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Nadal At Net: Rafa Finds A New Way To Win US Open Title

Spaniard hits the net for fourth crown at Flushing Meadows

Want to win the 2019 US Open final? You better serve and volley.

Rafael Nadal defeated Daniil Medvedev 7-5, 6-3, 5-7, 4-6, 6-4 in four hours and 50 minutes, with a combined 49 serve-and-volley points naturally occurring from both players to counter each other’s ruthless baseline patterns of play.

When push came to shove in the deciding fifth set, Nadal served and volleyed seven times, winning six (86%) of those points. Overall, Nadal served and volleyed a jaw-dropping 20 times in the final, winning 17 (85%) points. When all seemed equal from the back of the court, the Spaniard cleverly decided to take the battle forward, and reaped the rewards of his aggressive net rushing tactics.

The following breakdown identifies just how dominant Nadal’s serve-and-volley strategy was in such a closely contested final.

Rafael Nadal: US Open Final Points Won
• Baseline Points Won = 47.0% (96/204)
• Net Points Won = 77.2% (51/66)
Serve & Volley Points Won = 85% (17/20)

Nadal had only served and volleyed five times in five matches to the final, winning all of those points. With Medvedev consistently returning so many crushing baseline shots the Spaniard threw at him, it made perfect sense to move the battle forward to the front of the court to mine a critical advantage in the final.

How did Medvedev answer Nadal’s foray’s forward? By also dominating at the front of the court himself.

Daniil Medvedev: US Open Final Points Won
• Baseline Points Won = 39% (75/194)
• Net Points Won = 68% (50/74)
Serve & Volley Points Won = 76% (22/29)

To the final, Medvedev only served and volleyed five times - all in the first three rounds - winning four of those points. He massively ratcheted up his aggression at the front of the court in the final against Nadal, winning 22 points serving and volleying against the Spaniard, including winning eight of 12 (67%) in the fifth set.

The average rally length in the final was 5.45 shots, which was the longest of any match Nadal played to the final.

Rafael Nadal: Average Rally Length
• Rd 1 vs. J. Millman = 5.1 shots
• Rd 2 vs. T. Kokkinakis W/O
• Rd 3 vs. H. Chung = 4.6 shots
• Rd 4 vs. M. Cilic = 3.7 shots
• Qtr vs. D. Schwartzman = 5.3 shots
• Semi vs. M. Berrettini = 4.1 shots
Final vs. D. Medvedev = 5.5 shots

So why did Nadal and Medvedev combine to serve and volley 49 times in the final when they had only combined to serve and volley 10 times (5 Nadal / 5 Medvedev) through to the final?

The answer is simple. Baseline pressure of the highest order.

Nadal was constantly under attack from the back of the court in the final against Medvedev, only winning 47 per cent (96/204) of points from the back of the court. The final against Medvedev was the only match that the Spaniard dipped below 50 per cent with baseline points won in any match for the past two weeks in New York.

The biggest takeaway from the final is that there were 49 combined serve-and-volley points from two of the strongest baseline players in the game, who combined to win 61 per cent (30/49) of their points immediately rushing the net behind a serve. If you can’t craft an advantage from the back of the court, the front of the court always remains a viable option.

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