BY CRAIG O’SHANNESSY
Imagine winning Wimbledon… one, two, three, four, five… six times!!!
Novak just powered through the 2021 Wimbledon draw for the loss of just two sets. Dominant. Controlling. Commanding. Superior. Supreme.
Here are 10 keys to his tournament victory.
1: Serve & Volley = 88% Won (36/44)
Novak served and volleyed nine times in the final against Matteo Berrettini, winning seven of those points. The primary reason he did it was that he knew Matteo was going to safely chip his return, especially from wide serves on Deuce court. He knew the ball would be sitting on a silver platter as it came over his side of the court, ripe for a sneaky serve and volley play. It was a masterful display of coming straight forward knowing that Matteo was not going to tee off and drill a return right at his feet.
It was exactly the same dynamic in the semi-final against Denis Shapovalov, especially serving wide to Denis’ backhand return in the Deuce court. Novak served and volleyed 14 times in the semi, winning 13. Masterful!!! Here’s Novak’s serve & volley points by round.
- Rd 1 v Jack Draper = Won 7/8
- Rd 2 v Kevin Anderson = 0
- Rd 3 v Denis Kudla = Won 3/4
- Rd 4 v Christian Garin =Won 1/1
- Qtr v Marton Fucsovics = Won 5/5
- Semi v Shapovalov = Won 13/14
- Final v Berrettini = Won 7/9
- Total = Won 88% (36/41)
The tournament average for serve and volley points won was 66%. Novak blew that out of the water winning 88%.
2: Dominant In Short Rallies
Rally Length Played
This was not a tournament where Novak stayed back and looked to be patient and grind and suffer. The overwhelming majority of his points played were a maximum of just two shots in the court (0-4 shot rally length).
- 0-4 Shots = 69% (935)
- 5-8 Shots = 20% (278)
- 9+ Shots = 11% 153
- Total = 1366
Which rally length did Novak dominate the most? Glad you asked!!!
- 0-4 Shots = 533 won / 402 lost = +131
- 5-8 Shots = 149 won / 129 lost = +20
- 9+ Shots = 89 won / 64 lost = +25
Novak crafted his advantage much more in the 0-4 shot rally length than anywhere else. He played more there and he won more there. Novak was the king of short rallies at Wimbledon this year.
3: Net Points Won = 76% (144/190)
The tournament average for points won at the net was 66%. Novak blew that out of the water, winning 76%. Novak came to the net 190 times in 23 sets for an average of 8.3 a set. The net was an integral part of his success for the tournament. Novak came to the net 48 times in the final, winning 71% (34/48). That’s good for an average of 12 times per set. Novak was absolutely, positively hunting the short ball at the pointy end of the tournament.
4: Forehand / Backhand – Winners To Errors Ratio
It’s always good to compare winners to errors to gauge the overall performance of forehands and backhands. I am grouping forced and unforced errors into one category – simply called errors.
- Forehands = 66 winners / 173 errors.
- Backhands = 35 winners / 178 errors.
So this is how it breaks down as a percentage.
- Forehands (239) = 38% winners / 62% errors.
- Backhands (213) = 16% winners / 84% errors
So when Novak’s forehand was the last shot of the rally, it ended with a winner 38% of the time. It only ended with a winner 16% of the time from the backhand wing. We all worship Novak’s backhand (and it is worship-worthy), but his forehand is simply the more dominant shot.
5: The Four Battle Grounds
Novak won three of the four battlegrounds he played for the tournament. The four battlegrounds reflect how the point starts – with your first or second serve or your opponent’s first or second serve. Here’s how it ended for Novak.
- 1st Serve Points Won = 84%
- 2nd Serve Points Won = 56%
- 2nd Serve Return Points Won = 55%
- 1st Serve Return Points Won = 31%
It’s interesting that Novak won almost the exact same amount of his opponent’s second serve as his own second serve.
6: Break Points Saved
The tournament average for break points saved was 61%. Novak was at 79% (26/33). The most break points he faced was against Shapovalov in the quarters. He faced 11. He saved 10. Incredibly impressive. Novak was so good in the clutch at Wimbledon this year. Getting to break point against him is a very worthy accomplishment. Actually converting the break point was all too often too big of a mountain to climb.
7: First Serves To Matteo’s Forehand In The Final
We are only going to focus on Novak’s first serves to Position 1 in the Deuce Court and Position 5 in the Ad court. Here’s how he did.
Novak First Serves
- Position 1 = won 21/22
- Position 5 = won 13/13
- Combined = won 34/35
Novak had a lot of “holes” around the court that he could go to when he needed a point. Serving to Matteo’s forehand was one of them. All too often, Matteo either coughed up a return error or a sliced return that Novak could instantly attack. Matteo committed 10 return errors at Position 1. Novak hit three aces and extracted three return errors at Position 5. These serve locations were hidden gems for Novak that he focused on all throughout the match.
8: Serve +1 Performance
Novak performed much better in the final vs. Matteo when he started the point with a forehand as the first shot after the serve.
Serve +1 Forehand Points Won
- Novak = 61% (27/44)
- Matteo = 48% (29/60)
Serve +1 Backand Points Won
- Novak = 52% (17/33)
- Matteo = 40% (16/40)
We all thought that the big hammer from the back of the court was going to be Matteo’s forehand. When you evaluate it on a stats sheet, it was actually Novak’s forehand.
9: Baseline Points Won = 53% (371/701)
The tournament average for Baseline Points Won was just 46%. Novak crushed that number, winning 53% of all points where he was standing around the baseline when the point ended. To be clear, the opponent could have been anywhere. They could have been attacking Novak at the net, or trying to trade blows with him from the back of the court.
He only won 45% (50/110) against Shapovalov in the semi-final. Not good enough. In the final against Matteo, that elevated back up to 53% baseline points won (73/137). Matteo could only manage to win 38% (54/144) in the final.
10: Short Rally Domination In the Final
In the final against Matteo, Novak was dominant when the rally stayed in the o-4 shot range. When it developed into a fifth shot in the court or longer, he actually had a losing record. But guess what… who cares when you are so dominant at the biggest slice of the pie?
Final v Berrettini
- 0-4 Shots = Novak 104 / Matteo 85 = +19
- 5th Shot & Longer = Novak 41 / Matteo 46 = -5
This is how winning works at all levels of our sport. There were 189 points played in 0-4, good for 69% of total points. It does not matter if you underperform in the other 31% because you are dominating the larger pool of points.
Congratulation to Novak and Matteo for a great tournament. Novak was able to add to his extensive trophy cabinet. Matteo got a brief look at what life looks like at the top of the mountain.
Craig O’Shannessy, Brain Game Tennis & Contributing Editor
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