Federer's relatively poor break point conversion against Nadal - MensTennisForums.com
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post #1 of 49 (permalink) Old 05-22-2010, 05:48 AM Thread Starter
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Federer's relatively poor break point conversion against Nadal

Much has been said about the tactical aspect of this "rivalry" (e.g. Nadal hitting deep topspin balls to Federer's backhand which has led to numerous talks about Federer having to improve his backhand) and also quite a few about Federer and Nadal's mentality when it comes to face each other. It is about this latter aspect that I want to discuss here.

Taking all of their matches into account, Federer has saved 112 of 196 break point opportunities (57%) whereas Nadal has saved 122 of 191 (64%). I guess that a 6% difference might not sound like much to you but it's a lot in tight matches, like most of the encounters between them have been. But what's probably more surprising is the fact that Nadal has overall had only 5 more break opportunities than Federer in 21 matches and yet he's managed to win the double of matches as Federer (14-7 in the rivalry).

If we talk about GS, the difference is a lot more pronounced. Federer has saved 53 of 95 (56%) whereas Nadal has saved 60 of 93 (71%) and even more telling is the fact that in spite of the fact that Nadal has had 2 less break point opportunities than Federer in 8 matches, he's managed to win 6 matches and Federer only 2.

Critical GS finals between these two were probably RG 2007 in which Federer broke 1 in 17 chances and Wimbledon 2008 where he broke in 1 of 13 chances. As you probably know, Nadal won both of those matches in 4 and 5 sets respectively.


This leads me to think that the mental aspect is very strong and perhaps crucial when it comes to explain why Nadal has such a strong record against a player that might be regarded as the GOAT by virtually everyone if it wasn't for him.
Furthermore, it probably indicates that Federer's biggest weakness when confronting Nadal might not be his backhand but maybe -just maybe- his relatively weak mentality (in comparison to Nadal's). Of course, Nadal has always proven to be an extremely strong player in the mental department. In spite of not having an awesome serve, he's second behind Ljubicic in the past 12 months in the break-points-saved list (Federer is in the ninth position) and also second in the break-points-converted (Federer is 46th, shock!) list so his amazing breaking point saving capacity against Federer maybe isn't that surprising after all.

Code:
FEDERER
bp saved	bp faced	tournament
4	7	miami 2004
4	9	miami 2005
4	13	RG 2005
2	5	Dubai 2006
7	14	Monte Carlo 2006
6	9	Rome 2006
8	12	RG 2006
1	3	Wimby 2006
1	2	TMC 2006
6	8	MC 2007
5	7	Hamburg 2007
6	10	RG 2007
7	11	Wimby 2007
1	1	TMC 2007
1	7	MC 2008
11	17	Hamburg 2008
9	17	RG 2008
9	13	Wimby 2008
9	16	Australian Open 2009
4	4	Madrid 2009
7	11	Madrid 2010
112	196	Total

NADAL
0	0	miami 2004
6	13	miami 2005
6	12	RG 2005
0	3	Dubai 2006
14	18	Monte Carlo 2006
6	10	Rome 2006
7	10	RG 2006
4	10	Wimby 2006
8	11	TMC 2006
3	3	MC 2007
6	11	Hamburg 2007
16	17	RG 2007
5	8	Wimby 2007
1	4	TMC 2007
1	5	MC 2008
3	7	Hamburg 2008
3	4	RG 2008
12	13	Wimby 2008
13	19	Australian Open 2009
0	2	Madrid 2009
8	11	Madrid 2010
122	191	Total

Last edited by andy neyer; 05-22-2010 at 06:31 AM.
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post #2 of 49 (permalink) Old 05-22-2010, 05:51 AM
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Re: Federer's relatively poor break point conversion against Nadal

Nicely done. I think part of the problem which is rarely mentioned is that on break points Nadal has the benefit of using his swinging lefty serve to Federer's backhand. This usually results in a dumped Federer return in the net.

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post #3 of 49 (permalink) Old 05-22-2010, 06:23 AM Thread Starter
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Re: Federer's relatively poor break point conversion against Nadal

Wow, just checked the break points converted list and Federer is ranked 46th. That's very low for the current number 1 player in the world. He's below Verdaco but if it gives any confort, I can say he's slightly above a mental giant like Almagro.

Code:
Place     Player % Matches
1	Korolev,*Evgeny	50	21
2	Nadal,*Rafael	49	35
3	Chela,*Juan Ignacio	47	25
3	Troicki,*Viktor	47	25
5	Granollers,*Marcel	47	20
6	Sela,*Dudi	47	17
7	Melzer,*Jurgen	46	30
8	Querrey,*Sam	46	26
9	Robert,*Stephane	46	17
10	Ferrer,*David	45	41
11	Berdych,*Tomas	45	31
12	Ferrero,*Juan Carlos	45	29
13	Soderling,*Robin	45	27
14	Djokovic,*Novak	45	26
15	Berrer,*Michael	45	24
16	Mayer,*Leonardo	45	18
17	Davydenko,*Nikolay	45	17
18	Monaco,*Juan	44	32
19	Youzhny,*Mikhail	44	26
20	Kohlschreiber,*Philipp	44	25
21	Kubot,*Lukasz	44	24
21	Serra,*Florent	44	24
23	Greul,*Simon	44	21
24	de Bakker,*Thiemo	44	19
25	Llodra,*Michael	44	18
26	Montanes,*Albert	43	30
27	Garcia-Lopez,*Guillermo	43	27
27	Tsonga,*Jo-Wilfried	43	27
29	Petzschner,*Philipp	43	25
30	Fish,*Mardy	43	19
31	Cilic,*Marin	42	33
32	Seppi,*Andreas	42	21
33	Robredo,*Tommy	42	18
34	Rochus,*Olivier	42	17
35	Bellucci,*Thomaz	41	31
36	Gasquet,*Richard	41	25
37	Andreev,*Igor	41	22
38	Gonzalez,*Fernando	41	18
39	Russell,*Michael	41	17
40	Verdasco,*Fernando	40	35
41	Wawrinka,*Stanislas	40	27
42	Becker,*Benjamin	40	25
42	Lopez,*Feliciano	40	25
44	Murray,*Andy	40	20
45	Isner,*John	39	30
46	Federer,*Roger	39	25
47	Giraldo,*Santiago	39	17
47	Nieminen,*Jarkko	39	17
49	Almagro,*Nicolas	38	32
50	Fognini,*Fabio	38	18
51	Benneteau,*Julien	37	23
52	Cuevas,*Pablo	37	21
52	Monfils,*Gael	37	21
52	Zeballos,*Horacio	37	21
55	Clement,*Arnaud	37	20
55	Ljubicic,*Ivan	37	20
57	Lacko,*Lukas	37	17
58	Starace,*Potito	36	20
59	Baghdatis,*Marcos	34	32
60	Chardy,*Jeremy	34	21
61	Chiudinelli,*Marco	34	16
61	Hajek,*Jan	34	16
63	Hanescu,*Victor	33	24
64	Gulbis,*Ernests	32	31
65	Karlovic,*Ivo	32	25
66	Roddick,*Andy	31	30
67	Gimeno-Traver,*Daniel	31	17
68	Schwank,*Eduardo	27	19
69	Luczak,*Peter	23	18

Last edited by andy neyer; 05-22-2010 at 06:29 AM.
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post #4 of 49 (permalink) Old 05-22-2010, 06:38 AM
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Re: Federer's relatively poor break point conversion against Nadal

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Originally Posted by rafa_maniac View Post
I think part of the problem which is rarely mentioned is that on break points Nadal has the benefit of using his swinging lefty serve to Federer's backhand. This usually results in a dumped Federer return in the net.
Yup, southpaws have an edge serving wide to an orthodox in the ad-court [more often the game winning court].

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post #5 of 49 (permalink) Old 05-22-2010, 08:04 AM
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Re: Federer's relatively poor break point conversion against Nadal

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Originally Posted by andy neyer View Post
Wow, just checked the break points converted list and Federer is ranked 46th. That's very low for the current number 1 player in the world. He's below Verdaco but if it gives any confort, I can say he's slightly above a mental giant like Almagro.
cant give too much credit to that list with mental giants berdbrain and melzdown at the top.
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post #6 of 49 (permalink) Old 05-22-2010, 08:09 AM
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Re: Federer's relatively poor break point conversion against Nadal

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Originally Posted by -Valhalla- View Post
Yup, southpaws have an edge serving wide to an orthodox in the ad-court [more often the game winning court].
you would think so. but in this instance, if you think back to those delicious 1/17 and 1/13 matches, its all about Fed dumping middle-of-the-box second serve slice returns to the bottom of the net with him barely having to take a step. great fun.
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post #7 of 49 (permalink) Old 05-22-2010, 08:18 AM
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Re: Federer's relatively poor break point conversion against Nadal

Serve to the BH in the ad-court, pummel with FH the resulting BH slice, rinse and repeat

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post #8 of 49 (permalink) Old 05-22-2010, 08:27 AM
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Re: Federer's relatively poor break point conversion against Nadal

Yeah it's been a slightly frustrating aspect of his game (especially in matches against Rafa).

HOWEVER, I also think this is in many ways because Federer is creating more break point opportunities than other players? I'm not sure what the stats are on those, but I've always felt that Roger ends up creating break point opportunities quite often (including when he's playing against Rafa). I guess maybe he should step it up in a big way whenever such an opportunity arises but a lot of times he continues to play on the same level, unless it is a very critical game.
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post #9 of 49 (permalink) Old 05-22-2010, 08:37 AM
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Re: Federer's relatively poor break point conversion against Nadal

fed shits his pants more often than not whenever he sees nadal on the other side of the net.

i feel this is a mental hurdle fed will never get over in big matches. the spaniard is just too mentally tough for him, and of course, the advantage of the swinging lefty serve to fed's single handed backhand on break points.

i remember hamburg 2008 final, fed was up 5-1 in the 1st set playing beautiful tennis, then all of a sudden, just has the biggest brainfart i have ever seen and eventually lost that 1st set 7-5. he was up 5-2 in the 2nd set and he needed a tiebreak just to level the match at 1 set all.

french open 2007 - 1/17 and wimbledon 2008- 1/13, that just is not going to get it done, those 2 matches in particular mentally scarred federer.

i remember jim courier commentating during the 2009 aus open final and he said something along the lines of: "the difference between these two on break points is that rafa believes on a whole different level, and rafa delivers on break points, federer is just too passive on break point opportunities."

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post #10 of 49 (permalink) Old 05-22-2010, 08:53 AM
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Re: Federer's relatively poor break point conversion against Nadal

Good post, and mostly I agree, Fed is probably the favourite in a fast surface, but if things start going wrong for him, I doubt he can find faith after such a long history of losing the important points in the important matches. The only exception I remember is Wimby 07 fifth set, where Nadal wasted BPs and Fed played them well. Since then...

On the other hand, I think the last 12 months from Nadal have distorted our view on his career, this guy is known for being a killer not only of Fed, but of anyone else, and his H2H record against the whole lot of top players was (and still is) awesome. Actually Federer may be one of the few that has really challenged him.

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post #11 of 49 (permalink) Old 05-22-2010, 09:30 AM
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Re: Federer's relatively poor break point conversion against Nadal

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Originally Posted by andy neyer View Post
Wow, just checked the break points converted list and Federer is ranked 46th. That's very low for the current number 1 player in the world. He's below Verdaco but if it gives any confort, I can say he's slightly above a mental giant like Almagro.
Interesting, but the statistic would be more telling if there were the actual numbers as well. Obviously Federer creates so many more break opportunities and, consequently, more breaks than some lower ranked players, that he´s not that desperate for another break. What I mean is that if he leads a match, say 6-2, 5-1 and gets a couple of break points, it´s not like he fights over those points with the same ferocity as he did in the beginning of the match. That makes the statistics worse, but doesn´t really make him a mental midget.
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post #12 of 49 (permalink) Old 05-22-2010, 09:58 AM
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Re: Federer's relatively poor break point conversion against Nadal

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Interesting, but the statistic would be more telling if there were the actual numbers as well. Obviously Federer creates so many more break opportunities and, consequently, more breaks than some lower ranked players, that he´s not that desperate for another break. What I mean is that if he leads a match, say 6-2, 5-1 and gets a couple of break points, it´s not like he fights over those points with the same ferocity as he did in the beginning of the match. That makes the statistics worse, but doesn´t really make him a mental midget.
That is true to some extent, but in general, I would say Federer is too passive and too predictable(floaty slice) on 2nd serve return at breakpoints, especially when he only has 1 breakpoint. And not only against Nadal, it's like that against everyone.
Before serving his opponents have already played the point in their head 3 times giving them a big advantage.

Now I want to see whether there are separate stats for bp conversion rate for 1st serve return and 2nd serve return. My guess is that the 2nd serve return breakpt conversion is bringing his overall % down.

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post #13 of 49 (permalink) Old 05-22-2010, 10:04 AM
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Re: Federer's relatively poor break point conversion against Nadal

Points taken but even when Fed was way more explosive in return serves (cf. WMB 2003 against Sampras), he created a slew of breakpoints against Pete's serves, and failed to convert a frustratingly large number of them. In matches before 2003, it was pretty much the same story, so really, it's been a pattern from his very early pro years.



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post #14 of 49 (permalink) Old 05-22-2010, 10:05 AM
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Re: Federer's relatively poor break point conversion against Nadal

BP conversion stats are very tricky. If it's 0-40 and you have three break points and you lose the next two points, it's 30-40. But if you win the next point you break and win the game. That's the best result you can wish for, but bp stats says 1-3. Three games like this and you have broke the serve three times, but your stats are 3-9, which on paper looks pretty bad.

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post #15 of 49 (permalink) Old 05-22-2010, 10:26 AM
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Re: Federer's relatively poor break point conversion against Nadal

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BP conversion stats are very tricky. If it's 0-40 and you have three break points and you lose the next two points, it's 30-40. But if you win the next point you break and win the game. That's the best result you can wish for, but bp stats says 1-3. Three games like this and you have broke the serve three times, but your stats are 3-9, which on paper looks pretty bad.
True. Also, if it´s 0-40, some players go for risky returns, figuring that if they get one big winner, it gets them the break. Again, it makes the stats worse but can actually be a smart tactic since the goal is to get the break, doesn´t matter if they get it with the first or third break point.
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