Who has a more complete game - Nadal or Djokovic?

More complete game


  • Total voters
    68

NKDM

Professional
#1
Right now it seems the Novak worship here has reached it's Zenith with predictions of world domination and annihilation of all records. Which is to be expected given his success in the last 6 months.

Not begruding the genuine praise he deserves and fully acknowledging that he's virtually unbeatable at times it seems (except when he loses, like against Khachanov, or when a 37 year old can push him to the brink)

But for the sake of balancing the discussion, let's consider his game at a technical level. I find some of the hype accorded to his game overblown. Slow courts, a lack luster talent group in the younger generation and a sole geriatric challenger are making him look better than he his (we're talking fine details here, not a broad indictment; he's an ATG after all)

Nadal, who you can also say is primarily a slow court player on account of his clay prowess, I find to be a much more complete player technically - his volleys and net approaches are spot on.

Novak tactically can seem one-dimensional, relying primarily on his ability to yank opponents side to side and countering with his elastic defense. Nothing wrong with it, but do you think he has the ability to tactically change gears like Nadal does? I've seen the latter change his tactics mid-match, adopt a more aggressive, net-approaching game or stand back, play patient defense and end points with opportunistic aggression.

The most impressive part of Nole's game to me are the telepathic returns and amazing gets on the run. The serving has improved a lot as well. But I feel like there is a big hole in the middle there with lackluster forecourt play.

Who do you think is better in the overall game department - Nadal or Djokovic?
 
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NKDM

Professional
#5
Nadal's net game is definitely better than Djokovic's net game. But Djokovic is more complete from the baseline. His return is a lot better. His game has a better combination of attack and defense. At times, Nadal plays too far behind the baseline.

Djokovic's serve is better too, as you noted in the OP.

Well, Nadal has served better in the past. Most notably in his first US open win.

His return is not as striking as Djokovic's but he does get back a lot of balls. Someone here better with stats can probably shed more light on this. I'd like to see how well both these guys compare on return stats. If I'm not incorrect, Nadal had the best conversion of BPs and 2nd serve return points won on tour.
 
#6
Well, Nadal has served better in the past. Most notably in his first US open win.

His return is not as striking as Djokovic's but he does get back a lot of balls. Someone here better with stats can probably shed more light on this. I'd like to see how well both these guys compare on return stats. If I'm not incorrect, Nadal had the best conversion of BPs and 2nd serve return points won on tour.
True about Nadal's serving, but overall it hasn't been as consistently good, and it especially hasn't been in the last few years.

Second serve points won is a much fairer comparison than break points won. Most break points are played on the ad side. That means that Nadal is facing mostly serves to his forehand and otherwise is facing backhands down the middle. He's not being stretched out wide on his backhand. If Nadal and Djokovic are equally good at returning serve, then we should expect that Djokovic does better on the deuce court and that Nadal does better on the ad court. That means that Djokovic should earn more break points than Nadal but Nadal should convert more of the break points he does earn than Djokovic. This is given that most players on tour are right handed. It's the inverse of Nadal being very good at saving break points but also relatively weak at avoiding having to face break points.
 
#7
Well, Nadal has served better in the past. Most notably in his first US open win.

His return is not as striking as Djokovic's but he does get back a lot of balls. Someone here better with stats can probably shed more light on this. I'd like to see how well both these guys compare on return stats. If I'm not incorrect, Nadal had the best conversion of BPs and 2nd serve return points won on tour.
75 percent of his nadals matches are on clay, thats why he has such a high number on winning second serve return points
 

Towny

Professional
#10
Could make the argument either way. Nadal better at net volley, has better slice and overhead. Novak has superior serve, return, more balanced forehand/backhand combo. Limited weaknesses to Novak's game. Both fantastic movers at peak. Would probably overall say Novak but Nadal doesn't exactly have massive holes in his game either
 

ibbi

Hall of Fame
#11
Novak is the more complete player. Shot wise the things he's less impressive than Rafa at, slice, volleys, playing at net, are all becoming ever more archaic, surplus aspects of the game. In terms of being solid as a rock or better on serve, return, forehand, backhand, defense, there isn't anyone more complete than him in that way.

In terms of what you're talking about - tactically, sure, maybe Rafa is better at switching things up, but I'm not sure that makes him more 'complete'. Not outwardly anyway :D
 

Steve0904

Talk Tennis Guru
#13
Djokovic is slightly more "complete," but Nadal has the more dangerous weapon (FH is better).

Both guys have patterns that they play to against each other though. And both have executed it perfectly in certain matches. If you watch the USO 2013 Final again, notice how much Nadal is using the slice to get FHs and picking the right times to go DTL with it to keep Djokovic honest.

And Djokovic has a great BH DTL that goes into Nadal's BH, and he can either keep Nadal pinned in that corner for a bit or go hard to the FH which works well for him because his DTL shots are so good.
 
#14
Nadal's net game is definitely better than Djokovic's net game. But Djokovic is more complete from the baseline. .
The baseline game does not include serve and return. Djokovic is a better server and returner, but once the points starts Nadal is better on the baseline game. Otherwise, Djokovic would have won 11 Roland Garros. Clay is the surface more baseline-game oriented. In effect, on clay the serve is neutralized as a weapon due to the low speed of the surface. So no, Nadal is better/more complete from the baseline, as illustrated by his better forehand/backhand combination and better results on clay. Djokovic is a better server and returner and has a more balanced offense/defense combination though.
 
#15
Djokovic is slightly more "complete," but Nadal has the more dangerous weapon (FH is better).

Both guys have patterns that they play to against each other though. And both have executed it perfectly in certain matches. If you watch the USO 2013 Final again, notice how much Nadal is using the slice to get FHs and picking the right times to go DTL with it to keep Djokovic honest.

And Djokovic has a great BH DTL that goes into Nadal's BH, and he can either keep Nadal pinned in that corner for a bit or go hard to the FH which works well for him because his DTL shots are so good.
Djokovic has never kept Nadal pinned in the backhand's corner, Nadal is not Federer. Nadal's backhand has always been too good for that. The main difference between Nadal and Djokovic is that Djokovic's backhand changes of direction more usually. That is all. Since 2017, Nadal's backhand has imrpoved a lot and is equally offensive as Djokovic's one. For instance, at Wimbledon 2018 Nadal made far more bakchand winners than Djokovic. And at RG 2017, Nadal's backhand was as much of a weapon as Djokovic's one.

In fact, it is a myth that Djokovic has a better backhand that Nadal. Djokovic changes the direction of the backhand shot more usually. He also makes less unforced errors. But Nadal's backhand is far more powerful. Nadal employs the right arm to shoot the crossed backhand. Nadal's crossed backahnd is far more powerful than Djokovic's one. In other words, Nadal's backhand winners are more powerful/stronger shots than Djokovic's ones.
 
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Steve0904

Talk Tennis Guru
#17
I have never seen Djokovic keep Nadal pinned in the backhand's corner. Nadal's backhand has always been too good for that, only slightly worse than Djokovic's one. The main difference is that Djokovic's backhand changes of direction more usually. That is all. Since 2017, Nadal's backhand has imrpoved a lot and is equally offensive as Djokovic's one. For instance, at Wimbledon 2018 Nadal made far more bakchand winners than Djokovic. And at RG 2017, Nadal's backhand was as much of a weapon as Djokovic's one.
I never meant that literally or that he does it for a long period of time, but that Djokovic will always prefer his FH going into Nadal's BH more than vice versa. It's sometimes a progression of a rally that then allows Djokovic to go DTL later.
 
#18
Nadals game is more complete on clay, but more importantly IMO his movement wich is also part of one's game, is second to none. The way he slides and covers the court is a sight to behold.

When it comes to HC and grass, Djokovic has more weapons and his game is better suited for it. His serve and ROS, along with his movement (especially on HC) is too good. His FH and BH are great weapons aswell and serves him great to take on any player. Djokovic has quite clearly the more dangerous game on HC and grass.

So overall, Djokovic is the more complete player. We can check his achievement aswell.
 
#19
Neither can be a "complete player" when they almost never serve and volley or approach the net except on sitters. Being a complete baseliner is radically different than being a complete player in general. There should be a third option to the poll: neither.
Well then no one from the serve and volley era are either no complete players cause they barely did anything on the baseline nor covered 5% of what Djokovic and Nadal can do from the baseline.
 
#21
The baseline game does not include serve and return. Djokovic is a better server and returner, but once the points starts Nadal is better on the baseline game. Otherwise, Djokovic would have won 11 Roland Garros. Clay is the surface more baseline-game oriented. In effect, on clay the serve is neutralized as a weapon due to the low speed of the surface. So no, Nadal is better/more complete from the baseline, as illustrated by his better forehand/backhand combination and better results on clay. Djokovic is a better server and returner and has a more balanced offense/defense combination though.
I partially agree with you: serve is not part of the baseline game. But I'm not sure why return isn't part of the baseline game. Where does a returner hit the ball if not at or behind the baseline?
 
#25
Huge Nadal fan but this isn't even a question.

Novak is the only player in history to have held all four slams at once and the indoor world tour champs simultaneously. E.g dominated the slams on 3 surfaces and was the indoor king too.

Neither Nadal nor Federer have come anywhere close to that level of mastery of the game.
 
#26
Novak is the only player in history to have held all four slams at once and the indoor world tour champs simultaneously. E.g dominated the slams on 3 surfaces and was the indoor king too.
Djokovic never dominated Roland Garros. He lost in 2015 to Wawrinka and won his only RG when Nadal was injured. Also, Nadal is the only player in the history of tennis to hold 3 Grand Slams on 3 surfaces the same calendar year (2010). The only difference is that Djokovic held one more consecutive Major (RG 2016, when Nadal was injured). In addition, Budge won 6 consecutive Grand Slams and Laver won 4 consecutive Grand Slams twice (which is more meritory than winning 4 consecutive Grand Slams once).

Also, Nadal has his Grand Slams more evenly distributed by surface than Djokovic. In effect, Nadal has won at least 2 Grand Slams on each surface (hard, grass and clay). Djokovic has never been close to that level of mastery of the game, since Novak only has one Grand Slam on clay. 2 Grand Slams on each sruface >>>> 1 Grand Slam on each surface.
 

abmk

Bionic Poster
#27
Djokovic has never kept Nadal pinned in the backhand's corner, Nadal is not Federer. Nadal's backhand has always been too good for that. The main difference between Nadal and Djokovic is that Djokovic's backhand changes of direction more usually. That is all. Since 2017, Nadal's backhand has imrpoved a lot and is equally offensive as Djokovic's one. For instance, at Wimbledon 2018 Nadal made far more bakchand winners than Djokovic. And at RG 2017, Nadal's backhand was as much of a weapon as Djokovic's one.

In fact, it is a myth that Djokovic has a better backhand that Nadal. Djokovic changes the direction of the backhand shot more usually. He also makes less unforced errors. But Nadal's backhand is far more powerful. Nadal employs the right arm to shoot the crossed backhand. Nadal's crossed backahnd is far more powerful than Djokovic's one. In other words, Nadal's backhand winners are more powerful/stronger shots than Djokovic's ones.
current Djokovic BH is not peak BH. so yeah, Nadal's current BH is just as good.
not when comparing peak to peak or prime to prime.
djokovic's is clearly better.
 
#28
In terms of pure power, Nadal has the best two-handed crossed backhand in the tour by far. No player has the same strength and power in his two-handed backhand winners as Nadal.

1:13 Djokovic can't handle Nadal's powerful crossed backhand


3:27 Djokovic can't handle Nadal's powerful crossed backhand (again)

 
#29
current Djokovic BH is not peak BH. so yeah, Nadal's current BH is just as good.
not when comparing peak to peak or prime to prime.
djokovic's is clearly better.
Only in changing direction and reliability, never in power of the shots or winners brutality. I think they are tied (Djokovic changes better the direction but Nadal has more strength in the shot).
 

BlueB

Hall of Fame
#30
It's funny how people favor Nadal's net game over Nole's... Yes, Nadal might appear a bit more refined there, but Djokovic actually has better stats. He wins more forecourt points per match then Nadal and is more willing to go there.

Sent from my SM-G965W using Tapatalk
 
#31
It's Djokovic. He is fantastic on all surfaces with no obvious weaknesses, his game is perfect all round with maybe the minor complaint that he's not great with overheads.

Nadal has almost every shot perfected but he has a very weak serve and is clearly a clay specialist. He performs well on most surfaces but he's been exposed on grass in the tail end of his career and struggles to defend hard-court titles.
 

abmk

Bionic Poster
#32
Only in changing direction and reliability, never in power of the shots or winners brutality. I think they are tied (Djokovic changes better the direction but Nadal has more strength in the shot).
Nadal can hit with more top end power, but on an average , he doesn't.
Doesn't hit more BH winners/total points than Djokovic either.
also is nowhere near as comfortable going DTL as djokovic was with his peak BH.
 

Druss

Hall of Fame
#34
This is a really tough one to call. Nadal is so much better at the net, yet Djoko's serve is much better and BH is distinctively better too. FH obviously Nadal and everything else would be fairly equal. Toss of the coin, i give the slight edge to Djokovic.
 
#35
It’s hard to say Djoker is more ‘well rounded’ given his net game and overhead. I’ve seen 4.0’s who can handle each better. OTOH, the modern game hands out trophies and big checks for staying behind the thick white line, and there’s no better returner or backboard than Nole.
 
#37
The match stats typically say opposite...
I'm glad the stats back up my thoughts on this. I've always thought Nadal was average at the net, just because he can play at the net doesn't mean he's a great net player. Although with that said, Djokovic isn't exactly great at the net either in my opinion. Both Federer and Murray are better but this topic isn't about them. So i would say both Nadal/Djokovic are equally "good" at the net but neither one of them is "great"
 

Druss

Hall of Fame
#40
I'm glad the stats back up my thoughts on this. I've always thought Nadal was average at the net, just because he can play at the net doesn't mean he's a great net player. Although with that said, Djokovic isn't exactly great at the net either in my opinion. Both Federer and Murray are better but this topic isn't about them. So i would say both Nadal/Djokovic are equally "good" at the net but neither one of them is "great"
I tend to disagree. Albeit not as good as Fed, Nadal actually has very good touch at the net. That is also backed up by his success at the few doubles tournies he's participated in.
 
#41
Djokovic is more complete.

Nadal has a better forehand and volley but Novak trumps him in just about everything else.

It's really hard to say if Nadal is actually a better volleyer than Novak (mainly bc he goes there once a blue moon)
Novak approached the net the 2nd most in the top 10 (after Fed) in 2015 and had fairly good numbers there.

Nadal may have better hands, but Novak is much more opportunistic at net. He won a lot of clutch points this year by saying screw it, I'll just end the point at the net. So he's more of an all court player than Nadal.
 
#44
Neither can be a "complete player" when they almost never serve and volley or approach the net except on sitters. Being a complete baseliner is radically different than being a complete player in general. There should be a third option to the poll: neither.
It didn't ask you if they were complete players. It asked who of the two was more complete. It's an either or scenario, not a "meets criteria" scenario.

Also stop hating on the way the game has gone. If approaching the net were so important it would have stuck around a bit better. Glad to see it's coming back, but to say they're not complete or bad net players in inaccurate.
 

vex

Hall of Fame
#46
Don't think this is a particularly close question but I will note that Rafa has underrated volley skills. Still doesn't close the serve/return/BH gap.
 
#47
Right now it seems the Novak worship here has reached it's Zenith with predictions of world domination and annihilation of all records. Which is to be expected given his success in the last 6 months.

Not begruding the genuine praise he deserves and fully acknowledging that he's virtually unbeatable at times it seems (expect when he loses, like against Khachanov, or when a 37 year old can push him to the brink)

But for the sake of balancing the discussion, let's consider his game at a technical level. I find some of the hype accorded to his game overblown. Slow courts, a lack luster talent group in the younger generation and a sole geriatric challenger are making him look better than he his (we're talking fine details here, not an broad indictment; he's an ATG after all)

Nadal, who you can also say is a primarily a slow court player on account of his clay prowess, I find to be a much more complete player technically - his volleys and net approaches are spot on.

Novak tactically can seem one-dimensional, relying primarily on his ability to yank opponents side to side and countering with his elastic defense. Nothing wrong with it, but do you think he has the ability to tactically change gears like Nadal does? I've seen the latter change his tactics mid-match, adopt a more aggressive, net-approaching game or stand back, play patient defense and end points with opportunistic aggression.

The most impressive part of Nole's game to me are the telepathic returns and amazing gets on the run. The serving has improved a lot as well. But I feel like there is a big hole in the middle there with lackluster forecourt play.

Who do you think is better in the overall game department - Nadal or Djokovic?
This is the typical case when “Fedr” is the most appropriate answer.
 
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