Nadal at Wimbledon - amazing stat!

#1
EDIT: UPDATED BEFORE WIMBLEDON 2017

Nadal's troubles in the first week of Wimbledon are well documented. In his previous 4 attempts he has lost in R2, R1, R4 & R2. In his 5 finals runs, he was pushed to five setters 5 times, in rounds 2 and 3 by low ranked players:
  • Kendrick 2006 R2, rank 237
  • Soderling 2007 R2, rank 28
  • Youzhny 2007 R2, rank 13
  • Haase 2010 R2, rank 151
  • Petzschner 2010 R3, 41
By comparison in 10 QFs and SFs at Wimbledon, against much higher ranked players, Nadal has only dropped 3 sets.

The likely explanation for this is that in the first week of Wimbledon, courts are slick and fast. Nadal is not comfortable in such conditions. His primary weapon, high bouncing topspin, is neutralized. Whereas in the second week, the grass gets ground down, and the courts become more favourable to him. See comparison below (Round 1 on top, Final below).




The chart below charts his dominance ratio (the ratio of points a player and his opponents lose on serve) by round. It compares him to everyone who has reached 3 finals or better since 1991.

Nadal is the only one whose performance bumps up rounds 4 and the QF, relative to the first 3 rounds. The effect is so strong, that it overcomes the stronger opposition in rounds 4 and QF. Thereafter, like everyone else, his performance declines in the semis and finals.


* accurate before wimbledon 2017
**missing significant data prior to 1991

Furthermore, Wimbledon is the only major, where this happens. At the other 3 majors, stronger the opposition gets, the less he dominates.



If we further break this down by individual round, we can see that Nadal is especially vulnerable in rounds 2 and 3. In the second week, he is a different player entirely.



To conclude, while this clearly demonstrates that he is merely an above average player in fast, slick, low-bouncing conditions, credit to him for overcoming his deficiencies, making 5 finals and winning two titles. Including winning the 2008 final against Federer, which in my humble view is Nadal's greatest single achievement. (As opposed to his collective clay achievements.)

And if he gets to the second week, watch out!
 
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#2
Details
  • Compare Nadal's trend in yellow, to others in green.
  • The above trend is true, even if we only look at the 5 years Nadal reached the final






 
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MonkeyBoy

Hall of Fame
#3
If this is not correlative to Nadal's performances in other GSs (which would indicate he just conserves his energy in the early rounds and amplifies his performances as he proceeds) than it's probably true the grass gets worn down as Wimbledon proceeds.
 
#4
In before NSK says that Nadal just gets bored with toying around with the hopes and dreams of lesser opposition before destroying the seeds later in the tournament.
 
#5
I think it makes sense, I mean you have to consider that Nadal has just come from the clay season where he usually has deep runs in every tournament. He just needs to time adjust. Also it doesn't help that he loses early a lot in Halle/Queens. It's simply a matter of him getting comfortable on the grass.
 
#6
Interesting...

Becker must have won many close matches at wimbledon (or lost for that matter) - his DR is the lowest despite him only being 3rd behind fed/sam in overall titles there...

Roddick, murray compare favorably with edberg, becker. Hehe...
 
#8
If this is not correlative to Nadal's performances in other GSs (which would indicate he just conserves his energy in the early rounds and amplifies his performances as he proceeds) than it's probably true the grass gets worn down as Wimbledon proceeds.
that's a great idea for a check. will get on it when I get time. thanks a lot!
 
#11
Interesting...

Becker must have won many close matches at wimbledon (or lost for that matter) - his DR is the lowest despite him only being 3rd behind fed/sam in overall titles there...

Roddick, murray compare favorably with edberg, becker. Hehe...
one explanation which should be fairly easy to test, and I'll do that tomorrow, is that the long tail of becker's career is skewing his numbers.

another explanation, as Jeff Sackmann the guy running tennis abstract would say, is that this measure of DR is imperfect because it doesn't take into account the strength of the opposition. that could plausibly explain some variation too.
 
#13
Great stuff! Thanks for posting. Also noticed that Nadal tends to drop off in the SF & F while the Wimbledon greats nearly maintain their 4R and QF level into the last two rounds.

Also interesting to see the numbers for Murray. Clearly his performances at the All England Club last summer were no flukes!
 
#14
Great stuff! Thanks for posting. Also noticed that Nadal tends to drop off in the SF & F while the Wimbledon greats nearly maintain their 4R and QF level into the last two rounds.

Also interesting to see the numbers for Murray. Clearly his performances at the All England Club last summer were no flukes!
very welcome corners!
 
#15
Federer and Sampras miles ahead of the others, impressive stuff by both.

Nice analysis OP.

I reckon there is a huge discrepancy between Nadal's SF and F stats? Seeing how he is 'only' 2 for 5 in finals yet usually eases to victory in the semis.
 
#16
Federer and Sampras miles ahead of the others, impressive stuff by both.

Nice analysis OP.

I reckon there is a huge discrepancy between Nadal's SF and F stats? Seeing how he is 'only' 2 for 5 in finals yet usually eases to victory in the semis.
Thank you sir.

Indeed if you follow link in OP and select appropriate settings on the left you can quickly see that in 5 semis Rafa is 5-0 with DR 1.37. In finals he is 2-3 with DR 0.93
 
#17
Federer and Sampras miles ahead of the others, impressive stuff by both.

Nice analysis OP.

I reckon there is a huge discrepancy between Nadal's SF and F stats? Seeing how he is 'only' 2 for 5 in finals yet usually eases to victory in the semis.
Federer's numbers are sick

Finals 7-1, DR = 1.22
Semis 8-0, DR = 1.59

That last number is making my head spin. In Wimbledon semis Federer is as dominant as Rafa was last year on clay AGAINST THE FIELD

Compare to Rafa's numbers at RG
Finals 7-0, DR = 1.22
Semis 7-0, DR = 1.37
 
#18
Federer's numbers are sick

Finals 7-1, DR = 1.22
Semis 8-0, DR = 1.59

That last number is making my head spin. In Wimbledon semis Federer is as dominant as Rafa was last year on clay AGAINST THE FIELD

Compare to Rafa's numbers at RG
Finals 7-0, DR = 1.22
Semis 7-0, DR = 1.37
Very interesting.
 
#19
one explanation which should be fairly easy to test, and I'll do that tomorrow, is that the long tail of becker's career is skewing his numbers.

another explanation, as Jeff Sackmann the guy running tennis abstract would say, is that this measure of DR is imperfect because it doesn't take into account the strength of the opposition. that could plausibly explain some variation too.
Yeah, I'd lean toward the former explanation. But more importantly, Becker's best days pretty much ended in 1990. He had the earliest peak of any player in the past thirty years, IMHO. I would guess that his DR from 86 to 89 would be third best behind Sampras and Federer.
 

kragster

Hall of Fame
#20
falstaff , excellent analysis as usual. Your posts are very refreshing to read in this sea of useless bantering there is, on this forum. Here are a few more sanity checks I would recommend:

1) Do the same DR comparison for just R1+R2 vs R3+R4. This will give you a nice enough sample size.

2) Use the same time period for Roger Federer to compare against Nadal. This is to rule out that 03-05 time period for Federer skews his data.

3) You made a point about comparing Feds wimbledon DR with Rafa's RG DR. We need to see if surfaces inherently have different DRs i.e. it's much harder to break the opponent on grass than clay and hence you would expect Grass DR's on average to be higher. I wish we had Borg's data, that would have been excellent to compare.
 
#21
falstaff , excellent analysis as usual. Your posts are very refreshing to read in this sea of useless bantering there is, on this forum. Here are a few more sanity checks I would recommend:

1) Do the same DR comparison for just R1+R2 vs R3+R4. This will give you a nice enough sample size.

2) Use the same time period for Roger Federer to compare against Nadal. This is to rule out that 03-05 time period for Federer skews his data.

3) You made a point about comparing Feds wimbledon DR with Rafa's RG DR. We need to see if surfaces inherently have different DRs i.e. it's much harder to break the opponent on grass than clay and hence you would expect Grass DR's on average to be higher. I wish we had Borg's data, that would have been excellent to compare.
thanks a lot for the compliment kragster. great ideas. added to my list. will do a series of sanity checks after i submit my actual first year research proposal on thursday....
 
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kragster

Hall of Fame
#22
thanks a lot for the compliment kragster. great ideas. added to my list. will do a series of sanity checks after i submit my actual first year research proposal on thursday....
Edit: Made a mistake with my last post, i said Grass DR should on average be higher than clay DR based on lower break % on grass, but that should affect both the numerator and denominator of DR so that effectively cancels out. I guess we will have to wait to see what the data says.
 
#23
If this is not correlative to Nadal's performances in other GSs (which would indicate he just conserves his energy in the early rounds and amplifies his performances as he proceeds) than it's probably true the grass gets worn down as Wimbledon proceeds.
Hey MonkeyBoy

Great suggestion. I ran the numbers - see below. The numbers only hold true at Wimbledon....



Note also how Rafa in the first 3 rounds at the AUS is more of a monster than he is at RG....
 
#24
Interesting...

Becker must have won many close matches at wimbledon (or lost for that matter) - his DR is the lowest despite him only being 3rd behind fed/sam in overall titles there...

Roddick, murray compare favorably with edberg, becker. Hehe...
WorldBeater

Thats a great catch. Because our data begins in 1991, they don't do justice to Becker's career at Wimbledon - he won his titles in 85, 86 and 89, so the number of 1.16 isn't capturing his excellence in those years!

- F
 
#25
falstaff , excellent analysis as usual. Your posts are very refreshing to read in this sea of useless bantering there is, on this forum. Here are a few more sanity checks I would recommend:

1) Do the same DR comparison for just R1+R2 vs R3+R4. This will give you a nice enough sample size.

2) Use the same time period for Roger Federer to compare against Nadal. This is to rule out that 03-05 time period for Federer skews his data.

3) You made a point about comparing Feds wimbledon DR with Rafa's RG DR. We need to see if surfaces inherently have different DRs i.e. it's much harder to break the opponent on grass than clay and hence you would expect Grass DR's on average to be higher. I wish we had Borg's data, that would have been excellent to compare.

Hey

Thanks again for the suggestions.

Here is a break up of Nadal's DRs by round at Wimbledon 2006 and later - you can see the only discontinuity is at the 4th round - which kinda makes sense no? because it's the first round to be played in week 2 -




Thought about the question of surface DRs. Doing a rigourous study would require access to the data in a way that is hard to replicate with just a spreadsheet. I did a quick little proxy for you - I took the gross average of the DRs for each major winner for the last 10 years' by major.

The net result is in line with your initial instinct - Grass has the highest DR, hard courts are in the middle, and clay courts have the lowest DRs - but only about 5 points lower than grass. This turns out to be quite a fascinating picture, and I think I'll create a separate thread for it in gen pro. pl. disc.



enjoy dissecting!
 
#28
There has been a lot of discussion about the impact of the Rosol and Darcis defeats on Nadal's legacy. I thought this would be a good place to chime in with my two bits.

To my mind Nadal's performances at Wimbledon are, while worthy of the highest respect (2 titles, 5 finals) nonetheless slightly misleading.

As discussed in the OP he has some spotty performances in the first 3 rounds, including 4 defeats, with 2 in his prime years, with 4 victories requiring 5 sets. These dodgy performances happen when the baseline is covered with grass and is generally slick and low bouncing.

He has outstanding performances in latter rounds, where he has only been beaten 3 times, and that too by absolute monsters in their best years (fed 06, fed 07, djok 11) and including what I consider to be his most impressive victory on any court (fed 08 ). These performances have happened while the baseline is parched, denuded of grass and much slower.

IMHO the Rosol and Darcis defeats affect Nadal's legacy by strengthening the conjecture that Nadal is not a grass court great in the sense of having all-conditions-prowess, but rather a slow court champion who managed to scrape by when things were not in his favour and cashed in when they were.
 

kragster

Hall of Fame
#33
Falstaff timely bump for a great thread.

I was going to ask though, I had suggested in another thread that perhaps the better performance in the 2nd week for Nadal is also a function of him having more time to adjust to the surface (not just the surface degrading). Nadal's movement being amazingly adapted to clay, perhaps makes it harder for him to quickly adjust to grass.

The only way I can think of to prove/disprove this hypothesis is to look at Nadal's Wimby performance when he has played multiple matches before his 1st round vs when he hasn't. But that sample size may be pretty small.
 
#34
IMHO the Rosol and Darcis defeats affect Nadal's legacy by strengthening the conjecture that Nadal is not a grass court great in the sense of having all-conditions-prowess, but rather a slow court champion who managed to scrape by when things were not in his favour and cashed in when they were.
I agree with this assessment. I always thought that despite his success on multiple surfaces, Nadal is not necessarily an all-court player (I think that's what you mean to a certain extent with all-conditions-prowess) with a game that naturally blends with any surface he plays.
To me, what he mainly does is imposing his game and rhythm on any court surface (and player he faces). His game and the main premise behind it doesn't change much from surface to surface. With Nadal you can always expect great court coverage allied with superb movement; consistency and control predominating against risk/reward; lots of retrieving and putting the ball back in play to induce the error (that extra effort he always mentions); aggressive counter-punching and opportunism to finish up points... that's about it give or take.
To be fair that is a lot of things he does incredibly well and most of the times it's enough to see him succeed on any surface or condition. There are other qualities in work that possibly boost his success on most conditions like his famed mental strength (and consequently mask the lack of some fundamental tennistic aspects needed to succeed on different surfaces).

For instance, on grass one would expect to be rewarded by flatter strokes and clean ball striking; frequency of net approaches (aggressive slice) and net play are also recommended.

On hard courts, taking the ball early is a fundamental ability of great hard courters; the aggressive DTL backhand becomes a fundamental stroke and mastery of changing directions is another big aspect of hard court tennis.

Curiously, these are elements that we rarely see on Nadal's game, despite his terrific success in several surfaces.
 

kragster

Hall of Fame
#35
I agree with this assessment. I always thought that despite his success on multiple surfaces, Nadal is not necessarily an all-court player (I think that's what you mean to a certain extent with all-conditions-prowess) with a game that naturally blends with any surface he plays.
To me, what he mainly does is imposing his game and rhythm on any court surface (and player he faces). His game and the main premise behind it doesn't change much from surface to surface. With Nadal you can always expect great court coverage allied with superb movement; consistency and control predominating against risk/reward; lots of retrieving and putting the ball back in play to induce the error (that extra effort he always mentions); aggressive counter-punching and opportunism to finish up points... that's about it give or take.
To be fair that is a lot of things he does incredibly well and most of the times it's enough to see him succeed on any surface or condition. There are other qualities in work that possibly boost his success on most conditions like his famed mental strength (and consequently mask the lack of some fundamental tennistic aspects needed to succeed on different surfaces).

For instance, on grass one would expect to be rewarded by flatter strokes and clean ball striking; frequency of net approaches (aggressive slice) and net play are also recommended.

On hard courts, taking the ball early is a fundamental ability of great hard courters; the aggressive DTL backhand becomes a fundamental stroke and mastery of changing directions is another big aspect of hard court tennis.

Curiously, these are elements that we rarely see on Nadal's game, despite his terrific success in several surfaces.
Great post. But it does raise the question. Does greatness on a surface necessarily mean playing the game most suited for that surface. Or is it simply a matter of getting the results. Or put differently, would you consider someone with an excellent S&V game but poor mentality and hence bad results a better grasscourter than Nadal?

I think for me, the objectivity is about the bottom line. Having 2 Wimbys makes Nadal a better grasscourter than anyone with all the grass talent in the world and no wimbys. However if you were to compare Nadal with someone else who has 2 Wimbys, then it would be perfectly fair to raise the question of adaptability etc.


So Nadal is a grass court great by the standard that winning ONE wimbledon is rare, let alone 2. I believe there are less than 10 players who have won more than 2 Wimbys. But certainly if you compare Nadal with Federer/Sampras/Borg or even with Mcenroe/Becker/Edberg, you could say Nadal is not in their league.
 
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#36
Another explanation is that Nadal gradually plays himself into form over the two weeks of Wimbledon. He's a clay court beast so it may taken him some time to get used to the grass. The other explanation that the grass plays more and more like clay as the tournament progresses is also a good explanation. Either way, all of this is consistent with his two recent early losses - bc he doesn't play as well early in the tournament.
 
#37
Great post. But it does raise the question. Does greatness on a surface necessarily mean playing the game most suited for that surface. Or is it simply a matter of getting the results. Or put differently, would you consider someone with an excellent S&V game but poor mentality and hence bad results a better grasscourter than Nadal?

I think for me, the objectivity is about the bottom line. Having 2 Wimbys makes Nadal a better grasscourter than anyone with all the grass talent in the world and no wimbys. However if you were to compare Nadal with someone else who has 2 Wimbys, then it would be perfectly fair to raise the question of adaptability etc.


So Nadal is a grass court great by the standard that winning ONE wimbledon is rare, let alone 2. I believe there are less than 10 players who have won more than 2 Wimbys. But certainly if you compare Nadal with Federer/Sampras/Borg or even with Mcenroe/Becker/Edberg, you could say Nadal is not in their league.
1) totally agree kraggy: results are the bottom line. Nadal doesn't have to prove anything to anyone. He's got 2 Ws and 3 Fs and that will always be the first order consideration thankyouverymuch.

All this stuff about "all-court game," as manifested by playing style and not end results, is basically people saying not only do we want you to win, we want you to win a certain way. Nadal would argue, mate, I don't make grass courts I play on them, and I'll play to maximize my winning chances.

Which has value to purists and people who like to see the old arts kept alive (and I'm one of these people) but not to the exclusion of results. A test century is a test century, whether it's scored by Cook or Lara.

2) While it is a reasonable conjecture that Wimbledon slows down by the second week, because the grass does erode, I have yet to see any concrete evidence for this. It is entirely plausible that Nadal's performance profile by round could be explained by acclimatization effects. I will add this to my (long) list of analyses to be done when I have some time. (of which several were suggested by kragster!)
 
#39
As discussed in the OP he has some spotty performances in the first 3 rounds, including 4 defeats, with 2 in his prime years, with 4 victories requiring 5 sets. These dodgy performances happen when the baseline is covered with grass and is generally slick and low bouncing.
Even with courts a bit faster and slicker, Nadal still made it out of first week five times(and IMO he had physical issues because of bad preparation in his other 2 recent losses). What, now it doesn't count because he struggled? People here forget that Nadal never had a great serve or return so it's always gonna be hard for him on surfaces that are a bit faster, he rarely gets cheap points.

He has outstanding performances in latter rounds, where he has only been beaten 3 times, and that too by absolute monsters in their best years (fed 06, fed 07, djok 11) and including what I consider to be his most impressive victory on any court (fed 08 ). These performances have happened while the baseline is parched, denuded of grass and much slower.
The grass became parched on the old WB grass as well, only more at the front of the net than on the baseline because the patterns of play were different. Second week grass was different from first week grass in old Wimbledon as well. Grass wears down, why is it held against Nadal that the surface becomes naturally slower in second week?



IMHO the Rosol and Darcis defeats affect Nadal's legacy by strengthening the conjecture that Nadal is not a grass court great in the sense of having all-conditions-prowess, but rather a slow court champion who managed to scrape by when things were not in his favour and cashed in when they were.
Nadal is among the Wimbledon greats, just not among the Wimbledon legends like Sampras,Wimbledon or Becker. No matter how we cut it, slow grass, fast grass, early exits or not, five wimbledon finals is impressive.
 
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