, 2 FHV, 2 FH1/2V, 5 BHV, 1 BHOH, 1 Over-the-Shoulder)... with 1 BH running-down-drop-shot at net
- Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 54.2

(Note 1: All 1/2 volleys refer to such shots played at net. 1/2 volleys played from other parts of the court are included within relevant groundstroke numbers)

(Note 2: the Unforced Error Forcefulness Index is an indicator of how aggressive the average UE was. The numbers presented are keyed on 4 categories - 20 defensive, 40 neutral, 50 attacking and 60 winner attempt)

Net Points & Serve-Volley
Rafter was...
- 66/86 (77%) at net, including...
- 57/77 (74%) serve-volleying, comprising...
- 45/56 (80%) off 1st serve and...
- 12/21 (57%) off 2nd serve
- 3/3 (100%) return-approaching
- 1/1 forced back

Philippoussis was...
- 59/100 (59%) at net, including...
- 58/97 (60%) serve-volleying, comprising...
- 35/59 (59%) off 1st serve and...
- 23/38 (61%) off 2nd serve
- 0/3 forced back

Match Report
Top drawer showing from Rafter, who save 1 game, is virtually perfect in this serve-volley match. Philippoussis has a double faulting problem and loses his head a little near the end - amid near perfection from from his opponent - but plays well too. And is swept aside. Court is normal, not as quick as previous year

Match is all but a full serve-volley affair, with 2 players desisting from following their serves to net 5 times in matches 203 points. The highest rate of serve-volleying in any Slam final outside grass

Rafter with 32 winners, 4 UEs. Adding double faults, 5 total UEs for the match. John McEnroe had same number in his ballyhooed showing in ‘84 Wimby final (including 2 returns). Rafter’s showing is up there in the same calibre

Good serve, and gets high 72% first serves in - excellent

Volleys like a dream, knocking away stuff around net high for winners or right into corners, while picking up the shoelace stuff (most of it bullet hard) most of the time - excellent

On return games, he’s just as impressive. More, for purposes of winning and losing go

Gets a grip on the big Scud serve, Early on, he returns wide to good effect. The ones he misses, he just misses, hitting the very top of the tape. Or he follows the return to net when he sees he’s got it wide and low, and knocks away more volleys

Later on, he blocks and guides return after return to Scud’s feet. Even he’d have struggled to cope with what he presents Scud and its too much for Scud. Excellent +
Very good on the follow up pass too, particularly the BH. Passes he nails includes lobs, BH dtl’s, shots when balls almost past him. Excellent
And he’s quick anywhere on the court. When needed, shows utter tenacity to hang in and chase down every volley, almost Chang-like
Just the one blip. A poor game, where he misses 2 routine volleys and is slow moving for a another to get broken

And ‘Scud’ Philippoussis? Big serve, not all out. Greg Rusedski had got into all kind so trouble when serving all out with his position serve-volleying. Scud does better and is well placed at net for the upcoming volley. And Scud is Scud… not big by his standard is still big. Categorically bigger than Rafter. He does double fault to a bad degree - even doing his best to botch the serve-out in the one set he wins

Volleys solidlyy and well the net high stuff. Not bad on the low, but he faces an awful lot of those. He has power on both the return and the pass, enough to be testing on power grounds alone to the net high stuff and correspondingly more down at Rafter’s feet, but Rafter’s volleying is too good

Top drawer stuff from Rafter. While he’s on point in all areas, it’s the constant low, blocked returns that shine brightest. Serve isn’t special quality but merely solid, with the volleying behind it making his service games tip-top too

Rafter’s serve game
Merely healthy serve from Rafter, not close to overwhelming
72% first serves in is excellent. Just the 1 double fault also, with Scud hammering returns. Good body serves that threaten to tie up Scud, whose quite good at getting out of way and taking a decent swing

Scud looks to hammer returns and does. Return rate of 58% is a little below par, but returns he makes are challenging. They’re powerful when around the net, and he gets good lot to feet

Starting from net high, little under or over as base, Scud getting little more low-ish than standard and good lot too feet. If 65% return rate, returning firmly is base, he’s about reached that
Misses a few more than necessary, but does return with more heat than norm too

Rafter volleying beautifully. Sans 1 bad game, can’t seem to miss a routine volley and those that don’t go for winners leave very low chances on pass

Deals with the shoelace stuff neatly. Of course, leaving better passing chances, but he covers the net well for those too

Rafter with 14 serve-volleying winners, 3 volleying UEs (2 in 1 game), 11 FEs
Scud with 6 passing winners (1 Rafter leaves), 14 ground FEs

Not bad from Scud, given how poor the passing looks he gets. To make more inroads, he’d have to smack more return winners. Power returns don’t cut it against Rafter’s volleys. Would have to be an exceptional showing to nail return winners regularly, but just 3 such winners vs 77 serve-volleys isn’t good

With not good 58% return rate hitting ‘just’ powerfully (as opposed to wide), would be tall task for him to nail winners. His is a power return, draw weak volley (and hopefully get a few UEs), nail the follow up pass style, not go wide to for return winners

When the power returns are knocked away, and there isn’t a UE in sight, doesn’t leave him with much

Rafter makes about double the number of tough, shoelace ‘volleys’ as the 11 FEs he’s got. And makes them with good authority, usually getting them deep and with some force

1 bad game from Rafter where he misses back-to-back routine volleys and is a bit slow to move in missing another marked an FE. Way he volleys, making more powerful returns or making lots of returns but softly wouldn’t do much good for returner

Scud would need directly be hitting return winners more often to have chances of breaking. Its not impossible, but would take some doing - and you could say the same of any showing

Gist - top notch stuff from Rafter, at dealing with both regulation and tough volleys - low or wide. Not great serve, which allows the volley to shine so, but excellent in count, and smart placement, especially the body serves
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Hall of Fame
Philippoussis’ service games
5 aces, 13 double faults hits you in the face

For Scud in particular, the aces are very low. Rafter moves very well and reads the serve, but still. For Scud, 5 aces is a big fail

He doesn’t go all in with the first serve. If he did and return comes back, he’d be in position to volley. A lesson Greg Rusedski learnt in previous years final. He does serve powerfully enough to confidently serve-volley behind, and tailors it so that he’s in good position to volley

Basically, he’s looking to actually volley, and not serve-bot. For him, serve-botting is viable option (if not a thrilling one for fans)

Rafter’s handling of pace with his return is exemplary. Early on, he returns orthodoxly with compact swings and looking to go wide, while at times, being rushed and forced to return anyway possible

Some good, winning returns from Rafter and what stands out beyond that is how small margins are of his misses. When he misses, its hitting the very top of the tape. Inch higher, and those go for winners. When he gets a wide, low return off, he follows it to net to knock away net-to-net volleys. He wins 3/3 return-approaching, 2 with winners

Later on, he switches to blocking and guiding returns down low. And Scud seems to be facing shoelace stuff every game. They’re not bullet returns. At most firm and to the feet, more often, a little lighter than that

Would need impeccable technique to keep on handling. Scud’s form is fine, he gets down well for the volleys. There are just too many of them to make - and breaks follow

13/19 of Scud’s serve-volleying winners are first volleys. 4/6 of the seconds are smashes
To go 7 UEs, 10 FEs

Good on volleying consistency, and no problem putting away whats there to putaway. Rafter scrambling to throw up a lob when up against it, and Scud’s sure on the smash

He’s not bad at the shoelace stuff overall and makes most early on (also, hitting a glorious FH1/2V winner down break point), but later, there’s just too many of them being chipped down to handle. Makes about as many as he misses in the later stages - and he gets a ton of them at that stage

Unfortunately for him, there's also Rafter's 17 passing winners, 12 ground FEs... much of it set up by forcing shoelace or half-volley. All credit to Rafter, fantastic stuff

The 13 double faults are woeful. They don’t cost him too much in terms of losing games though. And he does make good use of hefty second serves. Second serves aren’t easy to distinguish from firsts, (which for him, means he’s not blasting firsts, but by any normal standard, means his seconds are big

He’s actually done better 2nd serve-volleying than 1st serve-volleying (winning 61% to 59% respectively)

Gist, toned down but still fat serving from Scud, bigger than Rafter for starters and hefty seconds. Gets into good position to volley and is fine of form on it, including getting down for them

Trouble is, he has to get down a lot. Rafter scoring with orthodox return-passing going wide, before switching to blocking and chipping them down low to success rate of Scud facing boatloads of shoelace and half-volleys, just too many to keep making

Comparison with McEnroe from ‘84 Wimbledon final
Taking John McEnroe’s showing in the ‘84 Wimbledon final as the gold standard of performances, how does Rafter here stack up against it?

Starting with basic stats
1st serve in - Mac 73%, Rafter 72%
1st serve won - Mac 85%, Rafter 81%
2nd serve won - Mac 67%, Rafter 58%

Mac doing better on second serve points, otherwise close to even

Unreturneds - Mac 49%, Rafter 42%
Aces/Service Winners - Mac 10/2, Rafter 6
Double faults - Rafter 1

Mac served considerably better, aiming everything well wide and hard forcing errors, with opponent stretched out and lunging. Errors Rafter draws by contrast more product of opponent going for a big power on the return. Which he needs, given how well Rafter volleys

Return rate - Mac 74%, Rafter 69%
Return winner rates (winners/return made) - Mac 15%, Rafter 7%

Mac with better numbers, but he’s facing far, far weaker serve
Cleaning up Jimmy Connors’ serve to extent Mac did vs sticking spanner in Mark Philippoussis’ as its done here. Rafter’s probably more impressive, with Mac’s showing capped by opponents weak serving

Mac with 25 winners (9 volleys, 16 groundies), 3 UEs (2 groundies, 1 volley), 10 FEs (7 groundies, 3 ‘volleys’)
Rafter with 32 (15 volleys, 17 groundies), 4 UEs (1 groundie, 3 volleys), 23 FEs (12 groundies, 11 ‘volleys’)

Winners and UEs in proportion to length of each match. Difference in volley winners product of that and Mac having higher freebies, leaving less scope to hit winners


Hall of Fame
Only real difference is the FEs. Mac not tasked with so many difficult volleys as Rafter… how well Rafter handles the shoelace stuff is key to this match, it wasn’t in ‘84 one, though Mac as in everything else, near flawless

Mac’s passing success rate better, against much weaker serve-volley opposition

Net points - Mac 73%, Rafter 77%
Serve-volleying - both 74%, broken down as…
1st serve-volleying - Mac 79%, Rafter 80%
2nd serve-volleying - Mac 64%, Rafter 57%

About the same

Mac perfect, without a blip. Rafter the 1 bad game that loses him a set and facing break point in another game (first of the match)
Mac statistically a little better, but facing weaker opposition. Running through Jimmy Connors on quick court is more common than beating a solid Philippoussis volleying 3, 2 and 0
You can’t play better than perfect and Mac’s famous showing is close as it gets to it. For a showing to be worthy of comparison, let alone same ball park, makes it pretty high end too

Match Progression
Match starts with a bang from both players. Scud knocks a FH cc return-pass winner against a body serve first point and forces ‘volleying’ errors (once after Rafter makes a first, wide shoelace volley) to bring up break point. 3 unreturned serves save the day for Rafter

Scud would only see break points in one more game

Rafter breaks to go up 2-0 with some amazing winners, one better than the next. First a BH cc to a ball almost behind him, with Scud making a great half-volley. Next a BH dtl/inside-out again after drawing a half-volley first up. Awhile later, a full running, running-down-drop-shot BH around the net post. Finally, knocking away a FHV winner after coming in behind a wide chip return that draws another half-volley. Its like play-of-the-day montage, let alone highlights reel

For all that, he still needs 2 double faults to actually break, With Scud knocking down aces and gathering freebies in between. Game last 12 points

Rafter puts Scud through the hoop next time around too - lobs him back to baseline, forces BHOH error with another lob, nails a dtl return pass winners off either side. Scud though saves 3 break points to hold - including with an unlikely first ‘volley’ FH1/2V winner. He finishes the game with tricky BHOH winner, having missed an almost impossible one earlier in the game

Some big power returns from Scud rest of set and Rafter again wins a point chip-charging, but comfy holds. Rafter serves out to love. To bring up 40-0, strikes a perfect inside-out BHV winner to a return from his toes

Chip-charge behind a return that draws half-volley, which is knocked away for a BHV winner in opening game of second set by Rafter before Scud holds

Scud double faults twice in a row before holding his second game, where he unleashes with some huge serves. Rafter looking to block returns dtl for winner misses a number by small margins

Out of blue, Rafter throws out a stinker to be broken for 1-3. Misses regulation FHV and BHV in succession to fall 15-30 behind and on second break point, is a little slow to move to FHV that he misses. It brings out how flawless his movement otherwise is

Comfy holds from there, until the serve out when Scud does his best to get broken. From 15-0 up, he double faults 3 times in a row. Point after isn’t far from one either, with the second serve as deep as can be and drawing a return error. He wins next 3 points after to level the match - game with 5 forced return errors and 3 double faults

Scud saves 2 break points early in third set, with Rafter scoring with a scrambled running-down-drop-shot at net and a low, wide return. There’s an odd point game after where Scud all but ducks out of the way of a lob that goes through for a winner, perhaps anticipating a blasted pass instead

Scud holds for 2-2. And that’s the last game he wins

First break is a great game from Rafter, with wicked low returns. Second is poor from Scud - misses easy BHV and double faults twice to fall into 0-40 hole, and is forced into BHV shoe lace error froma blocked return couple points later

And the bagel to finish. Scud looks harried and wanton, but he pays well enough. And most of the harried wantoness is in carefree swatting at returns that don’t get him broken

Rafter opens the set with a regulation BHV miss. Only worth mentioning because it’s the only one he has, save the game he’s broken. Its 1 of 2 points he loses on serve, the other being a BH UE for the only first serve he stays back in all match

First break is to love - featuring couple of cc passing winners (1 of each wing), a double fault and an approach error when Scud stays back off a first serve. By following up with a love hold, Rafter enjoys a streak of 12 straight points won

Second break is to Rafter’s credit - again successive cc passes, 1 of each win (1 set up by a return to feet, the other enabled by a badly placed volley from Scud), forcing Scud back to finish at net, a FH1/2V FE. Game ends with making a second volley FHV UE though

3 passing winners (FH cc return, FH inside-out and BH inside-in return) in the last break too, along with a couple of double faults, including on match point wraps things up

Summing up, top class showing from Pat Rafter, up there with the very best in any Slam final. Healthy serve at high in-count and he’s not only tip-top on the volley, but stylish too - putting away anything there to be putaway, with spice of touch volleys thrown in with standard style, deep and wide volleying

More importantly for the result, he returns the big serve of his opponent superbly - whether looking for wide returns and even more, when blocking them low. Comes in rarely behind the return to knock away volleys net-to-net to boot. All this when just getting returns in play against the pace of the serve is a tough task

Philippoussis serves big but not too wide, and Rafter’s expert in handling pace and reading the serve. His form on the volley is natural and good and the volley itself solidly decisive. He’s faced with just too many low returns to handle though. He has power on the return but again, Rafter’s volleying is too good and not only do most of the considerable shoelace and half-volleys presented come back, but wide or deep too, leaving not good passing shots

Stats for the 1984 Wimbledon final - Match Stats/Report - McEnroe vs Connors, Wimbledon final, 1984 | Talk Tennis (


I agree Mark played well in sets 1 and 2 with rafter either very good or outstanding. But there are rumours the younger of the men was preoccupied with a date with an iconic wta player the day before.. if true it could explain just as much him letting pat defend the title quite easily in the latter sets, as the long hard road he himself had to make the final.
Rafter is a strong player but not an all time great with just 2 majors and 11 titles overall. I can see the argument for this being a great performance in terms of numbers. Some of his passing shots on the run are as good as any player despite a somewhat so so ground game.
However rafter was inconsistent at the 98 usopen winning several rounds through mental discipline as opposed to being at his best. He was very nervous in round 1.. almost emulating edberg from the 1990 open.

It is also worth noting that rafter beat lesser players in his major finals but his losses in the wimbledon final were to more illustrious players (although the scud had always more potential than even Goran probably). Rafter's style, charisma, Hollywood looks and willingness to play a declining play style are all reasons we still talk so much of him to this day.
Unfortunately the more flawed rafter that occasionally caused upsets pre 1997 is hard to find on YouTube that much now. I enjoy seeing how a player has an interesting game but lacks the intangibles that made them elite at other times.


Hall of Fame
Pat played a great match, period. This was even more impressive than the year before. He had his chances against the 'big boys' and came painfully close at W.


True enough but agassi had even more disappointing losses in the latter stages of all the majors.. although somehow I feel his losses to chang and safin at the AO were not that heavy on his mind.

Another thing to bear in mind with rafter is that while he did very well to make all the semis of the majors he never could come off one major and reach a semi or final straight away again. The level of stupendous consistency from the big 3 and murray was less common back then, and rafter certainly was one example of someone who could be bounced out by a lesser player before he had a chance to click into gear.