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Brain Game: Federer Fast & Furious In Madrid

Mutua Madrid Open Final

Federer© Getty ImagesRoger Federer won close to two thirds of his points within three shots or less.

Craig O'Shannessy breaks down the Mutua Madrid Open final.

Roger Federer relied heavily on first strike tennis to narrowly defeat Tomas Berdych in three sets in the final of the Mutua Madrid Open. The conditions in Madrid favoured attacking early in the point and both players were much more aggressive with their serve and return of serve than normal.

Federer was well rewarded for his aggressive play, winning almost two out of three points within the first three shots of the rally – unheard of in traditional clay-court tennis. Federer won 65 of 103 points (63%) for the match within the first three shots of the point.

Yet it was Berdych who set the tone of the match in the second game when he hammered two return winners in Federer’s opening service game to get the initial break of the match.

More than half of total points (122/204 or 59.8%) ended within the first three shots of the rally as both players placed more emphasis on ending the point early rather than building a traditional clay-court rally from the back of the court.

Federer and Berdych brought more pressure on the service return than normal, combining to hit 10 return winners (five each).

Federer’s four backhand return winners were all hit off second serves down the line in the Ad court, the No. 1 place on tour from which return winners are typically hit. The lone forehand winner was also hit from the Ad court, but it went cross court and skidded off the line past Berdych’s racquet to give Federer a set point at 5-6, 15-40 in the second set.

Berdych hit four of his five return winners down the line (three Ad court, one Deuce court) as he looked to make points as short and aggressive as possible.

Below is a breakdown of the 122 points that lasted three shots or less.

Federer First Strike Points* Won Serving and Receiving.

Federer Aces


Federer Return Winners


Federer 1st Shot After Serve Winners


Federer Serve And First Volley Winners


Berdych 1st Shot After Serve Errors


Berdych Forehand Return Errors


Berdych Backhand Return Errors


Berdych Double Faults


Total First Strike Points Won


Berdych was also following the same aggressive game plan and won 56% of his points within the first three shots of the rally.

Berdych First Strike Points Won Serving and Receiving

Berdych Aces


Berdych Return Winners


Berdych 1st Shot After Serve Winners


Berdych Serve & First Volley Winners


Federer 1st Shot After Serve Errors


Federer Forehand Return Errors


Federer Backhand Return Errors


Federer Double Faults


Total First Strike Points Won


*First strike defined as points lasting three shots or less.

Craig O'Shannessy is the founder of the Brain Game
, a tennis analysis website that uses extensive tagging, metrics and formulas to uncover the patterns and percentages behind the game.

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