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RICOH ATP MatchFacts: Charting Novak's Rise

Novak Djokovic

Djokovic© Getty ImagesDjokovic has skyrocketed from 21st place in 2010, to joint third in second serve points won this season.

Novak Djokovic is having one of the most storied seasons in tennis history. Though the Serbian has stated his change in fortune is due to an increase in confidence, the RICOH ATP MatchFacts provide statistical evidence that Djokovic has improved in all facets of his game this season. With three major titles, five ATP World Tour Masters 1000 crowns and a 64-3 record, the 24 year old has been nothing short of dominant in 2011.

An area of the Serbian’s game that has greatly contributed to his ascendance to the top of the South African Airways ATP Rankings is his return. Among players on the ATP World Tour this year, Djokovic ranks in the two top in all four categories. Most notably, the World No. 1 has won 41 percent of his return games, five percent greater than the next highest success rate, shared by Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal.

“Novak absorbs pace very well on the return and he has excellent racquet control when taken out wide, which allows him to hit offensively when stretched,” explains Justin Gimelstob, ATP Board Member and tennis commentator. “He takes the return very early and thus gets it back on his opponent very quickly. His technique is flawless and thus repeatable under pressure.” 

Djokovic is second to Murray in first serve return points won at 37 percent, leads all players by taking 58 percent of his second serve return points, and is second best in break point conversion percentage, at 48.

In addition to strong improvement on returns, Djokovic has beefed up his service stats, with his second serve showing the biggest gains. “No doubt, Novak's improved serve is a huge part of his improvement this year. Last year his serve was a weakness, as he wasn't getting a lot of free points and he was prone to double faults,” assesses Gimelstob.

Last year, the Serb won 52 percent of his second serve points, placing him in a tie for 21st, well behind chief rivals Nadal (ranked first with 60 percent) and Roger Federer (tied for third with 56 percent). In 2011, Djokovic has increased his percentage to 56, catapulting him to joint third with big servers Andy Roddick and John Isner and just behind leaders Nadal and Federer at 57 percent. “This year, because Novak has improved his serve technically, eliminating the hitch that developed at the top of the swing, it is holding up under pressure and so that weakness has turned into a weapon,” Gimelstob states. “That type of shift on the most important shot in tennis is huge and changes the outlook of a match, especially when the rest of Novak's game is so incredible.” 

In 2010, the Belgrade native won 71 percent of his first service points to rank 37th, and has improved to 23rd this year by winning 74 percent of those points.

It is clear Djokovic has been far more impactful on serve this year compared to his previous season, winning 87 percent of his service games, five percent better than his 2010 mark. “There is no doubt by holding serve more, winning more free points, and double faulting less, it puts more pressure on his opponents,” says Gimelstob. “Novak has no other weakness and as a result, the consistent, cumulative pressure he puts on his opponents is overwhelming. He is the best mover in the sport right now and his backhand and return of serve are the best in the game currently as well.”

Did You Know?

Nicolas Almagro led all players on grass this season by winning 84 percent of his first serve points.
Xavier Malisse has been the most efficient on his break point opportunities, converting 50 percent of his chances.
Nikolay Davydenko is the only player to hit 70 percent of his first serves in play on hard courts.
Ivo Karlovic has the distinction of simultaneously having the best career service games won percentage (91), and the lowest career return games won percentage (9) among players having played 200 matches (since 1991). 

How To Use RICOH ATP MatchFacts

Player RICOH ATP MatchFacts:  
Use the dropdown menus to see a player’s RICOH ATP MatchFacts by career or year and by all matches or by surface

Player Category Leaders in RICOH ATP MatchFacts:
See which players top the 10 RICOH ATP MatchFacts categories by searching by year or career and all matches or by surface

Top 200 RICOH ATP MatchFacts Leaders:
A fully sortable table comprising the Top 200-ranked players, measuring everything from tie-breaks won to double faults hit. View by year and by all matches or by surface.

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