I came accross a very unfortunate MTF thread questioning if matchups existed in tennis
That however gave me the idea of discussing the worst matchup issues between top 10/20 players.
I'm not referring to awkward matchups here (eg. Berdych to Federer), more to situations where a certain players finds another (almost) impossible to overcome, extreme matchup issues and the reason why they exist. Here are some - five: (I left Federer vs Nadal out on purpose as that particular matchup has been discussed to death, was more looking to talk about less discussed matchups)
Nadal vs Berdych
Nadal leads 12-3, but has won the last 11 matches, dropping only 2 sets in the process. He won 20 consecutive sets at one point. Berdych played a brillaint match earlier this year in Australia, still didn't take more than a set.
Reasons for this:
-Berdych's game is based on overpowering/hitting through his opponents from the baseline, his serve isn't a huge weapon nor is his net game. Hitting through Nadal on the current uber slow conditions is almost impossible. Nadal just keeps retrieving one more ball until Berdych inevitably makes the error.
-Berdych can't do anything on the Nadal serve. He's one of the best returners on tour, does a lot of damage even on the Federer serve. But against Nadal? Nothing. Even on second serves he can rarely get the initiative off the return.
-Nadal knows how to play against Berdych. He's usually more aggressive vs Tomas than most other matches, can take his time away better than anyone else and also expose Tomas's movement issues (as Tomas himself admitted). He also has no trouble with Berdych's hitting patterns, he actually reads them like an open book and they play into his strengths.
Federer vs Ferrer
13-0 Federer, 3 sets won by Ferrer. Most sets pretty routine for Federer.
-Ferrer thrives on a consistent rythm from the baseline, Federer doesn't give him that at all; he has the variety to completely mess up Ferrer's game and timing and make him leave plenty of short balls
-Federer's ability to put away short balls and volleys. Among the same lines as the first point; Ferrer can be a tricky opponent when he's allowed to rally with his opponent and turn the match into an endurance/griding contest, Federer simply never allows that to happen. Add to that the fact that Ferrer can't return the Federer serve if his life depended on it and you have the most one sided head-to-head in top level tennis, only likely to become even more one sided.
Federer vs Soderling
16-1 Federer, 5 sets won by Soderling overall. Soderling did get him at RG once with a stunning performance, but the matchup issues remain. Reasons:
-Federer can take Soderling's time away/rush him and force him to be constantly on the defensive. This is the main issue really; Soderling loves to unleash his huge strokes and against Federer that is harder than against anyone else. Federer can wrestle the initiative and make him defend more than anyone else on tour and expose his movement issues. Soderling needs to serve huge and return great to have a chance against Federer on any given day, or else he will simply not allowed to have the initiative on most points, therefore being a sitting duck.
Del Potro vs Nishikori
4-0 Del Potro, 10-0 in sets, most of them blowouts. Complete ownage.
-Del Potro's power/foreand. Kei likes (and manages) to dictate from the baseline even against huge hitters like Tsonga and Berdych, but he can't deal with Delpo's power and all. Especially JMDP's forehand that constantly pushes him far behind the baseline. Despite his quickness around the court, Kei lacks world class defensive skills and really struggles when he's forced to play defense, which he invariably is against Delpo. His lack of a serve allows JMDP to have the initiative even on his serve games and break him time and again (20 breaks in 10 sets). Will be tough for Kei to even win a set in this matchup in the future if he can't come up with a different strategy, rallying with Del Potro is a losing battle as the Argentine easily overpowers him.
Djokovic vs Cilic
7-0 Djokovic, one set for Cilic with 9-7 in the tiebreak. All very straightforward wins for Novak.
-Cilic's serve is horrible for a guy his size and a liability in general (not that strong 1st serve, poor %), Djokovic is the best returner on tour... you do the Math.
-Nole can easily frustrate Marin with his defense, making him go for too much and leak errors. Nole can even overpower him at times as well. There's basically no safe place to go for Marin in this matchup.
I know there are more examples (maybe more glarring) and also maybe more reasons for these examples, these were just the first that came to mind. Do feel free to argue these five and the reasons and to indicate others
Other matchups discussed - some of them not complete mismatches but still interesting discussions - , with links:
Ferrer vs Almagro
Andreev vs Kohlschreiber
Davydenko vs Gonzalez
Davydenko vs Blake
Del Potro vs Soderling
Gasquet vs Simon
Simon vs Federer
Ferrer vs Gasquet
- + most of the posts from #62 to #70
Murray vs Simon
Murray vs Federer
Davydenko vs Berdych
Nadal vs Dolgopolov
Del Potro vs Haas
Haas vs Nadal
Simon vs Tipsarevic
- also post #139
Haas vs Davydenko
- also post #146
Berdych vs Del Potro
Gasquet vs Nadal
Monfils vs Kohlschreiber
Nalbandian vs Soderling
Soderling vs Tsonga
Ferrer vs Del Potro
Nalbandian vs Gasquet
Nadal vs Wawrinka
del Potro vs big hitters
Worst matchups for Djokovic
, Del Potro
, Simon (including best matchups)
- most posts from #76 to #117