Match-up: Ljubicic vs Hrbaty

Discussion in 'General Pro Player Discussion' started by unjugon, May 17, 2006.

  1. unjugon

    unjugon Rookie

    Apr 26, 2006
    Here is my first match-up analysis. I dunno if this idea has been beaten to death, so excuse me if it has. If people like it I´ll post more, maybe weekly. You guys can post yours also.

    The matchup Ljubicic vs Hrbaty is pretty interesting. Their head to head says that Ljubicic won all 5 encounters before he turned into a great player and placed himself comfortably in the top 10. After that point, Hrbaty has won. 2 matches, at Davis Cup last year, and at Rome 2006.
    They were very tough matches that could have gone either way, but, in the end, you´d expect the higher ranked player to come up with the win.

    IMO, this is not a good match-up for Ljubicic. Yes, he´ll win some...but he is the better player of the two, easily.
    I think it is a combination of Ljubicic not being a great returner and, all in all, not winning many return games, and Hrbaty being the opposite.
    When Ljubicic wins a set, it is normally by 6-3 or 6-4, 7-5 or 7-6. In any case, he relies on his serve not being broken. And him breaking once, or none at all -winning in a tiebreak. His favourite score is something like 7-6 6-4.
    You can´t argue with the results, this guy is established nowadays inside the top 5. His plan works.

    What happens is that versing Hrbaty, his serve gets broken once every set, by default, if not 2 times. Now, Hrbaty on serve is nothing special. You´ll see him lose 6-2 sets against better baseline players with good return-games. But Ljubicic isn´t one of these.
    Be it to thirty, or after deuce -doesn´t matter how close, Hrbaty holds his service games most of the times.
    Basically, a set between these two can have up to a few breaks. Hrbaty gets one -> Ljubicic gets one -tiebreak- or none. Hrbaty gets 2 -> Ljubicic gets 2 -tiebreak- or just 1.

    This seems kinda basic, so let´s scratch a little more. Asuming the above premises -Ljubicic being a better player, but Hrbaty with the service<-->return games advantage- the matches are likely to go the distance. This is interesting because Ljubicic does dispose of most opponents in 2 sets -or 3-4 in best of 5. It´s not often that we see Ljubicic in tight spots. In a nutshell: Ljubicic does get tight in these situations. OK, he is not a choker per se, but you´d definitely expect someone of his quality to better handle pressure.
    One can see now that the Hrbaty-Ljubicic matchup is a 50/50 affair, which favors the lower ranked player.

    If we get into the technical analysis, we´ll reach the same conclusions.
    Ljubicic first serve still owns, but Hrbaty less than others. His second is returned with a solid, flat shot. From then on, Ljubicic is on the defensive -it´s subtle, but he is the one behind in the rallies- as his topspin strokes sit up nicely for Hrbaty´s flatter ones. Again, then you could argue that the Spaniards´ topspin shots mean Hrbaty is quickly on to them and dominates the matches. But these are natural baseliners. They have half the serve of Ljubicic, but their shots are often safer -in the sense that they are more reliable-, or simply better hit, even if Ljubo has come a long way in this aspect.

    So, in the rallies, Hrbaty has the advantage, just because of the style of shots. Hrbaty has fluid, hard-hit groundstrokes, Good technique. His game is based around them. However, he suffers from the Enqvist syndrome: he is stiff like a stick, and often finds himself helpless against opponents who mix their game up with slices, net aproaches, dropshots. Note how Ljubicic isn´t noted for his slices, volleys, or dropshots.

    He rallies with Hrbaty, and wins some points. He still wins most of his service games, if more than ever just for his monster serve. And still, Hrbaty, as a good returner, gets some of those serves back in play.
    I just don´t think Ljubicic is comfortable in this match-up.
  2. JackRabbit

    JackRabbit Rookie

    Jul 28, 2005
  3. diegaa

    diegaa Hall of Fame

    Mar 9, 2006
    somewhere in between
    Great post Rubén... I would also like to read more of yours "match up posts".
    Keep it up!!!
  4. Tchocky

    Tchocky Hall of Fame

    Apr 18, 2005
    The OC
    What match up are you taking about? Are you talking about their last meeting in Rome or just in general?
  5. unjugon

    unjugon Rookie

    Apr 26, 2006
    Hahaha, thx Diego for the support =)

    I am talking match-ups in general, not invidual matches. It´s interesting that Ljubicic owned Hrbaty when Ljubicic was an "average" player as to say. My analysis is more oriented to the state of the match up these days and why Hrbaty is bothersome to Ljubo.
  6. tennus

    tennus Rookie

    Apr 3, 2006
    Great post, you make some interesting points here. I watched their most recent encounter in Rome and thought the same, Hrbaty played more adventurously and Luby looked quite tight. One thing Hrbaty did well was give Luby no rythmn. He varied his serve well and attacked with that flat forehand at will. He was far more prepared to approach the net even though he didn't volley that well. It didn't matter as Luby made far too many errors. I believe the total unforced error count for that match was shown as 92 ! When you look at the top players being knocked over it is quite amazing how often it's by a player not really in their class, yet they consistently beat other top 20 players. The unknown has a huge advantage these days being able to go to video school on the top player. :cool:
  7. Mikael

    Mikael Professional

    Feb 23, 2004
    Hey man, cool analysis, it's definitely a fun read for tennis nuts. Maybe your missing element (which could account for a lot of Ljubicic's 5-2 h2h advantage) is that Hrbaty with his style of play is prone to making a lot of UEs on a bad day. You mention the "Enqvist syndrome", which is a fun concept, but you only base it around inflexibility of gameplan. I'd also include "the ability to self destruct through UEs" in that syndrome, especially if the other guy doesn't give too much rhythm (and where's the rhythm when Ljubo's serve is on?)

    Keep it up man, looking forward to some more posts like that.

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