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Old 10-09-2012, 02:09 AM   #1
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Default In-depth analysis of matchups/matchup issues between ATP players

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.

Reasons:

-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.

Reasons:

-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.

Reasons:

-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, Tsonga, Simon (including best matchups) and Murray - most posts from #76 to #117

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Old 10-09-2012, 02:25 AM   #2
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Default Re: Worst matchup issues between top (10/20) players

I don't know what to say besides good read
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Old 10-09-2012, 02:28 AM   #3
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Default Re: Worst matchup issues between top (10/20) players

I've got another for ya, Berdych-Djokovic, Nole leads 9-1.
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Old 10-09-2012, 02:30 AM   #4
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Default Re: Worst matchup issues between top (10/20) players

How about Ferrer-Almagro 11-0?
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Old 10-09-2012, 02:31 AM   #5
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Default Re: Worst matchup issues between top (10/20) players

You say that Berdych hitting through Rafa on slow surfaces doesn't work, but I thought that this was pretty much the only way to beat Rafa on slow surfaces, like Soderling and Del Potro can do.

Didn't you also say once that Cilic has a pretty good serve?
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Old 10-09-2012, 02:33 AM   #6
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Default Re: Worst matchup issues between top (10/20) players

One of the reasons Nadal owns berdshit is his lefty kicker out wide that berdshit can't seem to counter. He generally has more trouble with heavy serves and he is more comfortable with ball bashing Olderer's faster, flatter serve back into play with his short backswings rather than dealing with topspin. Olderer is the same way - he returns Roddick's 240kmh serves with ease, but struggles against Nadal's slow 180kmh serves, especially to backhand.
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Old 10-09-2012, 02:34 AM   #7
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Default Re: Worst matchup issues between top (10/20) players

Quote:
Originally Posted by J99 View Post
I've got another for ya, Berdych-Djokovic, Nole leads 9-1.
This is not explained by matchup, but by Berdych's mental midgetery vs Novak. They have actually split first sets in their matches (5-5) and Berdych has had chances in a lot of them. You could write a book with all the times Berdych choked vs Nole (even in the one match he won). It's a difficult matchup for Berdych for sure, but far from an unsurmountable one from a tennis point of view.

Quote:
Originally Posted by J99 View Post
You say that Berdych hitting through Rafa on slow surfaces doesn't work, but I thought that this was pretty much the only way to beat Rafa on slow surfaces, like Soderling and Del Potro can do.

Didn't you also say once that Cilic has a pretty good serve?
Del Potro is far more consistent with his power than Berdych. He doesn't try to hit through Rafa from the baseline, but rather draw a short ball from him to finish the point. Soderling's huge swings allow him to generate more power; Berdych's compact swings are a strength against a guy like Federer who thus can't time his time away, but against Rafa on slow courts you really need to unload yo have a good chance.

Cilic's serve is horrendous. It used to be decent back in late 2009/early 2010 (albeit weak for a big guy), now it's just horrendous in general, I'd say Djokovic serves better.
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Old 10-09-2012, 02:37 AM   #8
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Default Re: Worst matchup issues between top (10/20) players

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mark Lenders View Post
This is not explained by matchup, but by Berdych's mental midgetery vs Novak. They have actually split first sets in their matches (5-5) and Berdych has had chances in a lot of them. You could write a book with all the times Berdych choked vs Nole (even in the one match he won). It's a difficult matchup for Berdych for sure, but far from an unsurmountable one from a tennis point of view.
Well it is explained by mental matchup then, for whatever reason Berd folds when playing him.
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Old 10-09-2012, 02:38 AM   #9
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Default Re: Worst matchup issues between top (10/20) players

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mark Lenders View Post
This is not explained by matchup, but by Berdych's mental midgetery vs Novak. They have actually split first sets in their matches (5-5) and Berdych has had chances in a lot of them. You could write a book with all the times Berdych choked vs Nole (even in the one match he won). It's a difficult matchup for Berdych for sure, but far from an unsurmountable one from a tennis point of view.
Lenders pretty please do Ferrer-Almagro!
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Old 10-09-2012, 02:38 AM   #10
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Default Re: Worst matchup issues between top (10/20) players

Andreev-Kohlschreiber 7-0 (8-0 if you include hopman cup)

Analyze away
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Old 10-09-2012, 02:48 AM   #11
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Default Re: Worst matchup issues between top (10/20) players

Quote:
Originally Posted by Freak3yman84 View Post
Lenders pretty please do Ferrer-Almagro!
Mental issues can't be ignored. Almagro has a phobia of beating higher ranked players that I'd never seen before. You can always bet on him to lose even when he's close to winning.

There are matchup issues too though. Outside of clay, Almagro is extremely reliant on his serve and Ferrer can return it excellently. On clay, it's Ferrer's ability to redirect power and force Almagro to hit one extra shot that does the trick. Although Spanish and a clay court specialist, Almagro is much more of a big hitter than grinder, he hits big off both wings and is an offensive player, with limited defensive skills. Ferrer can get more balls back in play than anyone on tour bar Nadal and he usually does it with great depth, leading Almagro to pile on the errors/get exposed as soon as he's put on defense.

With that said, the H2H wouldn't be this one sided if Almagro was tougher mentally.

Quote:
Originally Posted by orangehat View Post
Andreev-Kohlschreiber 7-0 (8-0 if you include hopman cup)

Analyze away
Andreev might very well generate more top spin than anyone on tour not named Nadal. Huge topspin FH to one handed BH has bad matchup written all over it. Andreev has also been known to trouble Federer a lot even in Slams, lacking the mental fortitude to close it out. He is a bad matchup to one handers for much the same reason Nadal is too (without the other assets Nadal has to be more than a mere bad matchup though of course).

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Old 10-09-2012, 02:51 AM   #12
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Default Re: Worst matchup issues between top (10/20) players

Quote:
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How about Ferrer-Almagro 11-0?
11-1, Almagro won a Bilbao masters match in 09', whatever that is.
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Old 10-09-2012, 02:53 AM   #13
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Default Re: Worst matchup issues between top (10/20) players

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mark Lenders View Post
Mental issues can't be ignored. Almagro has a phobia of beating higher ranked players that I'd never seen before. You can always bet on him to lose even when he's close to winning.

There are matchup issues too though. Outside of clay, Almagro is extremely reliant on his serve and Ferrer can return it excellently. On clay, it's Ferrer's ability to redirect power and force Almagro to hit one extra shot that does the trick. Although Spanish and a clay court specialist, Almagro is much more of a big hitter than grinder, he hits big off both wings and is an offensive player, with limited defensive skills. Ferrer can get more balls back in play than anyone on tour bar Nadal and he usually does it with great depth, leading Almagro to pile on the errors/get exposed as soon as he's put on defense.

With that said, the H2H wouldn't be this one sided if Almagro was tougher mentally.
Thanks! A nice unbiased analysis!
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Old 10-09-2012, 03:14 AM   #14
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Default Re: Worst matchup issues between top (10/20) players

Quote:
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Andreev might very well generate more top spin than anyone on tour not named Nadal. Huge topspin FH to one handed BH has bad matchup written all over it. Andreev has also been known to trouble Federer a lot even in Slams, lacking the mental fortitude to close it out. He is a bad matchup to one handers for much the same reason Nadal is too (without the other assets Nadal has to be more than a mere bad matchup though of course).
Your reasons are valid, but it doesn't explain Andreev-Wawrinka (0-1), Andreev-Gasquet (4-5) or Andreev-Youzhny (1-3) though.
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Old 10-09-2012, 03:21 AM   #15
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Default Re: Worst matchup issues between top (10/20) players

You could also argue that Nadal hates Berdshit, which is another reason why he lifts his game against him.
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