Brain Game: Nadal's 22 Minutes Of Mayhem
The Spaniard puts on a flawless display for La Decima at Roland Garros
It was 22 minutes of mayhem.
The match lasted two hours and five minutes, but the torturous time the ball was in play was just 21 minutes and 59 seconds. It must have felt like an eternity for Stan Wawrinka.
Overall, Nadal won 94 points to 57 (62%). The average point duration for the match was just eight seconds. Eight seconds of side-to-side, lactic acid domination. Eight seconds of Nadal running Wawrinka to whatever arrondissement of Paris he wanted him to go.
Wawrinka is so dangerous when he gets to step into a ball, but he spent the majority of the 22 minutes out wide on the edges of the court, playing defense against the best clay courter of all time.
Has Nadal ever played a better match than he did this afternoon in Paris? Maybe. Maybe not.
The most influential shot on the court was Nadal’s forehand. He only hit 14 forehand winners, but that was three more than Wawrinka’s 11. When Wawrinka defeated Novak Djokovic to win the Roland Garros title in 2015, Wawrinka crushed 60 total winners. Today he could not even manage a third of that (19). Wawrinka hit 26 forehand winners against Djokovic, but just 11 against Nadal.
The flow of rallies constantly saw Nadal hitting deep, aggressive forehands, while Wawrinka was on defense out wide on the edges of the court. Wawrinka made 20 forced errors on his forehand side and 17 unforced. Wawrinka essentially played the entire match on his back foot.
The Nadal backhand was rock solid. He hit five backhand winners, but committed only 14 total backhand errors. Both of those metrics trumped Wawrinka, who managed just three winners on the backhand wing while committing a substantial 28 backhand errors. The Spaniard measured incredible range off the backhand wing, consistently going cross-court to make Wawrinka have to hit defensive forehands on the run.
When serving in the Deuce court, Nadal won a mind-blowing 91 per cent (20/22) of his first-serve points. On second serve, he won 67 per cent (8/12). That never happens.
Nadal faced only one break point for the match, at 1-1, 30/40 in the first set. As expected, Nadal served out wide in the Ad court, but Wawrinka missed a backhand return wide and long. Nadal then hit a 189kmh ace out wide in the Deuce court, and won the following point off a Wawrinka missed forehand return.
Overall for the tournament, Nadal won 72 per cent of his first-serve points, and a mind-blowing 74 per cent of his second-serve points. The Spaniard won 65 per cent (15-23) of his second serve points against Wawrinka.
Nadal won an impressive 60 per cent (370/618) of his baseline points for the tournament, and a lights-out 65 per cent (58/89) against Wawrinka in the final. The primary tactic was to force Wawrinka to hit defensive backhands in Ad court exchanges. Nadal then made the Swiss star hit defensive forehands out wide.
Wawrinka hardly stepped into a ball all afternoon. You’ve got to give Nadal all the credit for creating that dynamic.
Nadal was +19 in the 0-4 shot rally length, +12 in the 5-8 shot rally length, and just +6 in the 9+ shot rally length. Nadal owned the short points, and won a ridiculously high 90 per cent (18/20) of his points at net. He also never served a double fault.
This is the new version of Rafael Nadal that had the fingerprints of new coach, Carlos Moya, all over it. Rafa didn’t grind. He didn’t wait. He was always on the front foot and always looking to make Wawrinka uncomfortable.
This match was also vintage Toni Nadal. You don’t win 10 Roland Garros titles without an extremely knowledgeable mentor. When it was all said and done, it was Uncle Toni who handed Rafa the trophy. Perfect symmetry for La Decima.