Nadal's worst nightmare? One-hander on natural surfaces

Tornes

Semi-Pro
and the more natural one, the worse for Nadal...

There is common view that one-handers are somehow handicaped when playing Rafa (because of his FH)
and that this handicap is even greater on clay. What is the true?

One-handers in general have just a little better winning percentage against Nadal than two-handers (17,6% vs 17,5 %).

However when we split up the surfaces we will see great division between them.
Hard - one-handers are dominated here (21,1 % vs 23,9 %).
Clay - one-handers dominate here (9,7 % vs 7,6 %).
Grass - one-handers absolutely crush two-handers here (50 % vs 16,1 %).

So on grass it is absolutely clear. One-hander is much more effective against Rafa on grass than two-hander, or more precisly game of one-handers (often attacking one) is much more effective. Numbers like 50 % wins against 16 % wins is not something you can argue with (even without Fed it is 46,1 % wins for one-handers). It is not even surprising - slice of one handers is the most effective on grass, one-handers can better handle lower grass rebounds, the worse attaking return of one-handers is not a big issue here, Rafa's slice serve to the BH of one-handers is the least effective on the green stuff. Grass is one-handers paradise.

Clay seems to be more surprising and worth further investigation. Lets look at some more numbers:
Rafa played with 166 players on clay. 49 of them (29,5 %) were one-handers. Of all these players just 22 scored at least one win against Rafa, 10 of them (45,5 %) are one-handers. Just 7 players won two or more matches, 3 of them are one-handers (42,9 %). So again, one-handers have clear advantage here.
Maybe one-handers have wins before Nadal become top player or/and when he was not at good form. Lets look just at Rafa's good seasons, when he had 2 or less losses on clay (2005-2013, 2017, 2018 so far). In this time period one-handers had winning percentage 4,7 %, two-handers 3,5 %. Clear advantage one-handers, again.
Since 2005 (Rafa's first prime year) one-handers have 7 %, two-handers 6,1 %. Again, advantage one-handers.
Median one-hander Rafa faced on clay had ranking of 37, median two-hander ranking of 31. The two-hander were even supposed to be better and more quality opponents than one-handers! Yet still did not win as much.

All statistics shows that even on clay, one-handers play Rafa just as tough or, to be more precise, even tougher than two-handers. While it is true that Djokovic (as a player Rafa had the most problems with on clay) is two-hander, nothing points that it is more than mere coincidence.

And even with Djokovic the two-handers still loss (without Djokovic it would be catastrophe for them - since 2005 just 3,8 % won, one-handers had 7 %, almost twice as many, in that period).
Therefore it is more probable that Djokovic itself is just the exception. And the general rule is that for Rafa on clay, opponents are in this order (from the toughest): Djokovic >>>> one-handers >> two-handers.

Why do you think it is that? What is the reason one-handers are more effective against Rafa not only on grass, but also on clay? And why is everyone so sure one-handers on clay have problems with Rafa, when every bit of stats I collected poits otherwise? And why one-handers struggle so much on hard compared to natural surfaces?

It also seems, that the main reason one-handers (and especially young ones) are so rare nowadays is that by far the most common surface (hard) is the one one-handers has the most troubble with...

edit: Corrected some counting mistakes. Looks a little better for two-handers now but still bad.
 
Last edited:

IowaGuy

Hall of Fame
Have you tried subtracting out the 1HBH lefties such as Muller? They could potentially be skewing your analysis/conclusion (i.e. Muller has beaten Nadal twice on grass, but it has nothing to do with Nadal's FH picking on a 1HBH).

Would also be interesting to re-run the analysis without Fed in your dataset, as he can obviously skew the results towards 1HBH being better than 2HBH against Nadal... Also could try and re-run the numbers without Joker, as he could possibly be inflating the 2HBH numbers. These two outliers carry a lot of weight in your overall conclusion...
 

IowaGuy

Hall of Fame
It also seems, that the main reason one-handers (and especially young ones) are so rare nowadays is that by far the most common surface (hard) is the one one-handers has the most troubble with...
I disagree.

2HBH are more common, because it's easier for juniors to achieve early success with 2HBH compared to 1HBH.

Sampras' conversion from 2HBH to 1HBH is a good example of this...
 

Sport

Legend
One-handers in general have just a little better winning percentage against Nadal than two-handers (17,6% vs 17,5 %).
Hard - one-handers are dominated here (21,1 % vs 23,9 %).
Clay - one-handers dominate here (9,7 % vs 7 %).
Grass - one-handers absolutely crush two-handers here (50 % vs 16,1 %).
Sorry, but 2,7% is not a significant difference to draw any conclusion. At least on clay, there is no significant difference. So the title of your post is misleading and inaccurate. It should have been titled: "Nadal's worst nightmare? One-hander on grass".
 

Tornes

Semi-Pro
Have you tried subtracting out the 1HBH lefties such as Muller? They could potentially be skewing your analysis/conclusion (i.e. Muller has beaten Nadal twice on grass, but it has nothing to do with Nadal's FH picking on a 1HBH).

Would also be interesting to re-run the analysis without Fed in your dataset, as he can obviously skew the results towards 1HBH being better than 2HBH against Nadal... Also could try and re-run the numbers without Joker, as he could possibly be inflating the 2HBH numbers. These two outliers carry a lot of weight in your overall conclusion...
I cannot re-run the analysis without lefties but from all the one-handers who defeated him on clay is Zeballos and with his 1 win he cannot change the conclution. On grass there is also just 1 win for lefty one-hander (Lopez). Muller is two hander.

Fed is not that big of a problem. He is not even best one-hander (on clay). Best clay one-handers (in matches with Nadal) are Gaudio and Thiem. Analysis without Fed and Djokovic would look even worse for two-handers.
 

Tornes

Semi-Pro
Sorry, but 2,7% is not a significant difference to draw any conclusion. At least on clay, there is no significant difference. So the title of your post is misleading and inaccurate. It should have been titled: "Nadal's worst nightmare? One-hander on grass".
It is definitely significant difference. Two-handers would have to win about 8 more matches against Nadal (and not lose any) to make the percentage same. 8 defeat for Nadal on clay - I call that very significant. For example since 2005 it took the whole field 8 years to amass that much wins against Nadal
 

thomasferrett

Hall of Fame
Sorry, but 2,7% is not a significant difference to draw any conclusion. At least on clay, there is no significant difference. So the title of your post is misleading and inaccurate. It should have been titled: "Nadal's worst nightmare? One-hander on grass".
Well, if nothing else it lays rest to the often repeated myth that one handed backhands get especially destroyed (i.e. more so than two handed backhands) by high and heavy topspin on clay.

The truth is that there really isn't much difference (as stats show, may be even a slight advantage to the one-handed backhand) so for all the experts that see Federer lose a match to Nadal on clay by having his backhand broken down, they had better remember that Nadal is also breaking down hundreds of two-handed backhands to win his clay titles, so the one vs two handed thing is pretty much a moot point.
 

IowaGuy

Hall of Fame
Muller is two hander.
Regardless, the point is that lefties don't fit into your hypothesis of Nadal's FH vs. either 1HBH or 2HBH, and therefore might skew the results/conclusion.

Against lefties it's obviously FH vs FH.
 

Tornes

Semi-Pro
Try looking at points won % for one handers vs two handers. Also games won %
On clay: one-handers won 34 %, two-handers 33,7 % of points. 73 vs 71,7 for games (out of 200, ie hold + break). Maybe even better argument for one-handers, thanks.
Grass: 49,5 % vs 46,2 % of points and 96,4 vs 85 for games.
Hard: 46,3 % vs 46,7 % of points, 84,9 vs 85,2 for games.
 

Tornes

Semi-Pro
Regardless, the point is that lefties don't fit into your hypothesis of Nadal's FH vs. either 1HBH or 2HBH, and therefore might skew the results/conclusion.

Against lefties it's obviously FH vs FH.
Yes, but when two-hander has a win and is lefty, it even strenghten my conclusion (because he did not win with his BH against Nadals FH). Only thing that would go against it would be if the one-handers who defeated Nadal were lefties. And as I said, only one match Nadal lost against one-handers on each of grass/clay was against lefty (which is about to be expected given # of left-handers out there).
 

IowaGuy

Hall of Fame
Yes, but when two-hander has a win and is lefty, it even strenghten my conclusion (because he did not win with his BH against Nadals FH). Only thing that would go against it would be if the one-handers who defeated Nadal were lefties. And as I said, only one match Nadal lost against one-handers on each of grass/clay was against lefty (which is about to be expected given # of left-handers out there).
I'm not questioning your conclusion, just saying that you might as well eliminate the lefties to just compare apples to apples: Nadal vs. either righty 1HBH or righty 2HBH.

In fact, another interesting stat would be lefties vs. righties against Nadal. If lefties enjoy greater success against Nadal, it would strengthen the argument that Nadal takes advantage of righty BH (regardless of 1H or 2H).
 

Fedeonic

Hall of Fame
The last time Nadal won on grass against a 1HBH was in 2010 to a guy named Marcos Daniel in Queen's, Nadal's previous match played on grass against a 1HBHer was Federer at Wimbledon 2008 where he won 64 64 67(5) 67(8) 97.
 

Tornes

Semi-Pro
I'm not questioning your conclusion, just saying that you might as well eliminate the lefties to just compare apples to apples: Nadal vs. either righty 1HBH or righty 2HBH.

In fact, another interesting stat would be lefties vs. righties against Nadal. If lefties enjoy greater success against Nadal, it would strengthen the argument that Nadal takes advantage of righty BH (regardless of 1H or 2H).
The problem is I am not able to get this stats (the stat from the OP without lefties).

However I am able to get stats for lefties vs righties against Nadal.

On hard, lefties first: 19 % of matches, 48 % of points. 23 % of matches, 49,6 % of points. Righties have considerable advantage here.
On grass: 23 % of matches, 46,9 % of points. 23 % of matches, 46,9 % of points. Exactly the same here.
On clay: 4 %of matches, 42,1 % of points. 9 % of matches, 44 % of points. Advantage righties.

Seems like no advantage for lefties, more like the opposite. On the other hand here it will be probably skewed because there was no top lefty players in whole Nadals career.

If we look only at guys outside top 10 the resuls are vastly different (15 % wins for lefties, 12 % for righties). However because there is so few lefties (even considerably less than one-handers) it is still not any strong conclusion (especially when combined with overall data).

Edit: Corrected clay, added stats for 11+
 
Last edited:
Top