As for Nadal-Berdych's match-up change of pattern, I forgot to say that the main explanation imo is the evolution of Nadal's game.
Imo the two main evolutions of Nadal's game with time have been :
- playing deeper : in the beginning of his carreer he played shorter because of his huge spin. That stronger depth has often been described as "playing flatter" but I remember an article which had made measures and it was not that clear that he really played flatter, partly yes, but probably Nadal has also been able to hit the ball stronger ; it's been very important for him on hardcourts against players like Berdych and Blake ;
- his serve, which has clearly improved in power, spin and variety.
(another important evolution is the slice but I don't think it's as important as the two previous ones)
I think these two aspects have been very important against Berdych. The serve has already been talked about, but also playing short is killing against Berdych whose main pattern is precisely to accelerate short balls.
Especially the return from matches of the pair that I've watched (at least three, I think, all of which Blake won). Blake is very fond of running around the backhand to thwack forehand returns and it was a very profitable pattern of play against Davydenko. Blake could actually dictate a lot more points from his forehand side against Davydenko than Gonzalez was ever able to (he has a shorter swing which partially explains that). Further, Blake doesn't give up ground on the baseline easily. Like Federer in that sense, he could continue to direct points even when Davydenko would hit deep counters, using the baseline half volley when necessary.
thanks a lot
yes, Blake's return (also his backhand return as far as his matches against all players generally are concerned) and ability to half-volley are very strong points for him.
I don't generally think of the short swing rather than wide but yes, it's a very important point which I should have more in mind generally.
I was impressed by Nishikori's half-volleys against Berdych as well (and Berdych's ability to half-volley is very important against Fed as well, this is also a point which differentiates Berdych and in a lesser extent Tsonga from Del Po and Söderling)
I don't have an answer for that but yes, it's strange. Part and parcel of being the showman type players that Monfils, Baghdatis and (to a lesser extent) Youzhny are. I certainly think it brings pleasure to all three of them, Monfils enjoys being in 'interesting' and 'epic' rallies, perhaps to his detriment.
for Youzhny and Baghdatis, I think it's also because they are players who build their points very well, especially Youzhny, I love his matches against Simon for that.