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Breaking Down The 'Big Four' In RICOH ATP MatchFacts

'Big Four' Comparison

Murray, Djokovic© Getty ImagesWorld No. 3 Andy Murray and No. 2 Novak Djokovic will look to challenge Roger Federer for the year-end No. 1 ranking.

Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray have won the past 16 ATP World Tour Masters 1000 events. With Murray breaking through for his first major title at the US Open, the quartet have triumphed at 30 of the past 31 Grand Slam tournaments. All four find their own ways to win, placing inside the Top 10 in a number of RICOH ATP MatchFacts categories this season to support the perception that this collective group, the ‘Big Four’, are in a league of their own on the ATP World Tour.

The Serve
Though he’s the eldest of the four, 31-year-old Roger Federer is the chief server, outranking his closest rivals in three of four categories. Federer is fourth overall in first serve points won at 78 per cent, matching the success rate he’s produced throughout his career. The 17-time major champion is also third in service games won at 91 per cent, trailing only big-serving Milos Raonic and John Isner. Nadal has won 88 per cent to rank fourth and Djokovic is right behind in fifth at 87 per cent.

“Serving is a lot like pitching in baseball. People get obsessed with speed, but it is the sum of all parts that makes a great server. Federer epitomizes this,” says Tennis Channel analyst Justin Gimelstob. “The combination of disguise, location, accuracy, along with pace makes a truly great server. Federer's ability to disguise his intentions and hit any spot in any situation combined with the way he backs up his serve is why he holds serve the highest percentage in men's tennis.”

Where Federer is making his most significant mark is on second serve, taking 60 per cent of those points to lead all of his competitors. Djokovic and Nadal are second and third respectively at 57 per cent. All four have stepped up when their serve has been under pressure, with three ranking inside the Top 10 in break points saved. Nadal is fourth at 71 per cent, Federer seventh at 69 per cent, Murray ninth at 68 per cent and Djokovic 12th at 67 per cent.

MatchFactsFederer DjokovicMurrayNadal
1st Serve Points Won 78% (4th) 74% (19th) 73% (24th) 75% (17th)
2nd Serve Points Won 60% (1st) 57% (2nd) 55% (12th) 57% (3rd)
Break Points Saved 69% (7th) 67% (12th) 68% (9th) 71% (4th)
Service Games Won 91% (3rd) 87% (5th) 84% (19th) 88% (4th)

The Return
It should come as no surprise that two of the most gripping major championships in recent years have come this season, with Djokovic outlasting Nadal in the longest final in Grand Slam history at the Australian Open and Murray edging Djokovic in the joint-longest US Open final. All three are exceptional returners, making up for lost ground on serve to Federer with their abilities to scramble, play on the defensive and ultimately put more returns in play than their peers.

Nadal (38%) and Djokovic (36%) are the frontrunners on first serve return points won, with Murray ranking eighth at 33 per cent. The Scot turns the tables on second serve, leapfrogging to the front with a 57 per cent conversion rate, just ahead of second-ranked Djokovic (56%) and third-ranked Nadal (55%). The Spaniard, out since Wimbledon with a recurring knee injury, had been winning 38 per cent of his return games. Djokovic is second at 34 per cent, while Murray comes in at No. 4 (32%). Nadal also leads in break points converted at 49 per cent, with Djokovic positioned in fifth at 45 per cent.

MatchFactsFederer DjokovicMurrayNadal
1st Serve Return Points Won 32% (17th) 36% (2nd) 33% (8th) 38% (1st)
2nd Serve Return Points Won 51% (15th) 56% (2nd) 57% (1st) 55% (3rd)
Break Points Converted 42% (22nd) 45% (5th) 41% (28th) 49% (1st)
Return Games Won 27% (14th) 34% (2nd) 32% (4th) 38% (1st)

The show these four athletes have put on in 2012 makes for an exciting final two months, as the year-end No. 1 South African Airways ATP Ranking and Barclays ATP World Tour Finals title are on the line. The slightest improvement for one of these champions in just one RICOH ATP MatchFacts category could be the difference in finishing No. 1 or No. 4.

“The player that seizes momentum in the fall will finish No. 1,” Gimelstob says. “Djokovic and Murray have momentum and the least amount of points to defend but Federer has proven to be the best indoor player of this generation.”

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