Beyond The Numbers

What Everyone Overlooks About Federer & Nadal's Game

Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers shows how Roger & Rafa have spared no detail this season
July 18, 2017
Rafael Nadal's strong second serve has helped him win four titles already this season.
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Rafael Nadal's strong second serve has helped him win four titles already this season. By

What are Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal doing better than anyone else this year?

Second serves.

Federer and Nadal are the first two players to book their spots at the Nitto ATP Finals, to be held 12-19 November at The O2 in London. The two all-time greats have already qualified by winning a combined nine titles this season, including all three Grand Slam events.

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Nadal leads the Emirates ATP Race To London with 7,095 points to Federer’s 6,545 points. Dominic Thiem is currently in third place, well back with 3,345 points.

See Who's Pushing Nadal, Federer In Emirates ATP Race To London

An Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers analysis identifies that Federer and Nadal both appear in the Top 10 in 2017 in four specific strategy categories, with second-serve performance being the combined best.

2017 Season: Nadal & Federer Strategy Rankings


Rafael Nadal

Roger Federer

Second-Serve Points Won

1st (61%)

2nd (60%)

First-Serve Return Points Won

1st 36%

8th (33%)

Service Games Won

7th (89%)

2nd (92%)

Break Points Saved

4th (69%)

5th (69%)

Return Games Won

2nd (34%)

17th (26%)

First-Serve Percentage

3rd (69%)`

25th (63%)

Second-Serve Return Points Won

3rd (56%)

21st (50%)

First-Serve Points Won

25th (73%)

4th (80%)

Pinpointing where Nadal and Federer have excelled this season is valuable information for the rest of the tour, as it shows exactly how they've climbed to the top. Although Nadal and Federer employ different game styles from the back of the court, it’s clear that owning the second-serve battleground has helped both of them win more matches.


Nadal and Federer are both ranked in the Top 10 in the following four strategy areas:

  • Second-Serve Points Won

  • First-Serve Return Points Won

  • Service Games Won

  • Break Points Saved

Nadal is amazingly ranked in the top three in five categories, including No. 1 in Second-Serve Points Won and First-Serve Return Points Won. The Spaniard is second in Return Games Won. Federer is ranked second in Second-Serve Points Won and Service Games Won.

Should players at all levels of the game focus more on these areas as well? It certainly wouldn’t hurt, especially since the return of serve is by far the least practised shot in our sport.

Federer found another level at Wimbledon this year with his second serve, bumping up his already high season average of 60 per cent won to a ridiculously high 67 per cent (119/178). At 2017 Roland Garros, Nadal won an even higher percentage, 74 per cent (112/151), of second-serve points as he powered to a 10th title in Paris.

Second serves don’t get the attention and love they deserve on the practice court, but come match day, they are a critical component of ultimately securing victory. Just ask Roger and Rafa.

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