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Federer v Nadal Roland Garros Semifinal Preview

I won’t bore you with a long winding intro of the history of the Nadal-Federer rivalry, the match tomorrow is kind of a big deal.

Below are 3 keys to the match:

1.  Federer’s Serve vs. Nadal’s Return

Federer has held serve thru this tournament 74 of 78 service games (95% success rate).  Nadal has broken his opponent’s serve 31 of 65 games (48% success rate).  Also, historically this is a indicator of who wins this matchup between the rivals.   The chart below shows Federer’s serve % on the x axis, along with his wins in red.

Federer’s wins are tightly correlated to his serve %, with no wins against Nadal when he fails to hold serve less than 79% of the time.

Service Hold % Federer Wins Nadal Wins Federer Win Pct
90% to 100% 10 0 100%
80% to 89% 4 4 50%
70% to 79% 1 6 14%
<70% 0 13 0%

For example, in Federer’s more recent 5 match win streak, he has held serve 93%, 82%, 100%, 100%, and 100% of his service games.  He has only allowed Nadal to break him 5 times total of those 5 matches.

The unique part of this match is that it is on clay, the first meeting between these 2 in over 6 years on this surface.  Not surprisingly, Nadal has been much more successful breaking Federer’s serve on clay.

Federer has only managed to hold serve above above 80% of the time in 4 of the 15 matchups on clay.  When he did, he won 50% of the time.

The first key stat for tomorrow’s match, is the Federer holding serve %.  If it is below 80%, huge advantage for Nadal.  If it is above 80%, Federer can keep this match very competitive.

2.  Tiebreaks … Number & Performance

Federer won his match Tuesday with Wawrinka through 2 tie breaks.  Besides that, the match was pretty equal.  Through the 38 matches in the Nadal-Federer rivalry, they have (only) played 21 tie breaks with Federer leading 11-10.  In Nadal’s wins, he is 8-6 in tie breaks but during Federer’s wins, he is 5-2 in tie breaks.  So it seems that it is more important in Federer’s wins to win a tiebreak than in Nadal’s.

Also, Federer has been much more likely to get to a tiebreak, having 6 tiebreaks in his 10 clay court matches this year.  He is 5-1 in those tiebreaks.  Nadal only has reached 2 tiebreaks in 22 clay court matches this year and is 1-1 in those.

3. First Set

The winner of the first set in this rivalry is 29-8, however this stat includes 23 matches played best of 3.  For best of 5 matches, the winner of the first set is 11-3 including 5-2 on clay.  Nadal & Federer’s success this season on clay also directly align to winning the first set.  In Nadal’s 19 clay court wins this season, he is 18-1 in the first set.  In his 3 losses, he is 0-3 in the first set.  Federer has also been very good in the first set, winning it in 9 of his 10 clay court matches this year.

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