© Peter Staples/ATP Tour

Rafael Nadal is the all-time leader in ATP Masters 1000 titles, with 34, including last year's Rogers Cup in Toronto.

Nadal's 2018 Canada Title Run Shows Difference One Point Can Make

Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers shows how one point at the start of games can make a big difference

Champions of Canada's ATP Masters 1000 tournament have been nearly untouchable on serve of late, especially when they've earned a lead. Only nine times in the past four years has the eventual champion dropped serve after leading 15/0.

It’s the first point – and it’s still just one point – but it certainly sets the stage for a possible break of serve if the server falls behind 0/15. An Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers analysis of the past four Canadian Masters champions reveals a striking trend that has certainly played a part in capturing the coveted title.

The past four champions:
2018 - Rafael Nadal
2017 - Alexander Zverev
2016 - Novak Djokovic
2015 - Andy Murray

The following breakdown clearly illustrates how important winning the opening point of their service games proved to be in holding serve.

Past Four Champions (Combined Data)
Holding Serve from 15/0 = 94% (136/145)
Holding Serve from 0/15 = 74% (54/73)

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The perfect illustration for this dynamic is last year’s Rogers Cup champion Rafael Nadal. The Spaniard lost serve 10 times en route to the title, but only one of the 10 was after he forged a 15/0 lead when serving. Nine of the 10 breaks of serve originated from a 0/15 scoreline.

Past Four Champions / Holding Serve From 15/0

Year

Champion

Service Games Won From 15/0 / Total 15/0 Service Games

Percentage Holding From 15/0

2018

R. Nadal

30/31

97%

2017

A. Zverev

38/42

90%

2016

N. Djokovic

36/37

97%

2015

A. Murray

32/35

91%

-

TOTAL / %

136/145

94%

Both Nadal and Novak Djokovic, who won in 2016, lost serve only one time for the tournament after leading 15/0 on serve. But both players combined to be broken 14 times after trailing 0/15 to begin their service games.

Past Four Champions / Holding Serve From 0/15

Year

Champion

Service Games Held From 0/15 / Total 0/15 Service Games

Percentage Holding From 0/15

2018

R. Nadal

16/25

64%

2017

A. Zverev

15/15

100%

2016

N. Djokovic

10/15

67%

2015

A. Murray

13/18

72%

-

TOTAL / %

54/73

74%

Clearly bucking the trend is 2017 champion Alexander Zverev, who held 100 per cent (15/15) of the time after falling behind 0/15. Andy Murray, 2015 champion, lost serve nine times when he won the title, with six of the nine breaks of serve coming after trailing 0/15.

There is an obvious statistical explanation for the break of serve when trailing 0/15 versus leading 15/0, but there are also mental and emotional dynamics in play. When the server falls behind 0/15, it’s common for them to play a little tighter, or not quite as bold strategically to avoid errors and fall even further behind.

Correspondingly, the returner can play with more freedom and aggression to build on their initial lead. The returner smells blood, and accordingly ups the ante with his offence when a break of serve is more likely.

One point goes a long way to setting the weather for the entire game.

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