Roddick on the huge importance of matchups

JMR

Hall of Fame
I saw a brief interview with Andy Roddick about his election to the Hall of Fame. It apparently took place just before the Australian Open semifinals. In a sidebar about the AO, Roddick commented that matchups account for 70 percent of the results in tennis, maybe 80 percent. Form is only 20 to 30 percent, according to him. He noted that although he liked Federer's form in the tournament, he didn't like him in a matchup against Nadal. Roddick defined Federer's matchup disadvantage against Nadal as having to make more changes to his game than Nadal has to make to his when the two play each other.

The comments on Fed vs. Rafa struck me as routine, but I was surprised by the huge emphasis Roddick places on matchups. A significant factor in pro tennis? Of course. But the most important factor by such a big margin? That I did not expect to hear.
 

BGod

Legend
Oh absolutely, especially if you have little experience with certain strategy/tactics. The first time I faced a Serve/Volley player at a tournament I got spanked 1-6, 2-6 I think. It was simply foreign for me to have a guy going up to net and he was doing drop-shot returns too. I mean, all 3 games I won were on my serve. He wasn't terribly talented and his strokes were significantly worse than mine in terms of accuracy and power but there you have it. He schooled me. Can't recall now better players than I who I beat because of matchups, I choked a lot so when I won I really was just much better than my opponent.
 

Fiero425

Hall of Fame
Oh absolutely, especially if you have little experience with certain strategy/tactics. The first time I faced a Serve/Volley player at a tournament I got spanked 1-6, 2-6 I think. It was simply foreign for me to have a guy going up to net and he was doing drop-shot returns too. I mean, all 3 games I won were on my serve. He wasn't terribly talented and his strokes were significantly worse than mine in terms of accuracy and power but there you have it. He schooled me. Can't recall now better players than I who I beat because of matchups, I choked a lot so when I won I really was just much better than my opponent.
As a junior going into early adult play, that was my game; s/v, chip charge, and just rushed my opponent! I wasn't much for practicing and just used my athleticism to finish off guys quicker that were probably a lot better than me! When I was 19 playing a tourney, the average time winning a Club "B" match was about 40 min! I didn't find out until decades later the reason excessive heat and long matches got to me was a sleep disorder! No matter how many hours spent trying, apnea kept it from being restful! Tennis was my world back then, taught it later on, and probably would have stayed with it if not for the apnea problem! :rolleyes: :p ;)
 

JMR

Hall of Fame
Oh absolutely, especially if you have little experience with certain strategy/tactics.
That's unusual for the pros, however, and in any case the type of matchup Roddick used as his example (Fed vs. Nadal) is not one characterized by unfamiliarity -- just the opposite. Roddick's 70-30 or 80-20 assessment is almost fatalistic, i.e., you can be in superb form, and playing against someone who's been rather subpar, but if he's a bad matchup for you he'll probably beat you anyway.
 

-NN-

G.O.A.T.
So...
Match-up = 80%
Form = 20%
Mental strength = 0%

I might have to rethink my initial equation and switch match-up with form (just kiddin', form still triumphs). The main reason Federer overcame Nadal was be fixing a lot of the match-up disadvantage by having a wrecking ball backhand that barely gave away opportunities for attack which in turn allowed him to bridge some mental gaps. In this case though the skills match-up is unusually pronounced. I still think form > match-up a bit more often than not, and the main reason both made it to the final was because they were in excellent form (OBVIOUSLY).

Federer-Nadal is one of the rarer match-ups between similarly skilled opponents where match-up does trump form, but it's an exception rather than a rule. Then again, when talking about top ranked players, they can only meet in the SFs and Finals anyway which means they're in good form by default.
 

JMR

Hall of Fame
So...
Match-up = 80%
Form = 20%
Mental strength = 0%
Well, Roddick didn't get into the details, but it's possible that "mental strength" is subsumed within either "matchup" or "form" in his formula, or possibly within both.
 

-NN-

G.O.A.T.
Well, Roddick didn't get into the details, but it's possible that "mental strength" is subsumed within either "matchup" or "form" in his formula, or possibly within both.
The form and match-up feed the mental strength (confidence, clutch). It's easy to look mentally stronger when you're winning the skill match-up in X conditions with equal form. We can assume that the general mental application of two top players is very strong and professional as to be reaching these latter stages in the first place.
 

wangs78

Hall of Fame
Roddick is wrong about matchups being that important. It's certainly a factor, but not at 80%. Maybe 20%. I wouldn't be surprised that he convinced himself of his theory to feel better about his futility against Roger (hey, it was a bad matchup!). The reality is he was a player who did not have many dimensions to his game so of course when facing a bad "matchup" he would lose because he was unable to adjust his game. The great players can adjust, and Roger the best of them all at adopting different tactics to win.
 

JMR

Hall of Fame
Roddick is wrong about matchups being that important. It's certainly a factor, but not at 80%. Maybe 20%. I wouldn't be surprised that he convinced himself of his theory to feel better about his futility against Roger (hey, it was a bad matchup!).
It occurred to me as well that Roddick's formula may have been strongly influenced by his own career, including not only his repeated demolitions by Federer, but also his comparative success against Djokovic.

Has any other top pro, or respected analyst, publicly stated that he/she assigns matchups this much weight? Everyone agrees they matter, but at the 70 to 80 percent level?
 

Fiero425

Hall of Fame
It occurred to me as well that Roddick's formula may have been strongly influenced by his own career, including not only his repeated demolitions by Federer, but also his comparative success against Djokovic.

Has any other top pro, or respected analyst, publicly stated that he/she assigns matchups this much weight? Everyone agrees they matter, but at the 70 to 80 percent level?
Why oh why do people keep invoking those limited matchups of Roddick/Djokovic & Sampras/Federer! It makes no sense; esp. if they've only played once and ARod ended up ahead only by 1, 5-4! Ridiculous! :rolleyes: :p ;)
 
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NatF

Bionic Poster
Why oh why do people keep invoking those limited matchups of Roddick/Djokovic & Sampras/Federer! It makes no sense; esp. if they've only played once and Nole ended up ahead h2h 5-4! Ridiculous! :rolleyes: :p ;)
Actually Roddick is ahead 5-4. It's obviously a small sample though we've seen Djokovic have the odd issue with Isner, Anderson etc...
 

Fiero425

Hall of Fame
The importance of the matchup depends on the very matchup itself.
Obviously Roger's had a serious match up problem with Rafa over the years, but it really shows how much "The Bull" has come back to the rest of the pack when he starts losing 5 set marathons to his career pigeon and fellow septuagenarian! :rolleyes: :p ;)
 

Tuskarr

Semi-Pro
Oh absolutely, especially if you have little experience with certain strategy/tactics. The first time I faced a Serve/Volley player at a tournament I got spanked 1-6, 2-6 I think. It was simply foreign for me to have a guy going up to net and he was doing drop-shot returns too. I mean, all 3 games I won were on my serve. He wasn't terribly talented and his strokes were significantly worse than mine in terms of accuracy and power but there you have it. He schooled me. Can't recall now better players than I who I beat because of matchups, I choked a lot so when I won I really was just much better than my opponent.
If a guy is hitting drop shot returns off your serve, he's just significantly better than you.

Sorry to tell you that mate.
 

Gary Duane

G.O.A.T.
As a junior going into early adult play, that was my game; s/v, chip charge, and just rushed my opponent! I wasn't much for practicing and just used my athleticism to finish off guys quicker that were probably a lot better than me! When I was 19 playing a tourney, the average time winning a Club "B" match was about 40 min! I didn't find out until decades later the reason excessive heat and long matches got to me was a sleep disorder! No matter how many hours spent trying, apnea kept it from being restful! Tennis was my world back then, taught it later on, and probably would have stayed with it if not for the apnea problem! :rolleyes: :p ;)
You have to experience personally how much any kind of physical problem can change things to understand what Novak might have done early if he had had answers to his problems with gluten. ;)
 

JMR

Hall of Fame
Why oh why do people keep invoking those limited matchups of Roddick/Djokovic & Sampras/Federer!
Why oh why do people keep misreading posts? No one is "invoking" anything. If you want to know why Roddick has come to view matchups as outcome-determinative, you'll have to ask him. But it does make sense to consider the matchups that he experienced as possibly influential on his viewpoint. And Sampras has nothing at all to do with anything I've posted in this thread.
 

Gary Duane

G.O.A.T.
Why oh why do people keep misreading posts? No one is "invoking" anything. If you want to know why Roddick has come to view matchups as outcome-determinative, you'll have to ask him. But it does make sense to consider the matchups that he experienced as possibly influential on his viewpoint. And Sampras has nothing at all to do with anything I've posted in this thread.
Man, if you are waiting for a high reading comprehension level to develop in this forum, you are truly an optimist!

No knock against any member in particular, but the first thing I learned here is to expect EVERYTHING to be misread!
 

ANDYbhGENIUS

Professional
I remember Roddick taking Djokovic as a winner during his commentary of the 2015 Wimbledon final, although Federer according to him was playing the best tennis of his career in that tournament.
Reason: Matchup!
That's what we call putting the carriage in front of the horse, or, flawed and lazy cause-effect reasoning in favor of buzz words and catch-phrases. "Matchup" presented as an agent is really backwards.

The "matchup" develops and evolves over time, as a resultant of a myriad of factors, most of which are not quantifyable, but a small number of them are.

A five set match is often decided by a mere 5 or 6 points, over a distance of over 200 points. Matchup, gulp, by definition cannot be credited for being a determining factor in the outcome of a single match.
 

ANDYbhGENIUS

Professional
Roddick is wrong about matchups being that important. It's certainly a factor, but not at 80%. Maybe 20%. I wouldn't be surprised that he convinced himself of his theory to feel better about his futility against Roger (hey, it was a bad matchup!). The reality is he was a player who did not have many dimensions to his game so of course when facing a bad "matchup" he would lose because he was unable to adjust his game. The great players can adjust, and Roger the best of them all at adopting different tactics to win.
Not just tactical adjustments, which sounds overly "cerebral" to me, but a surplus in creativity, technique and resulting versatility, and the ability to instinctively find solutions in split seconds, and somehow execute them when the pressure is highest.

That is part of the attraction of seeing greatness as well as genius at work, in sports, which turns what appears to be a physical encounter into a work of art, and turns athletes into painters, sculpturers, artists, as well as metaphorical killers and fighters, at the same time, drawing from every energy resource imaginable.

Only very few can dig that deep and lay it all on the line. Their class transcends generational and inter-generational comparisons.
 
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Deleted member 716271

Guest
They are important, but I agree with the train of thought he is overhyping it because of his own "matchup issue" with Fed.

Not that Federer wasn't wayyyy better than Roddick, so maybe it wasn't even a matchup issue per se, but whatever the case, I think he likes to think of it that way.
 

Gary Duane

G.O.A.T.
I remember Roddick taking Djokovic as a winner during his commentary of the 2015 Wimbledon final, although Federer according to him was playing the best tennis of his career in that tournament.
Reason: Matchup!
"Matchup" seems awfully simplistic when one guy is giving away 6 years...
 

Charlemagne

Hall of Fame
Why do you think Federer in his 30s could still beat Djokovic, but not Nadal for a long time? Look at 2015 USO semifinal between Federer and Stan, where Stan was crushed in straight sets. The next year, Stan steamrolls Novak... It's all matchup.
 
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Deleted member 743561

Guest
I don't get an earth-shattering takeaway from those remarks. I don't get a sense that he has a bee in his bonnet about Fed at all... however, Roddick personified pigeonry in that H2H. Of course he's going to stress the match-up issue as the predominant factor. And I really don't see it as sour grapes... just probably almost a coping mechanism.
 

Joseph L. Barrow

Professional
Why oh why do people keep invoking those limited matchups of Roddick/Djokovic & Sampras/Federer! It makes no sense; esp. if they've only played once and ARod ended up ahead only by 1, 5-4! Ridiculous! :rolleyes: :p ;)
Roddick holding a 5-4 head-to-head advantage over Djokovic is quite significant considering how much greater a player Djokovic is overall-- in fact, Roddick is currently the *only* player in ATP history who has met Djokovic more than three times in tour-level matches and has a winning career record against him. Though I maintain that Roger was the greatest player ever, the fact that Roddick would go 3-21 against Federer but 5-4 against Djokovic is nonetheless a very dramatic example of stylistic match-up issues at play.

I've never seen any widespread claim of a "Sampras/Federer match-up" issue. As you say, they only met once-- when Sampras was past his prime and Federer was on his way up-- and it was a razor-close classic, which should be unsurprising.
 
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Joseph L. Barrow

Professional
Regarding Roddick's comments about the relative importance of "match-ups" relative to "form," did he clarify exactly what things he included under the umbrellas of those terms? If we define "match-up" as consisting purely of the interaction of the two athletes' styles of play, then I agree that 70-80% is certainly too large, but if we take it to include everything other than "form" (special deviations from average performance level)-- meaning, for example, that the simple relative general quality of the players is a part of the "match-up"-- then I would say the high figure is generally accurate, too high in some cases and too low in others. I have a style of play that might give Roger Federer a lot of trouble, except that I am only a ~4.5 NTRP-level player, meaning that *our* match would be defined by factors 99.9% independent of "form," such that if the radical superiority of Federer's strokes were considered a part of the "match-up," form would be effectively irrelevant.

I would personally break the determinants of match outcomes down to something more like four major categories:
-Overall ability (which player is ultimately better on the whole at tennis than the other one)
-Stylistic match-up (the interactions of idiosyncracies in the players' games that can give one or the other a competitive advantage)
-Form (how well each player is performing relative to his average level)
-Surface/conditions (which player prefers the distinctive environmental factors at play in a particular match)
 

Gary Duane

G.O.A.T.
Regarding Roddick's comments about the relative importance of "match-ups" relative to "form," did he clarify exactly what things he included under the umbrellas of those terms? If we define "match-up" as consisting purely of the interaction of the two athletes' styles of play, then I agree that 70-80% is certainly too large, but if we take it to include everything other than "form" (special deviations from average performance level)-- meaning, for example, that the simple relative general quality of the players is a part of the "match-up"-- then I would say the high figure is generally accurate, too high in some cases and too low in others. I have a style of play that might give Roger Federer a lot of trouble, except that I am only a ~4.5 NTRP-level player, meaning that *our* match would be defined by factors 99.9% independent of "form," such that if the radical superiority of Federer's strokes were considered a part of the "match-up," form would be effectively irrelevant.

I would personally break the determinants of match outcomes down to something more like four major categories:
-Overall ability (which player is ultimately better on the whole at tennis than the other one)
-Stylistic match-up (the interactions of idiosyncracies in the players' games that can give one or the other a competitive advantage)
-Form (how well each player is performing relative to his average level)
-Surface/conditions (which player prefers the distinctive environmental factors at play in a particular match)
Good post, and I was waiting for you to get to surface.

This is hugely important.

In the Nadal/Fed H2H there were only 3 meetings on grass.

But I think 15 meetings on clay.

I think 17 meetings on HCs.

You look at 23/12 and without knowing the details that's a bit simplistic.

Unbiased fans of both have pretty much agreed that Fed should always have a huge advantage on grass, Nadal on clay, and somewhat of a toss-up on HCs mostly determined by speed and bounce of the court (also balls.)

So the first things you ask when considering their match-up is always age and surface. Without knowing that you can't figure out the WHY of the H2H.

I think Roddick is right, and I also think he's a lot more intelligent than most people give him credit for.
 

-NN-

G.O.A.T.
Match-up as determined by how the skills match up in the conditions, which includes time of day and the weather to go with surface and balls. Nadal crushes Federer in the match-up on clay, therefore he wins regardless of form, more or less. In the 2017 AO a lot of the typical match-up disadvantage was conquered because of the Federer backhand. Also, Nadal lacked the bite and ferocity that he tends to bring to Slam finals, which made it harder for him to effectively pepper Federer's backhand. Added to that, the conditions were quicker than normal due to the surface (earlier resurfacing so I hear, so the court was played in for longer and was a bit quicker) and the balls (fluffed up less). In the end, the more skilled player in the circumstances wins. It tends to be that simple.

In the case of Federer and Nadal there are some acute match-up aspects that can bridge the gap in form and had Federer not had his backhand working so well, he'd have been at least equally skilled as Nadal in the conditions, producing similarly effective form, but would have lost. In their case, inherent match-up dynamics can trump form, usually in the direction of Nadal over Federer.
 
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Drlexus

Banned
I saw a brief interview with Andy Roddick about his election to the Hall of Fame. It apparently took place just before the Australian Open semifinals. In a sidebar about the AO, Roddick commented that matchups account for 70 percent of the results in tennis, maybe 80 percent. Form is only 20 to 30 percent, according to him. He noted that although he liked Federer's form in the tournament, he didn't like him in a matchup against Nadal. Roddick defined Federer's matchup disadvantage against Nadal as having to make more changes to his game than Nadal has to make to his when the two play each other.

The comments on Fed vs. Rafa struck me as routine, but I was surprised by the huge emphasis Roddick places on matchups. A significant factor in pro tennis? Of course. But the most important factor by such a big margin? That I did not expect to hear.
Court bounce and speed more relevant.

If people isolate federer v nadal on conditions like in australia federer has a comfortable h2h lead by 10-2.

The key in their matchup is height of bounce. If the ball keeps low federer should win. If its high then nadal will work that backhand over.

Its why the rivalry is overrated. You can predict their matches with ease unlike either player v djokovic.
 

Joseph L. Barrow

Professional
Good post, and I was waiting for you to get to surface.

This is hugely important.

In the Nadal/Fed H2H there were only 3 meetings on grass.

But I think 15 meetings on clay.

I think 17 meetings on HCs.

You look at 23/12 and without knowing the details that's a bit simplistic.

Unbiased fans of both have pretty much agreed that Fed should always have a huge advantage on grass, Nadal on clay, and somewhat of a toss-up on HCs mostly determined by speed and bounce of the court (also balls.)
Well, I think there is no reasonably disputing that Federer and Nadal's styles clash in a way that tends to favor Nadal independent of surface-- consider that a teenage Nadal beat a prime Federer at 2004 Miami, that the two are 10-10 in career non-clay-court meetings in spite of the fact that Federer has always been the far-superior player on non-clay surfaces (has won 17 non-clay-court Majors to Nadal's five), etc.
Your statement about their grass-court match-up is logical in that Federer is, by all independent measures, a drastically superior grass-court player to Nadal, but their three grass meetings have consisted in a four-set win for Federer, a five-set win for Federer, and a five-set win for Nadal-- hardly dominant on Federer's part. I still tend to think that in a peak-to-peak match-up with a larger sample, Federer would likely defeat Nadal more than two-thirds of the time, but that is not borne out by the facts as they stand.

Taken on the face of it, the head-to-head figure of 23-12 does significantly misrepresent the Federer-Nadal match-up due to the disproportionate number of clay-court meetings. What the record indicates is that Nadal is significantly better than Federer on clay, and that fact combined with his stylistic advantage gives him a dominant head-to-head advantage thereon, while Federer is significantly better than Nadal on hard and grass courts, but Nadal's stylistic advantage closes the gap and renders their head-to-head match-up tight on those surfaces. If they had met an equal number of times on each of the three surfaces, I would still expect Nadal to have a winning record against Federer, but only narrowly.

I think Roddick is right, and I also think he's a lot more intelligent than most people give him credit for.
I think he is right if he meant what he said in the way that I've suggested it could be construed. He is definitely intelligent and thoughtful (perhaps the cleverest and most lucid player ever to hold a press conference), and receives credit for that from many quarters, though he also has obstinate detractors who were understandably offended by some of his shameful on-court antics or dislike him for other reasons. On the whole, I enjoyed and supported his playing career and am pleased to have him around as a pundit, in which role he is and should remain one of the best.
 

Gary Duane

G.O.A.T.
Well, I think there is no reasonably disputing that Federer and Nadal's styles clash in a way that tends to favor Nadal independent of surface-- consider that a teenage Nadal beat a prime Federer at 2004 Miami, that the two are 10-10 in career non-clay-court meetings in spite of the fact that Federer has always been the far-superior player on non-clay surfaces (has won 17 non-clay-court Majors to Nadal's five), etc.
Your statement about their grass-court match-up is logical in that Federer is, by all independent measures, a drastically superior grass-court player to Nadal, but their three grass meetings have consisted in a four-set win for Federer, a five-set win for Federer, and a five-set win for Nadal-- hardly dominant on Federer's part. I still tend to think that in a peak-to-peak match-up with a larger sample, Federer would likely defeat Nadal more than two-thirds of the time, but that is not borne out by the facts as they stand.

Taken on the face of it, the head-to-head figure of 23-12 does significantly misrepresent the Federer-Nadal match-up due to the disproportionate number of clay-court meetings. What the record indicates is that Nadal is significantly better than Federer on clay, and that fact combined with his stylistic advantage gives him a dominant head-to-head advantage thereon, while Federer is significantly better than Nadal on hard and grass courts, but Nadal's stylistic advantage closes the gap and renders their head-to-head match-up tight on those surfaces. If they had met an equal number of times on each of the three surfaces, I would still expect Nadal to have a winning record against Federer, but only narrowly.


I think he is right if he meant what he said in the way that I've suggested it could be construed. He is definitely intelligent and thoughtful (perhaps the cleverest and most lucid player ever to hold a press conference), and receives credit for that from many quarters, though he also has obstinate detractors who were understandably offended by some of his shameful on-court antics or dislike him for other reasons. On the whole, I enjoyed and supported his playing career and am pleased to have him around as a pundit, in which role he is and should remain one of the best.
Nothing to add. I think you pretty much nailed it.

But I would also add that changes in everything have favored Nadal a good bit off clay in a way that has been a disadvantage to all players who are aggressive and who thrive on faster conditions.

For sure Nadal's grass results against Fed suggest the bad match-up, since logically we would have expected Fed to slaughter Nadal on grass, and quite obviously that did not happen.

The recent AO final was a lot closer than most people are now remembering, and I can't say that I rule out the speed of the courts (and movement of the balls) might have been the deciding factor.
 

-NN-

G.O.A.T.
I was thinking about this form vs match-up thing and then thought about Davydenko. When he was at his best (so in his best form) he tended to carry it through to victories in finals. His finals record is 21-7 (!!!)

You can just say that if one if in better form they win the match-up so it forces one to more clearly define what is really meant by "match-up". I think of it as inherent dynamics of a skill set vs another skill set assuming effectiveness of form against the field is equal. However, like I said earlier, when top players reach the latter stages of events it's a given that they're in at least pretty good form. In the recent 2017 AO final, Federer won because he addressed a specific match-up quirk by shoring up his backhand. If he had shored up his forehand, he could have produced equal form, but it would have been less beneficial in dealing with the specific match-up quirk that presents itself in the Federer-Nadal match-up.

As such, Federer "fixed" the most useful possible attribute of his game considering his opponent in the final and it altered the match-up. I think it was just incredibly useful in general throughout the whole event too, however. I think as players go deeper into tournaments, match-up takes on an increased importance (though it doesn't necessarily trump form and is case specific). Obviously, on the most fundamental level, you need the form (the skills) to get through any rounds in the first place. As form becomes more and more equalised as the final rounds are reached, more often the match-up will become the key tie-breaker, which is, of course, predicated on the skills match-up as further defined by the conditions which is comprised of: surface, balls, weather, the sun the moon and the stars.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nikolay_Davydenko_career_statistics
 
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Deleted member 716271

Guest
I was thinking about this form vs match-up thing and then thought about Davydenko. When he was at his best (so in his best form) he tended to carry it through to victories in finals. His finals record is 21-7 (!!!)

You can just say that if one if in better form they win the match-up so it forces one to more clearly define what is really meant by "match-up". I think of it as inherent dynamics of a skill set vs another skill set assuming effectiveness of form against the field is equal. However, like I said earlier, when top players reach the latter stages of events it's a given that they're in at least pretty good form. In the recent 2017 AO final, Federer won because he addressed a specific match-up quirk by shoring up his backhand. If he had shored up his forehand, he could have produced equal form, but it would have been less beneficial in dealing with the specific match-up quirk that presents itself in the Federer-Nadal match-up.

As such, Federer "fixed" the most useful possible attribute of his game considering his opponent in the final and it altered the match-up. I think it was just incredibly useful in general throughout the whole event too, however. I think as players go deeper into tournaments, match-up takes on an increased importance (though it doesn't necessarily trump form and is case specific). Obviously, on the most fundamental level, you need the form (the skills) to get through any rounds in the first place. As form becomes more and more equalised as the final rounds are reached, more often the match-up will become the key tie-breaker, which is, of course, predicated on the skills match-up as further defined by the conditions which is comprised of: surface, balls, weather, the sun the moon and the stars.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nikolay_Davydenko_career_statistics
An interesting thing about the matchup issue and playing one's best in finals etc... I was thinking about Nadal's great slam finals record against Fed, Djok, and Murray...even impressive off clay despite AO 2017.

People have pointed out that Fed and Djokovic were much more consistent thruout the year so when Nadal made finals he was playing great, while it could have just been an average level for Fed or Djok to make a slam final.

But still shouldn't one bring one's best during a slam final, does that means Nadal's peak is the "best"? and the other guys are just more consistent. If so, then it would mean we're seeing lower quality tennis from the others, it's just Nadal isn't consistent, but when he plays his very best and is in the late rounds of the slams are we seeing "better" tennis?

Possible arguments against this: 1. Nadal brings the others level down, makes them more uncomfortable in big matches. Ultimately the goal is to win so credit to him, but it doesn't mean his level is higher than the players he beats when they don't play him, so we're not really seeing the "best" tennis

2. When Nadal's playing his best is rare and then he always makes the final, whereas a Fed/Djok is always there, playing their best or not. So Nadal wins more H2H big matches because there's a higher likelihood he's playing his best in a slam final than the others. Maybe if he played either of the other 2 and both were at their very best, they would win

Note: I get the whole clay skew/age/matchup issue. So if this offends your sensibilities to use Nadal substitute with Player C who is a great big match player against the more consistent Player A/and Player B's.

@-NN- edited
 

-NN-

G.O.A.T.
An interesting thing about the matchup issue and playing one's best in finals etc... I was thinking about Nadal's great slam finals record against Fed, Djok, and Murray...even impressive off clay despite AO 2017.

People have pointed out that Fed and Djokovic were much more consistent thruout the year so when Nadal made finals he was playing great, while it could have just been an average level for Fed or Djok to make a slam final.

But still shouldn't one bring one's best during a slam final, does that means Nadal's peak is the "best"? and the other guys are just more consistent. If so, then it would mean we're seeing lower quality tennis from the others, it's just Nadal isn't consistent, but when he plays his very best and is in the late rounds of the slams are we seeing "better" tennis?

Possible arguments against this: 1. Nadal brings the others level down, makes them more uncomfortable in big matches. Ultimately the goal is to win so credit to him, but it doesn't mean his level is higher than the players he beats when they don't play him, so we're not really seeing the "best" tennis
You know that I've said this to you before in various discussions: When there is a lot of evidence to choose from, it becomes more and more ridiculous to excuse it all away with a bunch of carefully selected arguments for "mitigating circumstances". Not that there isn't some credence to such arguments but it's easy to come across as dishonest if one becomes too reliant on them.

In this case, there's an abundance of evidence regarding match-ups between Nadal and the rest of the big 4 in Slam matches. Such an abundance that it's difficult to excuse it. I think it's clear that Nadal's play is the best if we determine the best to mean the most practically useful tennis for the purposes of winning matches against the best players. If one takes an even stronger bottom line approach and says that best simply means the play that wins the most, then Federer is the best from the era. But we're talking about the highest raw standard of tennis here, and producing it for a set or two isn't enough to win a 5-set match.

Nadal 's tennis has consistently produced the better standard of tennis of the big 4 when they go deep. Federer had a similar record up to a certain point of converting SFs into wins, or even slightly superior, but the competition must be taken into consideration. Now whether Nadal produces the absolute highest level between the big four depends on a finer discrimination in choosing what we view to be the very highest quality matches, and to see who won them. In my view, the quality must be viewed in the context of finished 5-set matches. Being great and producing the ultimate level of tennis for one set is nice and everything, but not necessarily terribly relevant to winning matches.
 
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You know that I've said this to you before in various discussions: When there is a lot of evidence to choose from, it becomes more and more ridiculous to excuse it all away with a bunch of carefully selected arguments for "mitigating circumstances". Not that there isn't some credence to such arguments but it's easy to come across as dishonest if one becomes too reliant on them.

In this case, there's an abundance of evidence regarding match-ups between Nadal and the rest of the big 4 in Slam matches. Such an abundance that it's difficult to excuse it. I think it's clear that Nadal's play is the best if we determine the best to mean the most practically useful tennis for the purposes of winning matches against the best players. If one takes an even stronger bottom line approach and says that best simply means the play that wins the most, then Federer is the best from the era. But we're talking about the highest raw standard of tennis here, and producing it for a set or two isn't enough to win a 5-set match.

Nadal 's tennis has consistently produced the better standard of tennis of the big 4 when they go deep. Federer had a similar record up to a certain point of converting SFs into wins, or even slightly superior, but the competition must be taken into consideration. Now whether Nadal produces the absolute highest level between the big four depends on a finer discrimination in choosing what we view to be the very highest quality matches, and to see who won them.
To me, I feel if Nadal really is the best against the other 2 in the later stages of slams for the purpose of winning, then there is something compelling in that can't be denied, regardless of how much greater the others are (To date only Fed)

What do you think of my 2nd devil's advocate possible reason to explain it away?
 

-NN-

G.O.A.T.
To me, I feel if Nadal really is the best against the other 2 in the later stages of slams for the purpose of winning, then there is something compelling in that can't be denied, regardless of how much greater the others are (To date only Fed)

What do you think of my 2nd devil's advocate possible reason to explain it away?
I think it's part of the reason but can't be used as some sort of irreproachable shield to explain it away. I kind of addressed it in a roundabout way in my last response as well as suggesting that to see who has the very highest level (for at least one match) would depend on a finer selection of matches and scrutiny. BTW, for the record, adding tags to posts as an edit doesn't alert the user. It's a bit annoying.
 
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I think it's part of the reason but can't be used as some sort of irreproachable shield to explain it away. I kind of addressed it in a roundabout way in my last response. BTW, for the record, adding tags to posts as an edit doesn't alert the user. It's a bit annoying.
Yikes! Thanks for letting me know. That's upsetting---

I agree and I think that Nadal still is the best in terms of winning when all would be at their best in big matches. He probably brings the others level down the most which some don't like, but it's still ultimately about wins and losses, so that is PART of being a great player and playing well. I like you definition of "practically useful".
 

-NN-

G.O.A.T.
Nadal creates this brutal threshold when he's in great form, where he makes an argument for defence preponderating over attack, and if a player can't deal with his constant war of attrition high balls even using the full extent of their artillery, they will eventually wilt and Nadal will bully them into submission with brutal bodyshot after brutal bodyshot and/or resist vicious attacks with relentless defensive attrition as the other player just can't mash the buttons fast enough to break down the wall. It's a more reliable threshold in the latter stages of Slams than that of Federer or Djokovic (or Murray or Stan) but if it's overcome by the very best performances of Djokovic and Federer then perhaps Nadal has no real response and is surpassed, in very limited matches. I'm not sure how much evidence there is for that, though. The idea is that on rare occasions Federer and Djokovic would be able to redline their game enough to have too much raw firepower for Nadal over 5 sets but that it's not practically repeatable. Federer's win over Nadal in the 2017 AO was nice but it was one of Nadal's worst performances in a Slam final.

@125downthemiddle

Some of that is a bit crude and simplistic but hopefully it illustrates a point.
 
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@-NN- I think I agree that Nadal on average would win more if all 3 were at their "general best" sort of like a prime. But maybe you're right that at an absolute "peak" a Fed/Djok would beat Nadal. We saw a bit of this at AO 2017 even though the 2 obv were not at their best, and also some at Wimbledon 07 as well as Rome 06 almost. Djokovic we saw zone enough to overcome Nadal in 3 slam finals in a row and numerous clay masters (I agree not as consequential as the slams)

I decidedly do NOT mean this in the ballbashing sort of Soderling/Wawrinka (at times) way where people say "no one could beat them when they're on, balls on their racquet" I do not think that is the highest level ever and I think there are things that Djok could have done at RG 15 to win (maybe an UO)

What I'm talking about is a blend of offensive and defense---controlled aggression coupled with patience that is so challenging against Nadal when he's zoning in a B05 match. The rare times Federer and Djokovic have been able to do it--I think you could argue their level was the "best"--better than anything Nadal has produced.
 

-NN-

G.O.A.T.
@-NN- I think I agree that Nadal on average would win more if all 3 were at their "general best" sort of like a prime. But maybe you're right that at an absolute "peak" a Fed/Djok would beat Nadal. We saw a bit of this at AO 2017 even though the 2 obv were not at their best, and also some at Wimbledon 07 as well as Rome 06 almost. Djokovic we saw zone enough to overcome Nadal in 3 slam finals in a row and numerous clay masters (I agree not as consequential as the slams)

I decidedly do NOT mean this in the ballbashing sort of Soderling/Wawrinka (at times) way where people say "no one could beat them when they're on, balls on their racquet" I do not think that is the highest level ever and I think there are things that Djok could have done at RG 15 to win (maybe an UO)

What I'm talking about is a blend of offensive and defense---controlled aggression coupled with patience that is so challenging against Nadal when he's zoning in a B05 match. The rare times Federer and Djokovic have been able to do it--I think you could argue their level was the "best"--better than anything Nadal has produced.
I agree. I don't think Wawrinka or Soderling or Rosol have produced the highest level of tennis ever.

... and obviously I agree with your other considerations and possibilities, without knowing the answers.
 

Blocker

Professional
Match ups snatch ups. Tennis is ultimately about beating your opponent. Forget the tour, look at a hit out between two mates, you have to beat your opponent, irrespective of any mythical match up issues. If a player is way younger than the other, or a paraplegic, then that's a match up issue. As long as the players are similar age and there's no injury or disabilty, then it's all fair and you go out to try and beat your opponent.
 
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I agree. I don't think Wawrinka or Soderling or Rosol have produced the highest level of tennis ever.

... and obviously I agree with your other considerations and possibilities, without knowing the answers.
This is part of the reason I value Novak's 3 slam final wins in a row over Nadal so much---this is something that is so hard to do. Nadal's early slam losses to the Rosols and Soderlings are a totally different beast. The combination of repeated brutal groundstrokes against Nadal who has the upper hand in long rallies with his heavy spin and controlled offensive aggression is something no one else has really been able to do to a prime Nadal in slam finals.

Fed beat him in two Wimbledons playing great but didn't beat him at his own game in the same way.

I think it's interesting you're able to take bias out of this and I commend you for it.

Pretty sure Nadal is your least favorite of the top guys ;)
 

-NN-

G.O.A.T.
This is part of the reason I value Novak's 3 slam final wins in a row over Nadal so much---this is something that is so hard to do. Nadal's early slam losses to the Rosols and Soderlings are a totally different beast. The combination of repeated brutal groundstrokes against Nadal who has the upper hand in long rallies with his heavy spin and controlled offensive aggression is something no one else has really been able to do to a prime Nadal in slam finals.

Fed beat him in two Wimbledons playing great but didn't beat him at his own game in the same way.

I think it's interesting you're able to take bias out of this and I commend you for it.

Pretty sure Nadal is your least favorite of the top guys ;)
Federer














Djokovic







Murray

Nadal



Roddick
 
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@-NN-

Roddick that low? He seems a fan favorite around here. Never liked him that much myself. I remember being in disbelief at some of his shot selection as early as Wimbledon 04. Not the greatest tactitian imo. And a choker... He should have won Wimbledon in 09 matchup issue or not.
 

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G.O.A.T.
@-NN-

Roddick that low? He seems a fan favorite around here. Never liked him that much myself. I remember being in disbelief at some of his shot selection as early as Wimbledon 04. Not the greatest tactitian imo. And a choker... He should have won Wimbledon in 09 matchup issue or not.
To be fair, I did enjoy watching him a little bit in his earlier years, but he drove me up the wall for most of his career. I think Roddick is actually a pretty good tactician and that he won an awful lot of his matches on tactics. He was so lost against Federer, so he did look a muppet coming in on all those ill-advised approaches and often used desperate tactics against better players. I do think though that if you look at how he won his matches against the field at large, he played a cerebral brand of tennis and overcame a lot of flashier players with better baseline artillery by playing it smart and steady. Obviously, he had the monster serve to rely on. Ultimately, I found him so dull to watch and his character rubbed me the wrong way.
 
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To be fair, I did enjoy watching him a little bit in his earlier years, but he drove me up the wall for most of his career. I think Roddick is actually a pretty good tactician and that he won an awful lot of his matches on tactics. He was so lost against Federer, so he did look a muppet coming in on all those ill-advised approaches and often used desperate tactics against better players. I do think though that if you look at how he won his matches against the field at large, he played a cerebral brand of tennis and overcame a lot of flashier players with better baseline artillery by playing it smart and steady. Obviously, he had the monster serve to rely on. Ultimately, I found him so dull to watch and his character rubbed me the wrong way.
He may have had good tactics in general, he was coached by the master, author of Winning Ugly---winner of Cincinatti in 1989 when tennis was at its zenith--Brad Gilbert himself ;)

But I was thinking mainly when he played Federer in the slams---those dreadful slice approached...just horrible. And he became an odd combo of a servebot and a pusher under Stefanki.
 

-NN-

G.O.A.T.
He may have had good tactics in general, he was coached by the master, author of Winning Ugly---winner of Cincinatti in 1989 when tennis was at its zenith--Brad Gilbert himself ;)

But I was thinking mainly when he played Federer in the slams---those dreadful slice approached...just horrible. And he became an odd combo of a servebot and a pusher under Stefanki.
Tragic. rofl.

Actually, his style probably explains his record against Djokovic. Djokovic struggles if you junkball him a bit, though when he's at his best he can deal with it much better than Connors could (someone else who was somewhat susceptible to having too much of the offensive onus heaped upon him). However, Roddick probably wasn't worthy of the same respect as the likes of Federer and Murray, so he got a bit complacent and frustrated by the style, while at the same time not being able to depend on breaks of serve against Roddick's monster delivery.
 
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