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Why Djokovic, Soderling And Berdych Can Beat Federer But Not Nadal

Why Djokovic, Soderling And Berdych Can Beat Federer But Not Nadal

Rafael Nadal has just won his first US Open and completed a career Grand Slam which is a remarkable achievement considering his age and that he is playing in the era of Roger Federer.

But there was a certain pattern occurring in the last 3 Grand Slams – Roland Garros, Wimbledon and US Open.

The player who beat Roger Federer in each tournament eventually faced Rafael Nadal in the final – and lost.

Robin Soderling beat Federer at Roland Garros with 3-6, 6-3, 7-5, 6-4, reached the final and then lost to Rafael Nadal easily with 6-4, 6-2, 6-4.

Tomas Berdych beat Federer at Wimbledon 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 and then lost in 3 straight sets again to Nadal in the final with 6-3, 7-5, 6-4.

Novak Djokovic beat Federer for the first time at the US Open with 5-7, 6-1, 5-7, 6-2, 7-5 and again lost to Nadal with 6-4, 5-7, 6-4, 6-2.

What are the reasons that Soderling, Berdych and Djokovic are able to beat Federer in good form (not in the first round and playing best of five!) and yet they all lose relatively easily to Nadal in the final?

Note that Djokovic has beaten Nadal 7 times (out of 22 meetings), Soderling beat him 2 times (out of 7 meetings) and Berdych beat Nadal 3 times (out of 11 meetings) in the past.

So all three are perfectly capable of beating Nadal and yet they simply had no chance playing him this year in the finals of Grand Slams.

While there are theories that Nadal simply plays better tennis in the finals and that’s why he won, I disagree.

Here’s why I believe Soderling, Berdych and Djokovic were able to beat Federer but not Nadal:

1. Not caring about the outcome in the quarterfinals as much as they did in the final. This is #1 reason in my opinion.

All three were playing with abandon against Federer. They were going for their shots the whole match and played extremely aggressively.

They KNEW they had nothing to lose. Losing to Roger Federer is the QF of the Grand Slam is nothing to be ashamed of.

They were willing to miss shots in order to control the rallies. They knew the dangers of Federer’s forehand and how he can dismantle anyone’s game if he is given the chance.

But when they played Nadal in the final, they cared too much about the outcome. They were not only playing Nadal, but they were trying to win a Grand Slam.

Soderling and Berdych have never won one and Djokovic won only the Australian Open in 2008.

In other words, winning a Grand Slam is a dream come true for any tennis player and these three guys were simply not able to let go of that.

They cared too much and rarely DARED to play as aggressively as before because they did not dare to miss shots.

That was too scary for them – as missing shots in their mind meant moving away from the Grand Slam title.

Of course, they were wrong.

By not playing aggressively and pressuring Nadal, they didn’t pose any real threat to his game.

He was able to play relatively comfortable throughout all three matches and when it comes to controlled rallies from the baseline, he is simply better and more dangerous with his left handed forehand.

I also disagree with the idea that Nadal somehow forced them to play slower and not so aggressively. Sure, he can force the game with his forehand but he still plays many neutral shots with both groundstrokes.

And when these neutral shots flew over the net towards Soderling, Berdych or Djokovic, they played them much safer than they played neutral shots that Federer played over.

That in my opinion determined the outcome.

2. They were more afraid of Federer’s forehand than they were of Nadal’s forehand.

Although Nadal’s forehand is one of the baddest shots in the game, he doesn’t hit many winners from the baseline.

Nadal prefers to build a point in a much safer way and typically forces a mistake instead of hitting a clean winner.

That means that one has more chances to stay in the rally against Nadal than against Federer. When Federer attacks with his forehand, he hits the ball much flatter in therefore much faster.

He of course risks more but he also hits many more clean winners.

The main way to avoid forehand winners from Federer is to simply attack him all the time and not give him enough time to set up for his big forehand.

Juan Martin Del Potro executed that perfectly in the last year’s final and so did Soderling, Berdych and Djokovic in the last 3 matches against Federer.

But when they played Nadal, they felt that they are able to rally with less fear of clean winners from Nadal and therefore they lowered the speed of their shots in order to play more safe and more “smart” tactical tennis.

Sure, they made less unforced errors but they also allowed Nadal to take control of more rallies.

While he didn’t hit that many clean winners as Federer most likely would, he still was able to gain advantage in most rallies and eventually won more points than his opponents.

So how should have Soderling, Berdych and Djokovic played against Rafael Nadal in the last 3 Grand Slam finals?

They should have played with the exact same mindset and strategy as they used against Roger Federer: they should have played with the mindset that they have nothing to lose and they should have played extremely aggressively the whole match and kept Nadal in defense.

All of them have beaten Nadal in the past with that exact approach.

Your thoughts and opinions on this topic are of course much appreciated!

Related posts:

Rafael Nadal – Tomas Berdych Wimbledon 2010 Final Analysis
Learning From French Open Finalists: Nadal, Soderling, Schiavone And Stosur
Robin Soderling In His First French Open Final
Nadal – Federer Grand Slam Final #8 – And Win #6 For Rafa
Soderling And Cibulkova Breeze To Semi-Finals Of Roland Garros

Essential Tennis Instruction – FREE Video Lessons on How to Improve Your Serve

This entry was posted on Wednesday, September 15th, 2010 at 2:02 pm and is filed under Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

29 Responses to “Why Djokovic, Soderling And Berdych Can Beat Federer But Not Nadal”
lindjon Says:
September 15th, 2010 at 3:48 pm
As always Tomaz, I find that your posts are the one place on the internet where someone actually articulates thoughts that are nagging me at the back of my mind. I hadn’t considered all three of the last slam finals at once, but now that you have brought my attention to it it amazes me that this narrative is completely absent from tennis analyses. I think you are completely right. I have been very disappointed with the respective efforts of Söderling, Berdych and Djokovic in the finals this year. Berdych in particular, I really felt he had the game to put Rafa in a lot of trouble.

Here’s a question for you though – do you think it’s the same way but in reverse for Murray? I am thinking of course about the AO 2010 final, where Murray was a lot more passive in the final against Federer than he was against Nadal in the semis. My feeling is that there is something about the matchup with Nadal which brings out Murray’s more aggressive tennis – similarly in Toronto. Whereas when he wins against Federer, it tends to have been more based on his super-conservative game.

Like I said, and have said many times in the past, I thoroughly enjoy your analyses Thomaz. Keep it up!

/Jonas, Sweden

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reem Says:
September 15th, 2010 at 6:22 pm
Dare I disagree ?? Specifically with the case of the Djokovic/Federer & Djokovic/Nadal

From where I stand, the quality of tennis in the Djokovic/Nadal match was much higher than the semi: Djokovic hit 45 winners in 4 sets in that final opposed to 36 over 5 sets with federer .. in fact federer even had more winners in that match but also had soo much many UFE to negate them by a good margin ..

The Final was one of the most challenging matches .. a momentum swinging back and forth, not because one player is choking but because the other player is raising his level. And they maintained that crescendo of performance with each one stepping up to his next level beautifully up till the end of 3rd set. So by all means I do not believe djokovic gave up his aggression but it is simply too much to ask for s.o to keep firing winners both on serve and return all the time for 4 consecutive sets, which is what it needed to take out nadal on that final and following is why :

Let’s have a look at the Federer/Djokovic match : first set good quality up until djokovic ( choked ) away the set in a painful way in final game .. Next he is on his game again breaking federer , now how did federer respond , he went into his own lapse for the rest of the set .. Please take a moment and compare this to what Nadal did at the same situation, he fought upped his level broke back .. Djokovic took the set eventually by peeking to his best but on the cost of how much more effort as opposed to a set from the 2nd and 4th federer match ? .. there for me exists the key for difference between those 2 matches.

The significance of the Federer/Djokovic match is that it made Djokovic believe again .. he came in the final hit more winners and above all kept fighting fiercefully through out the whole match saving 20 break points with mostly winners from his side rather than nadal errors .. The Djokovic of the federer match broke down badly under the pressure of BP for the first 4 sets .. It was the fifth set that set him free and it was the Djokovic of that 5th set that showed up in the Nadal match.

So basically am thinking I just wanted to give both Djokovic and Nadal their due in playing a final .. more winners, less unforced error … each set going for one of them was taken by force , fight and simply EARNED not by any give aways …

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Tomaz Reply:
September 16th, 2010 at 6:11 am

@reem: Here’s where Djokovic went wrong and what he did well against Federer:

1. When he started the match with Federer, he was playing with very high pace. The shots were very low and fast.

It was obvious (at least to me) that he had a plan – play the balls fast so that Federer cannot set up his big forehand. Keep him moving as much as possible and occasionally keep playing to his backhand side over and over again.

Djokovic kept the pace of his shots relatively constant throughout the match. While I don’t know the exact average speed of his shots, lets’ estimate that the speed of his groundstrokes ranged from 95-110 mph.

2. When Djokovic started the match against Nadal, he was FAR from being aggressive. He was very careful – he made only 12 winners compared to 17 in the first set against Federer. 5/17 = 0.29 – that’s a 30% difference!!!

I’d say the speed of his shots in the first set was on average at least 10 mph lower than against Federer. The shots were played with LOTS of topspin and high above the net – compared to Federer first set.

Now the problems came: Novak realized that this won’t work – as he just lost the set. Then he started to play VERY aggressively but because he hasn’t started the match in that mindset, he was now going for too much.

When the odds were in his favor, he went ahead 4:1, when they weren’t (because he was risking too much), he was losing and Nadal leveled to 5:5.

I’d say that the speed of the shots when Djokovic was aggressive was now 10 mph HIGHER than when he was going for shots against Federer. Of course, Novak realized that this is too risky and then dropped his speed of shots too low again.

So he was constantly trying to find the IDEAL speed of shots while ranging from too slow – maybe 85 mph to too fast – 120 mph. I am just making these numbers up because I don’t know them exactly, but my point is to show the range of speeds I noticed.

While Djoko was quite constant against Federer (95-100 mph), he was fluctuating against Nadal (85-120 mph).

Why? The whole problem of finding the right speed of shots started with his mindset – trying to be too smart, careful and trying to win points in a way that was too safe and too controlled.

“It’s a Grand Slam final after all, I am not going to make stupid unforced errors. This is my chance and I won’t blow it.”

That’s what Novak, Berdych and Soderling (and Murray against Federer in AU Open 2010 final) were all thinking when they started the match and that’s when they lost it – even before hitting the first ball.

It started from initial level of aggressiveness which was too low and they were playing too safe. Of course, they realized during their final that their approach was not working and then they OVERCOMPENSATED with playing too risky.

They are all fluctuating from playing too safe to playing too risky. And that’s not what they did when they played Federer in rounds before. (or what Murray did when he played Nadal at AU Open 2010)

[Reply]

Love the majors Says:
September 15th, 2010 at 11:52 pm
I agree with the analysis. Problem with winning a grandslam is that you have to 1st beat roger, or nadal then you have to try and beat the other in the final.

Soderling showed last year he’s capable of beating nadal in Paris but against roger in the final he choked. IF he played like he did against nadal he could’ve beaten roger in that final.

Djokovic said in an interview after beating roger in NY that he was going for it on Rogers serve because he he had nothing lose.

I think it’s harder to win a grandslam now more than ever because the reality shows us that you are going to face 1 of 2 opponents in the final, roger or raffa. An extraordinary feat to beat both players in the same tournament let alone beating 1 of them a grandslam final.

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Vijay Says:
September 16th, 2010 at 5:14 am
As a reply to your 1st point, Soderling lost to Nadal in Quarterfinals in this year’s wimbledon! He has been in quarters in majors a few times, and losing to Nadal in quarters is nothing to be ashamed of, but still he lost !!

[Reply]

Paul Drayton Says:
September 16th, 2010 at 9:57 am
Once again Tomaz, you are spot on. You may be a tennis genius!

Watching Djokovic hit floaters down the middle of the court had me screaming at my laptop! It just boggled my mind that he didn’t go for his shots in the 3rd and 4th, until it was too late at the end of the 4th.

Thanks for the blog, as someone mentioned, the best there is. One of the only blogs I read about tennis.

[Reply]

steven Says:
September 16th, 2010 at 10:22 am
Facinating insight and i couldnt agree more. The opinion that Nadal is some how better than Federer i think is false, and in many ways your analysis shows this to me. I think this is almost a breakthrough, the fact this informatioin is out in the open now, and i hope that it finds its way through the universe to the top guys and finds its way into their game plan when they play nadal and make sure he doesnt beat Federes record haul of slams. It seems an injustice to me that federer, easily the GOAT, had his record of winning all 4 majors matched just a year later. And it took federer an extra season in order to do it. Tragic.

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Tim Says:
September 16th, 2010 at 10:50 am
Hi Tomaz,

Thanks for the post. I think there is some truth in it. However, on the other hand, I think there are some other aspects of the game which are not mentioned correctly in your analysis.

I can’t say I am 100% sure, but I am fairly confident that Federer’s forehand, at least in the past year or two, is not quite as fast as Nadal’s. Nowadays Federer uses his placement and angle to pressure his opponent, and the pace almost always comes from taking the ball early inside the court. Note how few forehand winners he hits at the baseline. In fact, in the Federer/Djokovic semifinal match, I would say a big factor of Djokovic’s win comes from the fact that he can deal with Federer’s usual shots and forces federer to play with more risk.

On Nadal’s side, we should not overlook the spin comes from Nadal’s forehand. I would say it is actually a big reason why players tend to play a little bit safer against Nadal. His ball bounces differently and all other players have to be careful about it. In short, it may not be a psycological factor for them to play safe, but more like being forced to do so if they do not want to make to many errors.

As a last note, sorry for me to be picky, your number of the velocity of the ground stroke is quite off. Again I don’t know the exact numbers, but I am quite certain that through out the two matches, maybe even the entire tournament, Djokovic did not hit a ground stroke faster than 110 mph. I remember quite clearly that it is shown a winner from Federer’s forehand side is about 95 mph. The only 110 mph ground stroke I’ve seen shown is from De potro last year: that is a shot which just landed half a step from Federer’s position and he couldn’t hit it back. Gonzalez is well-known for his forehand and yet in the 2007 AO final several of his shot are shown and the velocity never exceeded 160 Kph which is just 100 mph.

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reem Says:
September 16th, 2010 at 10:53 am
Dare I disagree again 🙂 ?

1- Djokovic had 6 winners in the first set against federer as opposed to 9 in the first set with Rafa (according to the usopen website match stats)

2- Regarding shot speed, I actually dont know & to be quite honest my knowledge about the technicality of the game doesnt allow me to reach that far.. but lets agree on them, You think he fluctuated and I think he was forced to, his level against Federer was simply not enough to earn him a set against Rafa .. let’s ve a closer look at federer match stats : to take second set Djokovic needed 5winners/4UFE and 8/8 to take the forth .. Now about about what he needed to take the set of Rafa ? it was 17 winner/7 UFE … more winners than what he needed combined to earn 2 sets against Roger .. That is too much of a level to ask from someone to keep for 3 consecutive sets and that is a level that difinitely needed a step up in his aggressiveness … In his hard fought 5th set against Roger, the one had us all jaw dropping in admiration he made 13/11 ratio … so yeah he was fluctuating because if he could maintain that level, it would be insanely terrific display .. Not to mention the mental strength and level of concentration that it takes to do so … that would make him end the match with 50 winner/20 UFE ..

To sum it up, I believe that Nole played a much better match against Rafa .. more winners .. more aggressiveness .. an insane number of saved break points indicating huge mental strength … it was just that the level it needed to take Rafa out was much higher than the one it took to take Roger out … Nole could afford a mental check out in the first and third set .. and he could afford a stat like 5 or 8 winners to take another 2 sets …. but 17/7 to take 1 set .. it just too good to keep up to on the course of 4 hours … too good

[Reply]

Tran Says:
September 16th, 2010 at 11:23 am
Two things I agree with you: First, Beating Federer is itself a prize, a challenge that every player risks everything to achieve with the mindset of all-or-nothing. That in many ways shows how dominant Federer was and still is to every player. Second, Nadal with his style of play can force errors, win matches, but can NEVER enjoy the longevity, artistry, domination and with them, admiration, of Federer’s tennis.

It’s just too sad abut how modern tennis is.

[Reply]

Arturo Hernandez Says:
September 16th, 2010 at 11:41 am
That is really interesting! It’s funny because everyone is talking about how Federer made a huge number of UE’s against Djokovic. But he understands that at the US Open he will win more often than not by being aggressive. In the long run it will pay off. It just happen to not work out in his favor that day. The problem everyone faces with Nadal is that he can be aggressive and safe at the same time. He is fit enough to outlast everyone. So his focus in simply on playing his game and making everyone else adapt. The few people who have beaten him this year have done it by playing super aggressive (Murray at AO, Roddick in Miami, and to some extent Lubjicic in IW). In fact, Roddick switched strategies in the middle of the match and beat Nadal. But then in the final he basically played a completely safe game to win the final against Berdych. There is still a place for the hyper aggressive SV player who would put extreme pressure on all the baseliners. It might not work but I really wonder if a modern incarnation of Rafter would find success at the US Open. The problem is that all these tall players are using a short man’s style. Imagine if Murray with his long reach came in on every single point. He might not win as many matches but I want to believe that his chances of winning a US Open would go up. The amazing thing about Nadal is that he knows exactly what he does well and what he does not. Then he just sticks with it. He is also willing to risk in the right way. He adds things to make himself better. I completely agree with your point. But I think the real problem is that the tall players are not getting to the net enough where their height and reach would be a big advantage. And I know that there are plenty of players who can volley even though they use a 2 handed backhand but it is less natural. The real question is whether Federer is willing to fill this niche and rediscover his 1999 game in order to win one or two more slams. Or maybe better yet. Will there ever be an aggressive player willing to attack the net as much as possible?

[Reply]

Arturo Hernandez Says:
September 16th, 2010 at 11:44 am
One more thing. This actually explains how Schiavone won the French Open. She played like she had nothing to lose whereas Stosur played in a very afraid state.

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Sean Says:
September 16th, 2010 at 2:45 pm
Hello,
I read your article and wanted to say that your reason of why those guys lose to Nadal is very accurate, however, i wanted to add one point that i see as a factor. It takes so much mental and physical energy out of those guys or anyone to get past Federer if and when they do that if it happens to be the semi or the quarters, they just cant have enough in the tank to go clash against Nadal. If you look at some of the recent pattern of play where Fed was the fist victim and Nadal waiting to play the guy that beat him, its been the exact same scenario repeated (Nadal playing a tired and worn out opponent who is content to just have made it to the final ex Berdych at Wimbledon). I also believe that the US open schedule of having the mens semis and finals on back to back days deprives the fans from witnessing a quality tennis match in the Final. First off, its not enough time for the players to recover and if the happen to be top seeds, its going to be a long 5 setter semifinal and the guys playing the second semi of the day have less time to recover. In my opinion, that is exactly why i saw Fed lose the Open last year to Del Potro. Sure Del, hit his forehands hard and flat, but the key reason is that Fed let him do that by feeding too many short “hit me ” balls. Fed was worn out after the Djokovic semis. This year by contreversial opinion, i believe that Fed knew that if he was not able to clean up Djokovic in straights or max 4 sets, he was not going to have enough in his legs to go 5 sets with Nadal so he clearly let Djokovic have the match. How does one (more importantly the King) lose 6-1, 6-2 in sets 2
and 4? Thanks for writing and your site. Would love to hear your opinion on my message.

[Reply]

Ronen Says:
September 16th, 2010 at 7:49 pm
Hi Thomas,

I find it hard to agree with you.

First, saying that “all three are perfectly capable of beating Nadal” to me is incorrect. According to your stats each player has only 30% success beating Nadal. So sure, it’s possible, but not perfectly capable, mostly when NOT taking into account other parameters around previous matches like the occasion and other conditions. This was a grand slam final, quite different than other occasions.

Regarding your main argument, even if we exclude the rest of the match there was a notable difference between the way Djokovic played in the 4th set (mostly after the early break) to the rest of the match. after the break in the 4th set it seemed like he was going for broke. Many people thought that after the break the game was over, he managed to stall a little bit by playing extremely aggressive tennis (more of have-nothing-to-lose tennis) .. but even then it didn’t help him.

[Reply]

Tunde Says:
September 17th, 2010 at 10:10 am
Federer and Nadal are great champion, different from the rest of the field. Playing aggressively or safely is like a sew-saw game . Being able to switch back and forth comfortably and maintaining a good rhythm is very difficult. This is what makes a player great and separates them from the rest. If Djokovic start the match aggressively he would still lose. Djokovic plays extremely good tennis which every tennis teacher hopes the student can emulate. That is not good enough to beat two great plays in a row. Djokovic was able to win a slam because he’s opponent was a good player, not a great one. It’s just unfortunate Djokovic fell in the era of this two great players. He might have to wait for them to retire or hope they get injured before he could win another slam. Being great does not mean they won’t lose matches. Two different players need to take them out differently. Like in AO, Tsonga took out Nadal, Djokovic took out Federer.

[Reply]

Rania Says:
September 17th, 2010 at 5:40 pm
I totally agree with your explaination although I believe that Federer’s aggressive game & many winners attempts plus being a little weaker on his backhand gives them more opportunities to win than playing Nadal who tries very hard not to lose any forced or unforced error .

[Reply]

Andy Says:
September 17th, 2010 at 9:31 pm
Good analysis,

But here’s another thought.

Federer was truly awesome and the only one with the mental toughness to really beat him in his prime was Nadal. Other players ,like Djokovic , had the physical skills but not the mental ones required. Now that Federer is down a notch or two physically, it requires less mental toughness to beat him so the Djokovics of the tennis world have a much better chance. Plus, once you lose your invincibility in any sport, you can never get it back. Even so, Djokovic always seemed like a mental midget to me. I mean Roger serves at 44% for the 1st set and Novak loses it, c’mon. And while Nadal’s shots are safer than Roger’s, it is still very tough for an opponent to be consistent against such overwhelming spin, defense, speed, and conditioning.

At this point I would say Roger is the Greatest of All Time due to what he has accomplished overall, and Nadal is the greatest at any single point in time. The thing that really amazes me about Nadal is that he was basically a clay court specialist who completely transformed himself into the creme de la creme on every surface. That is the definintion of mental toughness.

But what the hell do I know. I’ve been playing 10+ years and I’m stuck at 3.5

[Reply]

Rikyu Sen Says:
September 17th, 2010 at 10:28 pm
Since you’re a tennis coach, let me ask you this question: Have you ever seen a player comeback so successfully from so many foot/knee injuries as Nadal has? I find it nothing short of miraculous that he can hustle around the court as hard and as fast as he does every match given his long history of injuries.

He has not gone a full year without injury since 2003:

2004
Rising tennis star Rafael Nadal of Spain broke his left foot and will miss the French Open, Wimbledon and the Athens Olympics.
http://www.usatoday.com/sports/tennis/2004-04-22-roundup1_x.htm

Late 2005/Early 2006
Foot injury delays Rafael Nadal’s comeback
http://www.rediff.com/sports/2006/jan/05nadal.htm

2007
Nadal plays down foot injury fear
http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/tennis/7117076.stm

2008:
Knee injury forces Nadal to retire in Paris
http://uk.reuters.com/article/idUKLV49845520081031

2009:
“I have been playing with pain on my knees for some months now and I simply can’t go on like this.”
http://sports.espn.go.com/sports/tennis/news/story?id=4245078

2010: Part 1
Nadal retires with a right-knee injury against Murray at the Aussie Open
http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/tennis/8478297.stm

2010: Part 2
Nadal announces knee treatments to follow Wimbledon
http://sports.espn.go.com/sports/tennis/news/story?id=5331883

[Reply]

Tomaz Reply:
September 18th, 2010 at 1:36 am

Hi Rikyu Sen,

Thanks for compiling this cool list of resources where we can learn about Nadal’s injuries. Yes, he keeps coming back although keep in mind, that every pro is injured here and there.

The fact that Federer has been injured so few times – and played at this level – is simply incredible.

[Reply]

Eduardo Says:
September 18th, 2010 at 7:06 am
I think that any analysis must be based on facts and not on hunches or impressions.
Djokovic made 47 unforced errors against Nadal in only 4 sets while he made 38 against Federer in 5 sets. You would expect less unforced errors when someone is playing more carefully. These stats contradict your theory, Tomaz, but there is more.
Winners: 36 against Federer in 5 sets and 45 against Nadal in only 4 sets. Against your theory again, I am afraid, because if I try to play carefully against anybody surely my figures will show less errors but also less winners.
If we must get to a conclusion from these data only we should conclude that playing more carefully got him to beat Federer and playing too aggresively with Nadal got him to lose. What we cannot conclude in any way is that Djokovic played more conservatively against Nadal, so your analysis is false.
Your analyisis might be also wanting respect to the lack of aggresiveness of Nadal compared to Federer. Federer had 48 winners in 5 sets while Nadal had 49 in only 4. Sorry.

[Reply]

Tomaz Reply:
September 18th, 2010 at 9:13 am

Eduardo,

My analysis is based on what I saw. And what I CLEARLY saw in the first set of Djokovic-Nadal were controlled, top spin shots flying through the air MUCH SLOWER than when Djokovic played in the first set (and most of the match) against Federer.

Get a tape of both matches and compare the speeds. It’s like night and day.

After that first set against Nadal, Djokovic realized what was going wrong as tried to be too much aggressive – but then he slipped back to controlled rallying. NONE of that happened when he played against Federer.

Again, my point is how Djokovic STARTED both matches and NOT how he played every single point. The whole problem for him in the final started from the lack of aggression and to careful play. He didn’t want to blow his chance – which is totally wrong thinking.

After that, he couldn’t find the ideal pace. He found it immediately when playing against Federer because he knew from the first ball that he needs to attack.

And if you don’t LOOK at the speed of the shots in both first sets, then we cannot debate here. Statistics don’t tell the whole truth. There are lies, damn lies and statistics. 😉

[Reply]

Rikyu Sen Says:
September 18th, 2010 at 7:53 pm
It may be true that all players have injuries, but Nadal really seems to be an aberration. He has retired from matches or tournaments (after already having played a match) numerous times throughout his career. A normal player that exhibited this frequency of injuries, I would think, would lose mobility over time, but Nadal just keeps coming back faster and stronger than ever.

Source: http://www.tennisexplorer.com/player/nadal/

Nadal retires or withdraws mid-tournament:

2010
Australian Open
retired – knee

2008
Paris – Masters
retired

2007
Cincinnati – Masters
retired

2007
Sydney
retired

2006
Queen’s
retired

2005
Auckland
retired

2004
Estoril
walkover

2003
St. Jean de Luz challenger
retired

[Reply]

AtaStrumf Says:
September 19th, 2010 at 11:59 am
I agree with Ronen. Djoko went for broke in the 4th set. I think he was happy enough to get that one set off Nadal, given the fact that Nadal only lost 2 games in the entire tournament up to that point. You could also see his father was sitting down, not getting too excited either way, unlike against Federer in the semis.

Djoko could have won that forth set and given himself a chance if he tried, but he didn’t. I was very disappointed to see that, given his mammoth effort against Federer. But he’s only human after all and I’d say he was mentally too drained to go 5 sets again, especially with the rain delays and all that.

All in all I was very impressed by the level of tennis of the top three guys and they thoroughly deserve to be there. Too bad Del Potro was absent this year, but word has it he should be back soon enough.

[Reply]

Arturo Hernandez Says:
September 20th, 2010 at 5:19 pm
Actually, I wonder if it is getting to a final that is the real issue. Soderling lost to Fed at RG just one year earlier in the final. Roddick who attacked in the semi-final also became conservative in the Key Biscayne final. I think you are right but had those players met Federer in a final my guess is that they would have lost more often than not. The interesting question is whether Nadal and Federer simply play finals without changing anything. Hence, we have the Fed Nadal Wimbledon finals which were all great. Neither was willing to back down but eventually one just managed to outlast the other. But you never got the feeling that either of them felt doomed to lose. Both fought until the last point.

[Reply]

Kelly Says:
September 21st, 2010 at 12:36 pm
I agree that Djokovic looked much more aggressive against Federer. However, I have a different explanation. 4 reasons. 1. Nadal’s “neutral shots have an aggressive topspin ball with high bounce that is very difficult to turn into offense, while Federers neutral (non-winners) come closer to the pros strike zone, allowing them to go on offense 2. I really believe the other
players have studied Federers game for years as “the one to beat” more so
than Nadal 3. Nadal has the left-handed factor that is difficult to play and/or
practice against. He is basically “both-handed” and hits winners with his
backhand when he was in a defensive position, pushed off the court. 4.
I think Nadal is in better physical shape than Federer at this point and has
more hunger to win and youth on his side.

[Reply]

Rikyu Sen Says:
September 21st, 2010 at 5:09 pm
Odd that Nadal’s official website would post a Nalbandian quote mentioning doping rumors, no?

http://www.rafaelnadal.com/content/not-only-great-champion-hes-great-person

David Nalbandian
Whatever he does, is pure energy. He’s tremendous, just tremendous. The energy that he has to play a Grand Slam final is the same energy that he puts into playing Playstation, into eating a plate of pasta, into going for a walk, into talking about cars [formula 1] or football. He’s tremendous. To me, he’s a totally gifted person.

Rafa doesn’t sleep. I swear to you that Rafa doesn’t sleep. He’s up till 2 am either on the Playstation or doing physio work. The other day, he was up at 9am, played 18 holes (golf), then come back and trained, then played soccer in the evening. He’s tremendous. I could probably try to follow [his rhythm] for 1, maybe 2 days, then I will be tired in bed, but this guy keeps going, every day, the same.

People used to say ‘with Rafa, it’s doping, surely…’ It was frequently debated. And people would ask me, and I’d say, ‘you think that because you don’t know him. You spend some time with the guy and you realize that he’s like [the energizer bunny] 24 hours a day.’

[Reply]

Julian Says:
September 25th, 2010 at 12:11 pm
Hi Eduardo: more unforced errors aren’t necessarily a sign of having played more aggressively. In fact In my experience as a player this is not true at all. Careful playing will very likely contribute more to unforced errors and to also become the recipient of more winners from a competent opponent. This may not be as evident at the club (although I’d debate that too) but it’s particularly true at the pro level… A confident, relaxed player, hits more powerfully, accurately and freely. When his mind is at ease, his body is tensionless (the player will take advantage of this state and play more aggressive tennis) which he knows will greatly help increase his possibility of winning.

No professional player would ever make a conscious choice to play carefully (less aggressively) if he could help it… If and when they do it’s mostly because of what i’d denominate as the main culprit : a non-ideal mental/emotional state that translates into unwanted/extra tension. Which interferes with hitting as relaxed and freely as they would like to. Although not a professional (but a very diligent student of the game) It is clear to me that the degree of aggressiveness in tennis is directly proportional to the player’s ability to achieve a relaxed state by diffusing muscle tension.

Again and in conclusion, I’m not one who believes the statistics tell the whole and real story… More UE do not necessarily mean the player played more aggressively. I’m actually one who believes it could very well be exactly the opposite. An aggressive player is playing in a more relaxed state and (IMHO) his chances of playing winning tennis automatically increases. Although I’ll admit I haven’t checked I’d say statistics should ultimately show that at the ATP level… Uhmm to be fair I’ll see to it that I look into that. You can take that to the bank friends !!! 😉

[Reply]

drew Says:
November 3rd, 2010 at 1:51 pm
Oops — all good stuff , but Feds was hurt! That’s your answer. He has been dealing with his back for a couple of years now and getting older isnt helping. And he’s not doping at the moment to fix it like a lot of players do. He never fakes MTO’s also like a lot of players like to do. In fact he rarely complains and calls time outs even when HE IS INJURED! In other words, he wasnt in trouble the first week at at wimbledon because his opponent is serving lights out and his return game istn good enough on grass to combat it so he starts feigning injuries.

Feds finally complained about his back after Berdych at wimbledon and everyone went berserk! What a poor champion! Big complainer making excuses. Again , I reapeat … he doesnt fake injuriy or MTO – LIKE OTHER WELL KNOWN PLAYER(S), He went to the hospital for an MRI on the back right after he left wimbledon. He had a great USopen culminating in a great victory over Soderling on a cold windy summer night (I know I was there). And sure enough the back was tight for his next match and got worse as the match progressed. Many first serves were long (sign of tight back) and the fh was uncharacteristically off. But this time you will get no complaints – you dont have to tell this player twice – why incur the same wrath of the fans. And once again he was off for an MRI right after the US Open

What happened in the final was Djoko was tired – pure and simple. That’s why all the lack of groundstroke power and errors the last two sets. Had they played sunday he would never have even won a set.

As for Nadal – there’s a alot that can be said – some good , some bad, some legal, some illegal. Ill just note one attribute of Nadal and leave the rest out. He’s a fighter – whether appreciated or not, whether legal or not – he’s an absolute out and out fighter and he and his Uncle are obssessed with him becoming the greatest ever and will do anything to achieve this. So when it gets to crunch time Nadal will grind, fight, scratch and claw his way to victory whether they are playing on a hardcourt wood surface or Cow Dung in India. That’s the difference between he and Federer

[Reply]

ric Says:
November 19th, 2010 at 12:45 pm
Did Nadal win because:

1. He did not care about the outcome in the final?

2. He was less afraid of his opponent’s than they were of him?