Basel: Winning from behind

REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

Photo by REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

Today, Rafa played #24 Grigor Dimitrov in the round of 16 in Basel. Once again, the match started with Rafa getting broken. In fact, he was broken early in each set. I’m not sure I like this trend, but I’ll take coming from behind to win over losing from ahead any day. Rafa won 6-4, 4-6, 6-3.

Nadal Dimitrov
Statistics on Serve
Aces 4 7
Double Faults 2 2
1st Serve % 67% 54%
1st Serve Points Won 38/53 (72%) 37/50 (74%)
2nd Serve Points Won 15/26 (58%) 15/42 (36%)
Break Points Saved 2/6 (33%) 3/8 (38%)
Service Games Played 15 14
Statistics on Return
1st Return Points Won 13/50 (26%) 15/53 (28%)
Second Return Points Won 27/42 (64%) 11/26 (42%)
Break Points Won 5/8 (63%) 4/6 (67%)
Return Games Played 14 15
Statistics on Points
Total Service Points Won 53/79 (67%) 52/92 (57%)
Total Return Points Won 40/92 (43%) 26/79 (33%)
Total Points Won 93/171 (54%) 78/171 (46%)
Other Stats
Winners 16 26
Unforced errors 28 41
Net Approaches 5/8 (63%) 4/6 (67%)

15 Responses

  1. beachfan says:

    I am always happy when Rafa wins, but he made us sweat. I worry that Rafa starts slowly so that serving first does not always work for him. I still prefer that he serves first when he can.

  2. Rafa’s doing well with the 2nd serve, both serving and returning. That’s a very good new! High error count, for him, but that’s the more aggressive game, I guess. More winners needed.

    • harry houdini says:

      I also think his high error count now is also more due to him being more aggressive on the forehand. Earlier in the year it was due to just not hitting the ball well/getting tired faster.

      It’s tough to play this aggressive fh style on fast courts without a serve like federer’s or even djokovic’s. But better to play this way on fast courts than running all the time.

    • Aero says:

      I though it was interesting that during the Asian swing two of the commentators mentioned that they wished he had more faith in his second serve the went more for his first serve. Part of the issue being that he is not a natural lefty and the other part being that he has opted for placement over pace.

      I remember his comeback in 2013, his serve was working very well and it was extremely difficult to break him. He needs that serve back. Perhaps that back injury in the AO final affected his serve, just a hunch, nothing that I’ve read anywhere.

      • harry houdini says:

        Rafa seems to have the most variation in serve speeds within a surface across players. I don’t always get it.

        I agree he had great command of his service games that year in 2013. In 2013, rafa won the majority of his hard court matches with a 109mph 1st serve. Would be interesting to know what kind of rpms he was getting on his serve that year and in 2011.

  3. Caprice says:

    There is a definite trend of starting slow and then finding his range later. This is not typical of Rafa. I suspect that because his game is not suited to fast low bouncing surface, he needs a lead up time on this surface.

    I also do not like that he failed to defend the first 4 break points.

    However all this must be taken into context: he is trying out a new style of play, plus this is by far his worst surface. I must add that I love his new service return position on second serve. He was mere inches from the baseline, and later in the match was returning very well.

    I hope playing back-to-back long, tough 3 setters in both doubles and singles everyday is not going to spell trouble for Rafa later in tournament, and especially injury-wise.

    Rafa will have a tough match against (probably) Cilic in QF, and then will probably be easier in SF against Gasquet or Karlovic. Hopefully Gasquet. If he gets to final, will likely face Federer. Will be the final everybody is hoping for, but I don’t think Rafa can beat Federer right now.

  4. wbeau says:

    I have never really cared much about the fall swing. The season is too long for even a fan like me! However, looking at score lines it looks like Rafa is getting his mojo back! I agree that it’s unlikely he can beat Fed on a indoor hard court right now, but it is just great to see him going deep in tournaments and beating top guys. And it is sports…that’s why you have to play it.

  5. mallorcanchamp says:

    A match with a lot of ups and downs for both players, there’s wasn’t a favorite, and there wasn’t a clear winner until last points, but hey, I’m not expecting a dominating Rafa here, I’m more than happy to see Rafa competing well in this low bounce courts, not saying he’s also winning and getting more time court practice, which is fantastic.

    Rafa’s game is already in one piece again, that’s the best news.

    What he can reallisticaly do better: better serving. This is the part of his game where he has lots of margin to improve. By playing lots of matches he will peak again on his serve.

    Now I see Rafa recovered in mind and game, my concern is health again. He has to take care of himself. It’s good to have these matches in indoors (which he normally loses being at his best) but he has to cut the grind of playing 3-set matches and try to win at least a match in straights.

    This will generate chances to go far in tournaments in this part of the season and not get overworked for the start of the next one, which is the main goal right now.

  6. Krishna says:

    I somehow feel like he should not have come to basel. Dont want him hurting his body now other than trying for the wtf in O2. Not even bercy. Main focus should be to try and win AO 2016. Whatever he does after, I just wish to see him complete a double career grand slam which i dont think any other player has… that will be awesome!

    • Aero says:

      I think he is committed to playing in Basel, I never expect much from him at this point in the season, the conditions don’t suit him. It’s a double edged sword but Rafa requires competition for both confidence and to improve his game so playing these tourneys are important for him especially considering the year he has had to this point.

      If he is winning (even if struggling to do so), he is building that mental strength again which is so key to his game, he needs his mind back. He’ll have month or so in December to work on tweaking his game for the AO 2016, like you said I too just hope he can stay healthy and injury free!

  7. john f says:

    I’m finding these Basel matches really tough to watch! The fighting back to eventually win is obviously very positive news, as are the second service returns – standing in or on the baseline, often nailing sharply angled cross court shots. To me this is a terrific new development in his hardcourt game as he is such an intuitive player (to observe how he does this , in slo mo, check out these 3 fantastic returns against karlovic in shanghai,

    – you’ll need a password: rafashanghiakarlovic) . And his net strategy, if not always the execution, is smart. But what should be any tennis player’s strength, the serve, is generally letting him down. What has gone wrong with the serve ? Anyone have any thoughts? It’s not just the surface, it just seems that opponents are reading him well and he’s not getting a decent first serve percentage in , especially when he needs it. Watching him on the Basel surface i appears that he has little feeling for the ball – he’s battling against it, not with it , and many shots are soft(er), centered, even when not short – giving opponents plenty of time to line up the ball for a real crack at it. Pace and power? Of course it occasionally come through, and that’s a joy to see, but it seems more like “lets keep the ball in the court” type of tennis, trying to avoid losing rather than outright winning. In todays game it seemed more like who is going to lose the contest, rather than who will win it. Against Rosol…well that was just way too close to the wire for my comfort!.
    If Rafa wanted work experience learning to come from behind in competitive matches, then this year at Basel he has dug some exceptionally deep holes to climb out of. As the tournament progresses i fear that these sorts of hurdles he’s making for himself won’t be overcome. On the other hand, he needs this for London if he is to have any chance at all there – hope he progresses far at Basel , in singles and doubles. Gotta love that new aggressive second service return though…!

    • miri says:

      “Watching him on the Basel surface i appears that he has little feeling for the ball – he’s battling against it, not with it”

      Doesn’t the tournament use the Head balls that he loathes? (Or is it Penn balls he loathes…I’m getting my balls confused)

      • Tina says:

        Miri, I am sure it´s Head balls, that Rafa doesn´t like, because when he was in Denmark to play the Davis Cup, the Danish Captain chose the fastest court possible and Head balls too. The strategy was of course to make life on court as difficult for Rafa as possible, and it sure worked at times there.

      • JayDee50 says:

        It’s the Head balls Rafa doesn’t like, I distinctly remember, and yes that’s the ball being used in Basel. Rafa described them as like playing with ‘stones’, I believe.

  8. Elizabeth Howard says:

    Rafael has said that he is trying different things and that will take time to adapt so let us bear with it for now. He said that he is on the practice courts for 3 hours every day in Basel, perhaps he should be a little easier on himself. I though he looked tired last night.
    Definitely the ball being used is “flying” all over the place at times. Cannot understand why there isn’t a standard ball use , of course it is a commercial decision , money takes priority rather than players!
    I always felt that he would beat Grigor Dimitrov, his movement and agility is much better, Grigor has “heavy” feet. Rafael won and remember he is building for 2016.