Federer Versus Nadal Wimbledon 2006
Tennis is such a strategic game and so much of what is really going on isn't really seen by the average fan.
As an example, I charted Rafael Nadal's serving patterns against Roger Federer in the Wimbledon final 2006 and they reveal a fascinating match within a match.
I"ll discuss Nadal's first serve placement as this was his major strategic decision serving-wise ( almost all his second serves were topspin/slice to Fed's backhand).
For the match, Nadal served approximately 90% of his first serves to Fed's backhand in the deuce court and 10% to the forehand. In the ad court, he served about 50-50 backhand/forehand.
For the match, Nadal won 68% of his first serve points and his highest winning percentage was the serve to the forehand ( down the middle) in the ad court.
This is my sense of how the tactics played out during the match. In the first set, Nadal came out and served predominantly to the Fed backhand in both the deuce and ad sides (Nadal served 11 of his first 13 serves to Fed's backhand).
Federer came out, I believe, totally prepared to neutralize the Nadal slice serve to his backhand. He was ready to slice more returns and he may have adjusted his return position slightly.
After getting broken the first 2 service games and down break point at 0-5 in the first set, Nadal then hit 3 serves to Fed's forehand in a row, winning 2 of the 3 points. He then got broken by losing the last 2 points after serving to Fed's backhand.
Nadal Switched Strategy As The Second Set Began
I believe Nadal made a tactical decision to serve more to Fed's forehand as the second set started. In his first service game, he held at love serving twice to Fed's backhand in the deuce court and twice to Fed's forehand in the ad court.
For the second set, Nadal ended up serving 17/17 serves to Fed's backhand in the deuce court and 12/17 to Fed's forehand in the ad court. He won 80% of his serves to Fed's forehand to the ad court.
Interestingly, he changed his pattern when he was serving for the set at 5-4. He served once to the forehand, 3 times to the backhand, and hit 1 double fault.
In the third and fourth sets he went back to the backhand primarily, serving 85% to the backhand in the deuce court and 68% to the backhand in the ad court. This may have been because he picked up that Fed wasn't cheating as much or may have been due to other factors.
To me, the most interesting observation is the low percentage of first serves wide to the Federer forehand in the deuce court. I believe that this is Nadal's weakest placement and Federer now knows this.
Looking at Nadal's service motion and especially his starting position, I wonder if the extremely closed hip rotation in his setup doesn't make it very hard for him to rotate back to get into position to go wide in the deuce court.
I know that if I were Nadal's coach I would be very pleased with his performance and I would begin working like crazy on that serve wide in the deuce court. If he can master that, I think that he'd be able to beat anybody on any surface.