Strategic Match Analytics by Harsh Mankad. Powered by Tennis ComStat
Madrid Masters Final: Nadal vs Thiem Match Analysis.
#1 Insight. The key stat in the match was the difference in unforced errors between the two players (see graphic below). Nadal generated an equivalent number of winners and forced errors while keeping his unforced error count to half of Thiem’s. Therefore, Nadal played a much cleaner match in this regard.
#2 Insight. While Thiem’s forehand is his weapon along with his serve, he made a high number of unforced errors (17 in total) on his forehand side, which turned out to be costly. Much of this can be attributed to the “Nadal effect” which may have pushed Thiem to hit his forehand with less margin, resulting in a high number of unforced errors.
#3 Insight. Nadal clearly attacked Thiem’s backhand from the center of the court and from his forehand side (see Nadal’s forehand shot distribution below).
In handling Nadal’s heavy forehands to his backhand, Thiem’s backhand down-the-lines skewed more towards the middle (see chart below), enabling Nadal to run around and hit his forehands, which is Nadal’s preferred pattern of play.
To successfully neutralize Nadal’s heavy forehands to his backhand, Thiem needs to develop a sharper backhand down-the-line and place the ball within the blue corridor outlined in the chart above. Furthermore, Thiem can improve his backhand slice (much like Federer has) and chip it down-the-line keeping the ball low to Nadal’s backhand, which will keep him neutral in the point and bait Nadal to go to his forehand.
#4 Insight. While in the ATP Barcelona final versus Thiem, Rafa served predominantly out wide on the add court to Thiem’s backhand on 1st serves (56% landed in), in Madrid, Rafa’s 1st serve placement had much more variety keeping Thiem guessing on his returns (see the serve placement comparison charts below).
Rafa’s greater variation of his 1st serves in Madrid, resulted in him receiving more returns to the center of the court (~40% in Madrid compared to ~20% in Barcelona). This enabled Rafa to gain control of the point early with his heavy forehands.
#5 Insight. Rafa was much more dominant from his backhands in Madrid compared to Barcelona against Thiem. The red lines showcase errors, while the green and dotted green lines showcase winners and forced errors earned.
- Nadal played a cleaner match with comparable number of winners and forced errors to Thiem’s, however, markedly fewer unforced errors.
- Thiem’s forehand was a bit wayward in this match, however, this could be attributed to Nadal’s speed and defensive skills pushing Thiem to go for more.
- By developing a sharper backhand down-the-line, including a Federer like slice, Thiem can successfully neutralize Nadal’s forehand onslaught to his backhand.
- Nadal’s change in strategy to vary his 1st serves more in Madrid paid rich dividends by keeping Thiem off-balance and drawing many returns to the center of the court.
- Nadal’s execution off his backhands was much improved in the Madrid final compared to the Barcelona final.
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Harsh Mankad is the Founder and President of Tenicity (www.tenicity.com), an innovative technology developed to support tennis programs to systematically develop players and maximize their potential with data and analytics. Harsh is a former NCAA #1 singles tennis player and Davis Cupper for India. Harsh played on the ATP Tour for nine years and competed against several former world #1 singles players like Andy Murray and Andy Roddick. Harsh holds an MBA from the Carlson School of Management.
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