The One Stat Federer Needs To Improve...
You see it, you feel it, but this one bewildering Roger Federer statistic still makes you scratch your head in disbelief.
Federer’s illustrious career is indelibly etched into the rows and columns of stat sheets, identifying where the Swiss legend has cleverly crafted his advantage over opponents for the past two decades.
Throughout his career, coming into the Miami Open presented by Itau, Federer has won more first-serve points (51,975), more second-serve points (23,412) and more service games (15,901) than anyone in history. In the big moments, he has converted more break points (4,675) than any other player, and is second only to David Ferrer in saving the most break points, at 4,107.
But there is one puzzling analytic that just doesn’t fit in with Federer's overwhelmingly successful body of work. It’s a square peg in a round hole, and it’s his break points converted percentage.
An Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers analysis of Federer’s performance converting break points during his career identifies a strange anomaly on his resume.
To give perspective to Federer’s outlier, it’s important to have something in which to compare. The leading four players in career break points converted have all been ranked right at the top of the tree in our sport – just like Federer.
Leading Four Players / Career Break Points Converted
Guillermo Coria 45.71% (career-high ranking No. 3)
Sergi Bruguera 44.96% (career-high ranking No. 3)
Rafael Nadal 44.94% (career-high ranking No. 1)
Thomas Muster 44.73% (career-high ranking No. 1)
Where does Federer rank? The Swiss legend sits at No. 91, with a conversion ratio of 41.13 per cent (4,675/11,367). When serving at break point, he is impressively ranked seventh with break points saved throughout his career at 67.15 per cent (4107/6116).
In 2019, Federer has struggled on break points even more than in past years. Coming into Miami with a solid 12-2 record, he has converted only 34.9 per cent (37/106) of break points this season, positioning him at 68th best on the ATP Tour. It’s a stat that simply doesn’t mesh with his overall body of work.
In the two matches he has lost so far in 2019, he is an astounding 2/23 on break points.
Roger Federer Two Losses In 2019
On Break Points
Federer has played only 18 matches so far this season, but his break point conversion percentage is well below previous years.
Roger Federer / Break Points Converted
2019 = 33.6% (47/140)
2018 = 41.8% (178/425)
2017 = 40.3% (198/491)
2016 = 39.4% (92/233)
2015 = 40.1% (239/595)
At the Miami Open, Federer's break point conversion (38.2%) has been slightly above his season average (33.6%), but still not where he would want it to be. He went 2/8 v Radu Albot, 3/10 v Filip Krajinovic, 3/3 v Daniil Medvedev and 5/13 v Kevin Anderson for a total of 13/34 through the quarter-finals.
The burning question is why? Is it his backhand return of serve, which is frequently targeted on big points, or is it simply a matter of unrealistically comparing this one area of his game to the outstanding metrics in the others?
At 37 years of age, Federer is still competing at an incredibly high level, is ranked No. 5 and came within two points of defeating Thiem in the Indian Wells ATP Masters 1000 final earlier this month.
Federer had break point with Thiem serving at 3-4, 30/40 in the deciding set and netted a backhand passing shot on the sixth shot of the rally.
As Federer well knows, it’s one thing in our sport to position yourself to finish. It’s another thing to actually close the door shut.
- This story was updated after Federer's victory over Anderson in the Miami Open quarter-finals.