Why Djokovic has bogeyman but not Fedal ?

Sunny Ali

Hall of Fame
I have to agree with @tennisaddict

Much as I hate to say say this, Wawrinka has completely dominated Djokovic at the slams in recent times to such an extent that I hope someone takes Wawrinka out before he gets to Djokovic.
 

King No1e

Legend
6-19. What a scary Boogeyman.
Funny no one says Tsonga "owns" Fed even though the H2H is much closer (11-6), he beat Fed twice at Slams, and won their last meeting.
But for some reason Wawrinka owns the matchup with Djokovic. 19-6 in Djokovic's favor. Please.
 

ForehandRF

Professional
6-19. What a scary Boogeyman.
Funny no one says Tsonga "owns" Fed even though the H2H is much closer (11-6), he beat Fed twice at Slams, and won their last meeting.
But for some reason Wawrinka owns the matchup with Djokovic. 19-6 in Djokovic's favor. Please.
Letting aside the Boogeyman thing, Fed-Tsonga H2H is actually 12-6, with Fed leading 4-2 in slams.Their last meeting was in Halle, this year, and Fed won in 3 sets.A pretty tough matchup for Roger.
 

Sport

Legend
A bad match-up is the situation were the interaction of playing styles of two players doesn't allow the superior player to win as would be expected.
There is no such thing as bad matchup, as corroborated by the fact that no single non-ATG player leads the H2H over an ATG player in H2H of over 10 matches. Small sample sizes are deceiving. It is a logical fallacy to make an overgeneralization based on small numbers: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faulty_generalization#Hasty_generalization

In all H2H of over 10 matches ATG players lead the H2H over non-ATG players.
 
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JaoSousa

Rookie

ForehandRF

Professional
There is no such thing as bad matchup, as corroborated by the fact that no single non-ATG player leads the H2H over an ATG player in H2H of over 10 matches. Small sample sizes are deceiving. It is a logical fallacy to make an overgeneralization based on small numbers: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faulty_generalization#Hasty_generalization

In all H2H of over 10 matches ATG players lead the H2H over non-ATG players.
Not quite.Denko-Nadal 6-5.Bad matchups exist, even if you don't accept it :D
 
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Flash O'Groove

Hall of Fame
There is no such thing as bad matchup, as corroborated by the fact that no single non-ATG player leads the H2H over an ATG player in H2H of over 10 matches. Small sample sizes are deceiving. It is a logical fallacy to make an overgeneralization based on small numbers: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faulty_generalization#Hasty_generalization

In all H2H of over 10 matches ATG players lead the H2H over non-ATG players.
I disagree, a ATG can have a bad match-up with a lesser player and still lead the H2H with the lesser player, because the match-up advantage the lesser player enjoy is not enough to bridge the gap in overall level. In such case, the lesser player will have an H2H less skewed that a a player of the same level as him would have against the same ATG.

By the way Davydenko do lead 6-5 over Nadal.
 

La_Para

Rookie
A bad match-up is the situation were the interaction of playing styles of two players doesn't allow the superior player to win as would be expected. The court conditions have a huge effect on match-ups.

For me, players have roughly the same level than some players, are inferior to some players, and are superior to some players. E.g., Federer, Djokovic and Nadal are roughly equal, they are superior to everyone else. Tsonga is inferior to them, roughly equal to other top 10-20 players, superior to everyone else.

Now the result of a match between two players depends primarily about the comparison of their level AND of how their game styles match-up with each others AND how their game styles interact with the court conditions.

So generally when a superior player beat an inferior player, you don't go to far into match-up because the result was expected (Nadal vs Dimitrov).

If two roughly equal players have a balanced H2H, you don't go to far into the match-up because it is expected than equal players will split results. If the H2H is unbalanced (Nadal-Federer), then you need to look at match-up to understand why a player can consistently dominate someone who is roughly his equal.

If an inferior player beat a superior player several times, this is an unexpected result and you need to look at the match-up: how does the game style of the inferior player allows him to defeat a superior player?

For me there is no doubt that Wawrinka is an inferior player to Djokovic, and his success at slams against him is a surprise, including his close 5 sets defeats in Australia or New York, because if I consider only their playing level, Wawrinka should not regularly push Djokovic to five sets, nor win!

Great exemples of match-up are thus Wawrinka-Djokovic, Davydenko-Nadal, Nadal-Federer (now reversed). You could also argue that Federer-Roddick is an exemple of bad match-up, because the H2H gap is larger than the level gap between them.
Great explanation. I was thinking along similar lines but I struggled with certain aspects of the concept and their application. In the Fedal rivalry for example Nadal was said to be a bad matchup because Federer had more prizes and records (higher level), but we're now in a situation where they're about equal and Nadal may even overtake Federer. But that the problem with assuming superiority as a building block is that even if a player starts out with a sizeable lead, in theory you'd have to wait until the end of their career to say if it really was a bad matchup.

I think what irks me a little when I sometimes hear it being used is the fact that a bad matchup is used as a cause/explanation instead of a sign of the underlying patterns of play. When it becomes about 'he/she's a better/superior player and should be beating him, but due to luck/matchup it doesn't happen'.

It removes the focus on patterns of play and the players ability to analyse and problem-solve (like Federer has done to Nadal the last years) and makes it seem like players can't adapt to circumstances but are a victim of 'fate' (thus also taking credit away from the opponent).

Isn't the whole purpose of sport to problem-solve? And in that light can you truly have a 'bad' matchup? Or are they just specific questions that some players ask and others don't (always) have an adequate answer to?
 

Flash O'Groove

Hall of Fame
Great explanation. I was thinking along similar lines but I struggled with certain aspects of the concept and their application. In the Fedal rivalry for example Nadal was said to be a bad matchup because Federer had more prizes and records (higher level), but we're now in a situation where they're about equal and Nadal may even overtake Federer. But that the problem with assuming superiority as a building block is that even if a player starts out with a sizeable lead, in theory you'd have to wait until the end of their career to say if it really was a bad matchup.
You are correct that player's achievements can cloud our judgement. In the beginning of their rivalry, Federer was at the peak of his powers and he was expected to wreck everyone, such was his dominance. In hindisght, Nadal is simply a better claycourter than Nadal and was from the beginning, and the gap between them only grew as Federer declined.

Nonetheless, I believe the gap between them on clay was not as great as the H2H of the early years shows (9-1 for Rafa on clay from 2005 to 2008). Federer played Nadal close in many sets at that time, but generally he was still losing the set, with only little margins going Nadal's ways.

Outside clay, Nadal was immediately successful but still very far from Federer's level, yet he was giving him a lot of trouble, until he finally turned it all at Wimbledon 2008 and AO 2009.

Since then, Nadal has clearly been the better player of the two in direct confrontation AND against the field, until his own decline brought him to be a bit better than Federer against the field but inferior in direct confrontation. Nadal's decline was not great enough for the field to catch-up with him, but it was great enough to completely reverse the dynamic of their match-up. Since 2015, Nadal is 1-7 vs Federer, with his sole victory coming at RG, the last surface were his old tactic is still working against Federer.

I think what irks me a little when I sometimes hear it being used is the fact that a bad matchup is used as a cause/explanation instead of a sign of the underlying patterns of play. When it becomes about 'he/she's a better/superior player and should be beating him, but due to luck/matchup it doesn't happen'.

It removes the focus on patterns of play and the players ability to analyse and problem-solve (like Federer has done to Nadal the last years) and makes it seem like players can't adapt to circumstances but are a victim of 'fate' (thus also taking credit away from the opponent).

Isn't the whole purpose of sport to problem-solve? And in that light can you truly have a 'bad' matchup? Or are they just specific questions that some players ask and others don't (always) have an adequate answer to?
It depends on the sport. In team sports, yes. A lesser team can play the perfect tactical game to silence Messi and hit Barcelona on the counter. In 100m dash, not so much. How do you solve running against Bolt? He is just faster. How do you find an adequate answer to that? Poison?

Tennis is more like 100m dash than like football. There is a quite clear hierarchy and if you play against someone who is better than you there isn't much you can do. 99% of the players can't find an adequate answer to the questions asked by Federer, Djokovic and Nadal, which are different questions. The best of the rest can beat them when they are off their games (luck), or if they redline (unsustainable answer). Berdych is 11-65 against them. Ferrer 11-56.

If I go back to Federer-Nadal, the key to their matches was: 1) Nadal defense, first his speed which allowed to cover the court like no one else, second his ability to hit defensive shots (shots that are difficult to attack) to get time to recover. 2) His topspin forehand to Federer's backhand. His defense allowed him to stay in points which would be finished already against everyone, the second allowed him to put a lot of pressure on Federer to be creative and aggressive: either Federer hit a winner or an unforced error, or he eventually hit an unforced error or suffer a Nadal's winner. So Federer was on constant pressure to play more aggressive than he was comfortable to for fear of losing control of the point, against someone who was better than anyone at taking control of the point.

I don't think Federer could do anything to solve this problem, except maybe stay out of clay and at least prevent Nadal from gaining endless confidence with victories on the surface on which the pattern was the most effective.

Now the dynamic of the match-up is completely reversed but it hardly can be credited to Federer: Nadal is simply a lot slower than before, so number 1) (court coverage) of their old match-up doesn't apply anymore. He can't get to enough balls to impose 2) (forehand to backhand pattern) on Federer, and in the points he can impose this pattern, Federer can get out of it with ease, take back control and finish the point. Whereas ten years ago Federer would have to hit dangerous shots 5 times in a row to get out of the pattern and take control back, because Nadal's court coverage was peerless.

And Nadal can do nothing about it, except try to slow his decline and wait for Federer to decline further up to a point where a new pattern between them emerge.

Now I do believe there is some level of fate and luck in what play style you main rival has. If your main rival has a play style which suits you, perfect. You can have a H2H with him which is much more unbalanced that the difference in level. Federer had that for a time with Roddick. No one return fast serves like Federer. Now Federer is simply better than Roddick, but 21-3 against someone who made 5 slam finals is ridiculous. Nadal had that with Federer, although, but how would Nadal's career change if Davydenko, with his same style, was playing at an all-time great level? Quite lucky that Davydenko was only a second tier player.
 

ForehandRF

Professional
You are correct that player's achievements can cloud our judgement. In the beginning of their rivalry, Federer was at the peak of his powers and he was expected to wreck everyone, such was his dominance. In hindisght, Nadal is simply a better claycourter than Nadal and was from the beginning, and the gap between them only grew as Federer declined.

Nonetheless, I believe the gap between them on clay was not as great as the H2H of the early years shows (9-1 for Rafa on clay from 2005 to 2008). Federer played Nadal close in many sets at that time, but generally he was still losing the set, with only little margins going Nadal's ways.

Outside clay, Nadal was immediately successful but still very far from Federer's level, yet he was giving him a lot of trouble, until he finally turned it all at Wimbledon 2008 and AO 2009.

Since then, Nadal has clearly been the better player of the two in direct confrontation AND against the field, until his own decline brought him to be a bit better than Federer against the field but inferior in direct confrontation. Nadal's decline was not great enough for the field to catch-up with him, but it was great enough to completely reverse the dynamic of their match-up. Since 2015, Nadal is 1-7 vs Federer, with his sole victory coming at RG, the last surface were his old tactic is still working against Federer.



It depends on the sport. In team sports, yes. A lesser team can play the perfect tactical game to silence Messi and hit Barcelona on the counter. In 100m dash, not so much. How do you solve running against Bolt? He is just faster. How do you find an adequate answer to that? Poison?

Tennis is more like 100m dash than like football. There is a quite clear hierarchy and if you play against someone who is better than you there isn't much you can do. 99% of the players can't find an adequate answer to the questions asked by Federer, Djokovic and Nadal, which are different questions. The best of the rest can beat them when they are off their games (luck), or if they redline (unsustainable answer). Berdych is 11-65 against them. Ferrer 11-56.

If I go back to Federer-Nadal, the key to their matches was: 1) Nadal defense, first his speed which allowed to cover the court like no one else, second his ability to hit defensive shots (shots that are difficult to attack) to get time to recover. 2) His topspin forehand to Federer's backhand. His defense allowed him to stay in points which would be finished already against everyone, the second allowed him to put a lot of pressure on Federer to be creative and aggressive: either Federer hit a winner or an unforced error, or he eventually hit an unforced error or suffer a Nadal's winner. So Federer was on constant pressure to play more aggressive than he was comfortable to for fear of losing control of the point, against someone who was better than anyone at taking control of the point.

I don't think Federer could do anything to solve this problem, except maybe stay out of clay and at least prevent Nadal from gaining endless confidence with victories on the surface on which the pattern was the most effective.

Now the dynamic of the match-up is completely reversed but it hardly can be credited to Federer: Nadal is simply a lot slower than before, so number 1) (court coverage) of their old match-up doesn't apply anymore. He can't get to enough balls to impose 2) (forehand to backhand pattern) on Federer, and in the points he can impose this pattern, Federer can get out of it with ease, take back control and finish the point. Whereas ten years ago Federer would have to hit dangerous shots 5 times in a row to get out of the pattern and take control back, because Nadal's court coverage was peerless.

And Nadal can do nothing about it, except try to slow his decline and wait for Federer to decline further up to a point where a new pattern between them emerge.

Now I do believe there is some level of fate and luck in what play style you main rival has. If your main rival has a play style which suits you, perfect. You can have a H2H with him which is much more unbalanced that the difference in level. Federer had that for a time with Roddick. No one return fast serves like Federer. Now Federer is simply better than Roddick, but 21-3 against someone who made 5 slam finals is ridiculous. Nadal had that with Federer, although, but how would Nadal's career change if Davydenko, with his same style, was playing at an all-time great level? Quite lucky that Davydenko was only a second tier player.
Fed's problem was that he let all those clay losses enter his head and that affected the way they played on the other surfaces.When Fed didn't had the mental block yet, he was a tougher rival for Nadal even on clay than after that (see Monte Carlo and especially Rome 2006 ).Forehand to the backhand was just a part of the story.
 
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