Match Stats/Report - Thiem vs Nadal, Barcelona semi-final, 2019

Waspsting

Hall of Fame
Dominic Thiem beat Rafael Nadal 6-4, 6-4 in the Barcelona semi-final, 2019 on clay

Thiem would go onto win the title, beating Daniil Medvedev in the final. Nadal was the triple defending champion, including with a win over Thiem in the 2017 final. The two would go onto meet in the French Open final shortly after with Nadal winning

Thiem won 75 points, Nadal 62

Serve Stats
Thiem...
- 1st serve percentage (40/57) 70%
- 1st serve points won (30/40) 75%
- 2nd serve points won (12/17) 71%
- Aces 5
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (8/57) 14%

Nadal....
- 1st serve percentage (58/80) 73%
- 1st serve points won (38/58) 66%
- 2nd serve points won (9/22) 41%
- Aces 1
- Double Faults 5
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (12/80) 15%

Serve Patterns
Thiem served...
- to FH 25%
- to BH 75%

Nadal served...
- to FH 12%
- to BH 83%
- to Body 5%

Return Stats
Thiem made...
- 63 (21 FH, 42 BH), including 12 runaround FHs
- 11 Errors, comprising...
- 7 Unforced (1 FH, 6 BH), including 1 runaround FH
- 4 Forced (4 BH)
- Return Rate (63/75) 84%

Nadal made...
- 49 (16 FH, 33 BH), including 6 runaround FHs
- 3 Errors, comprising...
- 1 Unforced (1 BH)
- 2 Forced (2 BH)
- Return Rate (49/57) 86%

Break Points
Thiem 2/12 (5 games)
Nadal 0/3 (1 game)

Winners (including returns, excluding serves)
Thiem 27 (13 FH, 7 BH, 2 FHV, 3 BHV, 1 OH)
Nadal 20 (11 FH, 4 BH, 2 FHV, 1 FH1/2V, 2 OH)

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

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

- 1 OH on the bounce

Nadal's FHs - 2 cc, 2 dtl (1 pass), 6 inside-out and 1 drop shot
- BHs - 3 cc and 1 dtl at net

Errors (excluding serves and returns)
Thiem 30
- 25 Unforced (10 FH, 15 BH)
- 5 Forced (3 FH, 1 BH, 1 BHV)
- Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 43.6

Nadal 35
- 25 Unforced (15 FH, 10 BH)
- 10 Forced (5 FH, 3 BH, 1 FHV, 1 BH1/2V)
- Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 46

(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 for these two matches are keyed on 4 categories - 20 defensive, 40 neutral, 50 attacking and 60 winner attempt)

Net Points & Serve-Volley
Thiem was...
- 13/16 (81%) at net, including...
- 2/2 serve-volleying, both 1st serves

Nadal was...
- 7/12 (58%) at net, with...
- 0/1 forced back

Match Report
A great match from both players, particularly Thiem who's simply better in virtually all areas

On clay, 'being better in virtually all areas' usually translates to a comfortable scoreboard advantage. Not really the case here, with Thiem edging things out with a break per set. Still, no question about Thiem's superiority

Points won - Thiem 75, Nadal 62
Points served - Thiem 57, Nadal 80

... or Thiem winning 55% of points while serving 42% of them. Break point figures read -

Thiem 2/12 (5 games), Nadal 0/3 (1 game)

... and the 1 game Nadal has break points is the last one of the match

A double faulting issue for Nadal sets him back. He doubles 4 times in his first 5 second serve points. Thereafter, takes something off first serves to get more in and not have to be down to his 2nd serve. Its unlikely even biggest potential first serving Nadal would do undue damage to a returner of Thiem's calibre - but it does give Thiem a little edge. He's able to runaround the odd first serve to make a FH return

For Thiem 5 aces to Nadal's 1 is good start. And 0 doubles to Nadal's 5 is a great follow up. Advantage Thiem

Unreturned rates though are virutally equal - Thiem 14%, Nadal 15%

11 return erros by Thiem(7 of them UEs) to Nadal's miserly 3, with Thiem taking returns from normal position, occasionally falling back to take an extra long swing and Nadal returning from way back position

For Thiem, a normal showing on the second shot, which makes it good. Upper side of personal norm for Nadal too. Very high return rates are normal for him, but some of those showings involve dropping returns short and allowing server to take full control from the get go. Not too much of that here. Thiem has initiative, but not overwhelming after Nadal's return

Then they rally - and action is top drawer. In numbers -
 

Waspsting

Hall of Fame
Winners - Thiem 27, Nadal 20
Errors Forced - Thiem 10, Nadal 5
UEs - both 25
UEFI - Thiem 43.6, Nadal 46

Baseline action is rooted in hard hitting, pressuring play from both players (as opposed to trigger happy shotmaking or undue/premature attacking play), the two players vying for hitting and positional advantage and severely testing the others consistency. Both hit heavily enough that its easy to see them just breaking down most baseliner's by drawing pressured errors. Thiem's the stronger hitter, with his FH particularly powerful and more often than not, Nadal's the one pushed into reactive postion. Emphassis on 'reactive', not 'defensive'... rarely does that clear an advantage emerge. Whoever has ball on FH tends to take lead postion

25 UEs apiece isn't small, but in context of long rallies, heavy hitting and reasonable amount of being moved around, reflects good solid play by both

The UE breakdown is a mirror image -
- Thiem FH 10, Nadal BH 10
- Nadal FH 15, Thiem BH 15

With most rallies being cc, with odd longline change-ups, that's a slim, relative win for Thiem given he has slight shotmaking and power advantage off the FH. His BH holds up to Nadal's FH well (it trails and gives up the error more often than other way around, but not by much). He's also able to redirect BH longline to start up the opposite rally, where he can lead with FH cc's

Thiem's able to keep ball on his FH slightly more often than not (despite the numbers) and like Nadal, cracks heavy FH cc's to look to break down the BH. No stepping back from Nadal, who cracks BH cc's almost as hard right back. 3 BH cc winners from Nadal is high (Thiem has 1 FH cc from the baseline), but Thiem's able to gain advantage and turn to attacking to finish off points

In short, tough stuff and very closely matched across both staple rallies

Breakdown of UEs
- Neutral - Thiem 19, Nadal 16
- Attacking - both 3
- Winner Attempts - Thiem 3, Nadal 6

Nadal shading basic consistency has much to do with him edging his FH vs Thiem BH rallies, where Thiem tends to stay in neutral

Despite heavy hitting and moving-around-play short or/and weak balls are long in coming. Hence, transitioning to attacking requires sound judgement, and both show it. Minimal stupid errors, minimal dumb shot choices, negligible looking for a winner from routine position. Some of it by Thiem, and he pulls it off usually. Nadal's under more pressure to and he falters some more as winner attempt UEs suggest

As more powerful, if not necessarily better, hitter of the FH, Thiem has a little prospective edge in attacking. He utilizes it with of all things, drop shots. Able to push Nadal back more oftne than the other way around, Thiem attacks with drops shots. He's got 6 winners with it (+ 1 at net). Sans drop shots, winners are virtually equal - Thiem 20, Nadal 19

Of course, hitting drop shot winners against Nadal involves not just getting the shot perfect, but also, pushing him out of position (usually back) first. Both are very difficult, and Thiem manages to do both. Top class set up, top class finishing against a very tough opponent to push back

Thiem also comes to net to finish after pushing Nadal back and is a top notch 13/16 or 81% at net. Nadal's just 7/12 or 58%. His figure isn't affected by Thiem drop shots but as the one whose pushed back more often than not, he has less scope to manufacture approaches

More often relegated to reactionary position, its Nadal that's called upon to take risk to attack. He's got 6 winner attempt UEs to Thiem's 3. Thiem's low number is key difference between here and other matches between the two. Generally, he tends to get frustrated and goes for low percentage winners - and misses them. Here, he has better of hard hitting rallies, ekes out an advantage from them and then delivers the final blow - its textbook, baseline tennis

Not much in it defensively. Thiem does better because Nadal's hitting isnt' as powerful. Both defend well enough on the run and resist giving up errors. They do well not giving up errors from stationary rallies against heavy shots, let alone on the run

Match Progression
Thiem has better of first set and doble faults of all things is what gives him the decisive lead in score. After 4 tough holds, Nadal double faults to begin and end the 5th game to hand over the break. He'd double faulted on 2/3 previous 2nd serves prior to the game also.

Thereafter, Nadal takes something off first serves to get them in. Thiem occasionally hits runaround FHs against first serves - not an obvious choice or easy to execute, but he manages and it is an indicator of Nadal's serve being well toned down

Nadal surivives an 18 point hold, saving 4 break points along the way. While rallies are tough, Thiem holds comfortably enough and serves set out to 15, not having faced a break point

Far from levels dropping, play in the second set is even more intense than the first

First 3 games all go to deuce. Nadal serves 2 of the games and has to save 2 break points in one of them. He's finally broken in game 5 - 2 perfect BH winners from Thiem (running, wrong-footing dtl/inside-out and a cc pass) setting up 2 break points, and Nadal missing a regulation FH on the second of them

Nadal's next 2 holds are deuce games too. Thiem hasn't faced break point as he steps up to serve for the match

3 points later, he's facing 3. Couple of BH errors and a Nadal pass winner sees to that. He couldn't respond - aces, net points, overpowering groundies and drop shots see him win the next 5 points (4 winners - incluidng an ace, and forcing a passing error) to close out the match

Summing up, top class match and showing from Thiem in particular. Heavy, hard hitting, dual winged baseline play that both players persist with as they strive to pressure errors or weak balls from the other. Need for good judgement in attacking from slight advantages that are acquired so. And fine execution in finishing against stubborn defence

All of the above are on show. And Thiem is better at almost all of it. His BH holds up to the Nadal FH, his FH is the most powerful shot on show though its met by as strong as possible, beefed up counter-hitting by Nadal's BH, tends to outhit it. Gaining small advantages, very sound judgement by Thiem to finish with perfect shots for winners, particularly the drop shots

Nadal does all of the above too, just not as well or to the same degree - he can't eke out advantage as often or as much, he's forced to go for finishing shots from less favourable positions and he doesn't deliver on them as well
 
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