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Rafael Nadal finished year-end No. 1 in the ATP Rankings for a fifth time in 2019.

Nadal’s Many Happy Returns To World No. 1

Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers explains how Nadal turned in a historic returning season

Rafael Nadal just posted the fourth-best return numbers by a year-end No. 1 in the past 29 years.

An Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers breakdown of year-end No. 1 players since 1991 identifies that Nadal’s 2019 season eclipses the other four times he finished year-end No. 1 in 2017, 2013, 2010 and 2008. The analysis comes from the ATP Return LEADERBOARD, powered by Infosys NIA Data, and is determined by adding the winning percentages in the following four areas:

  • First-Serve Return Points Won
  • Second-Serve Return Points Won
  • Return Games Won
  • Break Points Converted

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Interestingly, the leading five spots for return metrics by a year-end No. 1 from 1991 to 2019 are all from the previous nine years (2011-2019), showing a clear correlation that we are currently in the “golden era” of the service return.

Leading Five Years 1991 - 2019: Return Rating
2011 - N. Djokovic (180.3)
2012 - N. Djokovic (172.2)
2016 - A. Murray (172.2)
2019 - R. Nadal (170.8)
2013 - R. Nadal (169.6)

As a comparison with serving, only two year-end No. 1 players (Djokovic 2015 / Nadal 2017) from the past decade are also ranked in the top 10 spots for serving.

Nadal’s 2019 return rating of 170.8 was also good enough to elevate him to the top spot on Tour in the specific category in 2019, a place he has not occupied since 2016.

Rafael Nadal: 2019 Season Return Win Percentage & Rating

Return Strategy

Win %

Rating

First-Serve Return Points Won

34.9%

1

Return Games Won

35%

1

Second-Serve Return Points Won

55.9%

2

Break Points Converted

45%

3

The return has always been a strength of Nadal’s game. Amazingly, at 33 years of age, the Spaniard is finding ways to squeeze more out of it, helping elevate him back to the No. 1 ATP Ranking, which he has now occupied for 202 weeks in his illustrious career.

Rafael Nadal: 2004 - 2019 Year-End Ranking & Return Rating

Year-End Ranking

Year

Return Rating

4

2012

179.6

9

2016

177.9

2

2005

176.8

3

2014

174.7

2

2018

174.4

2

2011

171.9

2

2009

170.8

1

2019

170.8

1

2013

169.6

1

2008

168.0

2

2007

166.2

1

2017

164.3

5

2015

159.9

51

2004

159.7

1

2010

159.2

2

2006

157.7

-

AVERAGE

168.8

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