As the Spanish World No.2, Rafa Nadal bids for his second crown at Melbourne Park this year, it is worthwhile to look at certain aspects of his tennis where he has shown a marked improvement over the last four years, making himself harder to beat not just on clay but across surfaces.
Nadal’s return of serve in 2020 was 4% better than 2019
The World No.2 has gone a notch higher in terms of improving his return of serve. The quality of service returns is often the key to winning breakpoints and converting them, and Nadal has been fairly consistent in that regard over the last four years.
He has proved to be one of the best returners in the game, especially with those trademark shots that come with a generous dose of topspin that almost always seem to stop at the opponents, thereby inducing unforced errors.
Rafael Nadal converted 49% of his break points last year
The Spaniard’s match stats in 2020 shows that he converted a whopping 49% of all the breakpoint opportunities he had. The figure marks a 4% improvement in that particular aspect of the game from 2019.
It is also a reflection of his ever-improving service returns that got him those breakpoint opportunities in the first place.
To a serve delivered with pace, spin, accuracy, and placement, a returner only has one chance to nail a winner or put it back in play. Even if the first serve is called wide, the server can reload but once a return is mishit, it stays that way.
Nadal scored the majority of his winners off the second serve
A good returner will always sense his chance of hitting a winner off the second serve as the server is more anxious to land it right and often ends up compromising on pace and placement.
This is precisely where Rafa has scored the majority of his winners – off the opponents’ second serve.
It is his signature backhand shot that has fetched the 20 time Grand Slam champion majority of his service winners.