Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic lock horns once again, in their 37th meeting, and 14th on hardcourt, plus their third US Open final, later this afternoon.
In evaluating nearly all matches, there is a fair amount of overlap in each variable so I’m giving a series of % benchmarks for both players to at least be competitive in the match, for avoiding losing, and for winning outright. All stats are based on their specific head to head matchups only Stat source: http://www.matchstat.com
1st serve in: Rafa average 66% in wins, 60% in losses, with an overall average of 61. Benchmark to compete: 53%.
Djokovic’s average is 62% in wins and 64% in losses, with a low of 51%.Never has been below 51% in any match. Let’s use 62% as the figure for Djokovic to win.
Aces/double faults: Rafa is averaging +2 in this ratio in wins, +2.5 in losses. Needs to avoid 4 double faults in this match to avoid losing. Djokovic averages +3.5 in wins, +1 in losses. For Djokovic, 5 aces, and/or a result of 3 double faults or less would be ideal.
1st service points won: Nadal is 71% in wins, 62% in losses. Needs at least 57% to be competitive, and 74% to win.
Djokovic is 73% in wins, 60% in losses. Needs 63% to be competitive.
2nd service points won: Nadal is 56% in wins, 41% in losses. Needs 42% to stay competitive, and 59% to win.
Djokovic is 60% in wins, and 40% in losses. Must get 44% to have any chance, and at least 60% to win.
Fastest serve: Rafa averages 205 for fastest speed in their matches in wins, 202 in losses.
Djokovic’s best speed in matches is 207 in wins, 205 in losses.
This stat is a wash.
1st serve speed: Rafa averages 176 Kph in wins, 180 in losses. Needs to be at 172 for an average to be competitive, and preferably above 180 to win.
Djokovic’s 1st serve speed is 184 in wins, 186 in losses. Must keep his serve in the 180s.
2nd serve speed:
Rafa’s average speed here is 152 in wins, 136 in losses. Line of demarcation is very clear; he must average 144 Kph in this area.
Djokovic’s 2nd serve averages 139 in wins, 151 in losses. Also needs 144 Kph.
Break points converted:
Nadal’s record is 49% in wins, 33% in losses. To have any chance, he should at least have 25%, and absolutely above 67% to win.
Djokovic’s record is 61% in wins, 50% in losses. 22% is is low threshold here. Let’s say 61% is the requirement
Return points won:
Nadal is 41% in wins, 34% in losses. Needs 29% to stay competitive, and 43% to win.
Djokovic is 44% in wins and 35% in losses. Needs 38% to be competitive, and 45% + to win.
Winners/unforced errors: Nadal is averaging +5 in their matchups when winning, -8 in losses. Djokovic is +2 in wins, -5.8 in losses.
Net approaches: Nadal is 67% in wins, 75% in losses. Needs to be at 68% to have any chance.
Djokovic is 73% in wins, 63% in losses. Needs 66% to be competitive, and above 77% to win.
Seems that in all categories, Nadal has lower requirements to meet, and that may give him a good advantage. Already he leads the head to head series 21-15, and 7-3 in Grand Slams.
Looking further, let’s see how many of these benchmarks each player made thus far in the 2013 US Open:
vs Gasquet: 5
vs Robredo: 5
vs Kohlschreiber: 6
vs Dodiq: 6
vs Da Silva: 7
vs Harrison: 6
vs Wawrinka: 4
vs Youzhny: 6
vs Granollers: 7
vs Sousa: 6
vs Becker: 7
vs. Berankis: 6
On these stats alone, I’m giving Nadal a tough 4-set victory. But let’s look at the biorhythms to measure the potential:
Nadal’s been competing in a tough triple-low period but is already emerging from this, and the power surge is the first sign. He will be hitting shots that seem effortless, really coming into stride…even if he does make a lot of unforced errors and tosses his racket once or twice. He can’t get too down on himself, really. But he must lock into his power game here.
Novak had a run of critical days, never fun to experience during a tennis tournament and he certainly looked rather mortal in the semis vs Wawrinska. If anything, his brainpower is at peak. You’ll see him make very few mistakes. The only issue is the power…it won’t be there, or very little to speak of anyway. He has to be more about finesse here to succeed.
Both competitors seem to have average cycles in terms of their stamina and pure athletics. Yet Djokovic appears to be making better decisions overall.
The stats say Nadal in 4 but the cycles suggest Djokovic in 5.