Federer v Djokovic – Cincinnati Final. What the Stats Say

In an effort to demonstrate the value of stats, even at the pro level, I recorded the Cincinnati final on Sunday using GT Stats. Not that the stats will tell Roger Federer anything he doesn’t already know! The stats do reveal what RF is probably working hard on in the lead-up to the US Open next week.

Part of the value in doing this exercise is to point out the value of displaying stats graphically. It makes a lot more sense to junior tennis players than just numbers on a screen, or dots on a piece of paper.

Full Match Stats

I think it was clear to everyone watching that Federer made a stack of unforced errors. A lot more than normal and his ratio of winners/forced errors to unforced errors was pretty poor. His groundstroke ratio was a mere 0.35. The graph below clearly illustrates that RF’s forehand was far from its brilliant best. His backhand wasn’t fantastic either.

His serve was probably the only shot that kept him in the match, although more on that later.

Serving Stats

This is where it gets interesting. The serving stats graph shown below looks odd. Both players are around 60% first serves in and around 70% points won on first serve. The odd part is that the red bar bottom right is the percentage of points that Novak won on his second serve. It’s a pretty rare match to have your second serve points won percentage HIGHER than first serve points won percentage, particularly when you’re not a known big server like Novak.

A look back at the stats screen reveals the exact numbers. Novak won 71% of points when his first serve went in, and 78% when his second serve went in. In fact, he only lost 4 points on second serve, and 2 of those were double faults.

Return Stats

It’s been well documented that Novak had a little more heat on his second serve on Sunday compared to the rest of the tournament in Cincinnati. While part of the reason for his success, Federer’s return of serve stats make for pretty ordinary viewing.

The graph below shows that RF didn’t put a whole heap of pressure on the Djokovic second serve, making a total of 12 unforced errors on return. That’s a stat for returning both first and second serve but you get the picture. 6 forehand and 6 backhand errors on return compared to 1 winner. Fed’s only return winner came on the third last point of the match.

A Note on Federer’s Serving Stats

Federer’s serving stats appear fairly normal at first glance. His first and second serve percentages as well as points won on both are lower than his usual lofty standards, but they’re not terrible.

Where it gets interesting is in the Point Count display. Federer served 4 double faults for the match. Not great, but not shocking, until you realise WHEN he served those double faults:

  • 3-3, Deuce, First Set. Djokovic broke serve next point
  • 2-1, Deuce, Second Set. Djokovic broke serve next point
  • 3-3, Deuce, Second Set. Djokovic broke serve next point
  • 3-5, 40-30, Second Set. Federer held serve

In isolation, it’s a pretty telling sequence. Djokovic broke Fed’s serve 3 times in the match. Each time he broke, it came on the back of a Federer double fault at Deuce.

Far be it for this humble coach to provide advice to one of the greatest of all time. He doesn’t need it, mainly because he could probably repeat the above without looking at a stat sheet. I bet I know what he’s focusing on in practice this week!

By the way, a GT Stats graph displaying when a player double faults is on the way!

Why is all this Important?

Up and coming juniors need to see this sort of information, but it’s preferable that they see it graphically, in a language they understand. GT Stats provides the functionality to clearly show junior players where they’re going wrong.

Moreover, it provides coaches with an incredibly clear understanding of where their players are going well, and where they need more work. If one of my junior players had the above stats, I know precisely what we’re working on next time we hit the practice court!

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