Think You're Gonna Break Rafael Nadal From 0/30? Read This First…
NEWS SOURCE: ATP News
Divide and conquer. The way to win big battles is to cut them up into smaller, more manageable ones. It’s also an ideal way to understand the constricting pressure Rafael Nadal applies at the beginning of a game against his opponents on clay courts.
An Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers analysis of Nadal competing in just the first two points of the game when serving and returning at the five biggest European clay-court events uncovers that he is almost unstoppable if he creates early separation.
The five tournaments are the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters, the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell, the Mutua Madrid Open, the Internazionali BNL d’Italia and Roland Garros.
Nadal played all five events from 2015-2018 but withdrew in the Round of 32 of Roland Garros in 2016 with a left wrist injury. Nadal has won 80 titles in his career, with these five tournaments representing 58 per cent (46) of that total.
Rafael Nadal 2015-2018 / Career
1. Nadal Serving: First Two Points Of The Game
It’s the next best thing to automatic, and here’s where the battle gets even harder for his opponents. After playing just two points on serve, Nadal is more likely to be at 30/0 than either of the other two scores.
Nadal: Point Score Probability After Two Points Serving
Nadal is still well in command when serving at 15/15, holding 83 per cent (324/392) of the time. Even from the perilous position of 0/30, Nadal is still effectively in break-even territory, rallying to hold 49 per cent of the time.
Rafael Nadal: Percentage Of Holding Serve
2. Nadal Retuning: First Two Points Of The Game
Nadal: Point Score Probability After Two Points Returning
Nadal forces his opponents to 15/15 55 per cent (458/831) of the time, instantly spiking the pressure metre. What’s fascinating is that his opponents slipped to 0/30 25 per cent (211/831) of the time, which was more often than they enjoyed a 30/0 lead, just 19 per cent (162/831) of the time.
The end result is that Nadal navigates himself to 30/0 when serving more than twice as much (46% to 19%) as his opponents.
Rafael Nadal: Percentage Of Breaking Serve
Nadal’s most eye-popping return stat is that he has broken serve at Roland Garros 54 per cent (67/123) of the time when his opponent has served at 15/15 in the past four years. The game is just beginning, but Nadal’s hidden edge to break serve is already in full swing.
Playing Nadal in any of these five events is a monumental challenge. He boasts a career win percentage of 92 per cent (317/343) during the European clay-court swing, and he has suffered just nine losses there in the past four years.
Giving Nadal an early lead in the game makes winning it nearly impossible. Playing boldly against Nadal early in the game to grab the initial score advantage certainly has its merits.
POSTED ON April 11, 2019