Nadal Takes The Unconventional Route To Improvement


The typical way to improve in tennis is to turn weaknesses into strengths. There is also a second way, which focuses on taking strengths to a whole new level.

Case in point: Rafael Nadal’s second serve.

Nadal is already the career leader on the ATP World Tour with second-serve points won at 57.1 per cent (12,931/22,657), edging recognised power servers such as Andy Roddick and John Isner in this specific category.

An Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers analysis of Nadal’s 2017 season reveals he is simply blowing his already peerless career average right out of the water.

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The Spaniard is winning an astounding 61.9 per cent (628/1015) of his second-serve points so far this season, which has helped catapult him to first place in the Emirates ATP Race To London.

See Who’s Pushing Nadal In The Emirates ATP Race To London

The table below identifies that Nadal’s 2017 season to date is superior to any of the past 10 seasons in points won behind second serves.

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Past 10 Seasons: Most Second-Serve Points Won

Year Player Win Percentage
2017 (so far) Rafael Nadal 61.9%
2016 Novak Djokovic 56.4%
2015 Novak Djokovic 60.2%
2014 Roger Federer 57.8%
2013 Novak Djokovic 59.6%
2012 Roger Federer 59.9%
2011 Roger Federer 57.1%
2010 Rafael Nadal 59.5%
2009 Andy Roddick 57.2%
2008 Rafael Nadal 60.1%
2007 Roger Federer 59.0%

Break Points
Infosys Nia Data identifies that Nadal’s improved second-serve metrics are also helping him save a higher percentage of break points. The Spaniard is sixth best overall with break points saved in 2017 at 69 per cent, with not a lot of difference when he starts the point with a first serve or a second serve. He is saving 70.6 per cent (108/153) of break points behind his first serve, and 64.2 per cent (34/53) behind his second serve.

Break Points Saved – Behind A First Serve

  • 2017 = 70.6% (108/153)
  • 2016 = 68.6% (162/236)
  • 2015 = 67.8% (202/298)

Break Points Saved – Behind A Second Serve

  • 2017 = 64.2% (34/53)
  • 2016 = 52.5% (32/61)
  • 2015 = 48.8% (62/127)
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Roland Garros: Second Serves
During the Roland Garros final against Stan Wawrinka, Nadal’s average second-serve speed was 154 km/h (96 mph), with his fastest coming in at 164 km/h (102 mph). Nadal won an impressive 65 per cent (15/23) of his second-serve points in the final, which was far superior to the tournament average for all players, 51 per cent (5,452/10,727).

Overall for the tournament, Nadal won 74 per cent of his second-serve points, which was superior to his win percentage behind his first serve, 72 per cent.

Wimbledon: Second Serves
Nadal’s focus now turns to Wimbledon, where second-serve performance will be critical on the lush grass courts at SW19. When Nadal last won The Championships, back in 2010, he won 64 per cent (18/28) of second-serve points in the final against Tomas Berdych, and 62 per cent (140/226) overall for the tournament.

When he won Wimbledon for the first time in 2008, he won 59 per cent (35/59) of his second-serve points in the final against Roger Federer, and 63 per cent (127/202) overall.