Rafael Nadal: The Underrated Server
Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers shows that Nadal, a lauded baseliner, is also a great server
Rafael Nadal has enjoyed a lot more serving success than we've ever realised.
The Spaniard is widely regarded as one of the best all-time when returning and competing from the back of the court, but he rarely receives the recognition he deserves as a server.
An Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers analysis reveals Nadal has won a higher percentage of his second-serve points than anyone else in the game. Nadal's second serve is not as powerful as many of his opponents', but his heavy, lefty slice makes his second serve extremely difficult to attack.
He typically targets the opponent’s less potent backhand return of serve, jamming the serve into the body to elicit a neutral return down the middle of the court. Aiming at the body also keeps the serve away from the singles sideline and the center line, where double faults often occur. Nadal's favourite way to build the point is with a “Serve +1 forehand”, which helps him quickly gain the upper hand as he pushes opponents back and then side to side.
The left-hander has won 56.9 per cent of his second-serve points throughout his career, slightly edging arch-rival Roger Federer, who has won 56.6 per cent.
Only four of the Top 10 leaders in this specific category would be classified as “big servers” – players widely renowned for their ability to drop heat on both first and second serves. John Isner, Andy Roddick, Milos Raonic and Wayne Arthurs all made the Top 10 list.
Top 10: Second-Serve Points Won
|8||Juan Carlos Ferrero||54.2|
Four other players in the Top 10 list have learned how to maximise their efficiency in this key category. Novak Djokovic, Juan Carlos Ferrero, Andre Agassi and Philipp Kohlschreiber all backed up solid second serves with devastating groundstrokes.
Federer finished first in second-serve points won five times, with Djokovic, Nadal and Roddick also taking end-of-season honours at least once during the past 10 seasons, according to the ATP Stats LEADERBOARDS.
The Infosys Information Platform also uncovered that Djokovic’s inspiring 2015 season, when he went 82-6, won 11 titles and took home more than $21 million in prize money, was fueled by second-serve domination. Djokovic won an astonishing 60.2 per cent of his second-serve points last season, the highest percentage anyone has achieved in the past decade.