The Secret Behind Federer’s Five-Match Win Streak Against Nadal
Federer tips the serve v. return battle heavily in his favour
Roger Federer broke down Rafael Nadal’s much-vaunted return game during his 6-4, 6-3 victory in the Shanghai Rolex Masters final by hitting the corners of the service boxes at will, and by staying a step ahead in the guessing game of which corner he was aiming at next. Federer’s serve was completely dialed in, leaving Nadal to continuously play catch-up on the quick indoor court.
The pair has now played 38 times, with the Spaniard holding a 23-15 advantage. The following metrics show how dominant Federer was on serve and how Nadal was unable to make an impact on return.
Nadal Return Statistics v Federer
Lowest: 2nd Serve Return Points Won = 21% (3/14)
It was the lowest percentage of second serve points won by Nadal in their 38 matches. The next lowest was 25 per cent (5/20) won at Indian Wells earlier this year, when Federer dominated 6-2, 6-3. Overall, Nadal has won 50 per cent (679/1348) of second serve points head-to-head against Federer.
Lowest: Percentage Return Points Won = 18% (8/44)
The 18 per cent return points won represents a career low for Nadal against Federer. In all of their other matches, Nadal has averaged winning 38 per cent (1347/3570) of his combined first- and second-serve return points.
Equal Lowest: Total Return Points Won = 8
This ties the lowest total for first and second serve points won with their 2011 Nitto ATP Finals clash, which Federer won 6-3, 6-0. Those two matches represent the only two times out of 38 that Nadal has been in single figures for return points won.
Equal Third Lowest: Total First-Serve Return Points Won = 5
Nadal only won six points against Federer’s first serve in their 2017 Indian Wells encounter, and won one less Sunday in Shanghai, with just five points won.
2017 Shanghai Final - First Serve Location Deuce Court
It was all about the mix for the Swiss. Federer served 12 times out wide in the deuce court, and 14 times down the middle. This even mix constantly had Nadal guessing, and, more often than not, it was the wrong way.
Federer won 10 of 12 service points out wide in the deuce court, with four being backhand return errors from Nadal. Federer won a perfect 8/8 when he made his first serve down the middle T in the Deuce court, including four aces and a service winner.
In the ad court, Federer served 14 times out wide, making 10, and winning seven. He served nine times down the middle T, making eight, and winning five. Nadal had no idea where Federer was going, or when.
The Five-Match Win Streak
Federer has now beaten Nadal five straight times for the first time, with four victories coming this year, and one back in 2015. The following 10 metrics showcase just how dominant Federer’s serve has been during the five-match win streak.
When leading 15/0 on serve, Federer has held every time (42/42).
When Federer has been pushed to deuce, he has held 93 per cent (13/14) of the time.
Federer’s career first-serve percentage is 62 per cent. He is making 63 per cent (240/379) during the streak.
Federer has hit 52 aces and just seven double faults. Nadal has served just 14 aces, while also committing seven double faults.
Federer’s career first-serve points won is 77 per cent. He is winning 79 per cent (189/240) now against Nadal.
Federer has averaged saving 67 per cent of his break points in his career, but that has sky-rocketed to 80% (20/25) during the five-match win streak. Nadal is at 63 per cent.
Nadal has averaged winning 34 per cent of his first-serve return points for his career, but is only at 21 per cent (51/240) during the five matches.
Nadal has averaged winning 55 per cent of his second-serve return points for his career, but is only at 42 per cent (59/139) during the five matches.
Nadal has only won 19 per cent (4/21) of break points returning in the ad court.
Federer has only found himself down 0/30 seven times in the five matches, winning three of those games.
Nadal did make an adjustment in the Shanghai final by moving further back to return against Federer. That tactic worked for Nadal in the 2017 US Open final against Kevin Anderson, but didn’t make a difference against Federer yesterday.
More adjustments, more tweaks, and more video analysis of Federer’s streak will be needed by the Spaniard to figure out his recent returning conundrum.