Stats Preview: Will Medvedev Or Nadal Serve & Volley In Australian Open Final?

  • Posted: Jan 29, 2022

Rafael Nadal is known for his pounding forehand and fighting spirit, while Daniil Medvedev is known for his dogged defence and problem-solving abilities. But could net play decide the 2022 Australian Open final?

History shows that is a legitimate possibility. When the pair met in the 2019 US Open final, serve-and-volleying was a key tactic in the match for both players.

Nadal stunningly used the play 20 times, winning all but three of those points (85%) en route to a thrilling five-set victory. Medvedev serve-and-volleyed an astonishing 29 times (22/29, 76%) in his loss. Combined, they deployed the play 19 times in the deciding fifth set, with the serve-and-volleyer winning nearly 74 per cent of those points (14/19).

Flashback: Nadal-Medvedev 2019 Flushing Meadows Brain Game Analysis

Both men often return from deep behind the baseline, providing an opening for it to be used. But will they take advantage on Sunday inside Rod Laver Arena?

So far this tournament, neither has utilised the tactic much. Nadal has won 12 of his 14 serve-and-volley points through six matches, and Medvedev has won his two, both of which came in his come-from-behind five-set victory against Felix Auger-Aliassime in the quarter-finals.

Net Play At 2022 AO – Medvedev & Nadal

 Player  Net Pts Won (%)  Serve & Volley Pts Won (%)
 Daniil Medvedev  106/162 (65%)  2/2 (100%)
 Rafael Nadal  96/122 (79%)  12/14 (86%)

However, both men have not been shy coming forward during the tournament. Nadal has won 79 per cent of his 122 trips forward (96/122), and Medvedev has claimed 65 per cent of his 162 net points (106/62). The tournament average for net points won in the men’s singles draw has been 67 per cent.

Fittingly, Medvedev and Nadal excelled at net in their two toughest victories. Medvedev won 73 per cent of his net points in his five-set win against Auger-Aliassime, and Nadal took 85 per cent of his (22/26) against Denis Shapovalov in their five-set clash in the last eight.

A majority of points are played in the zero-to-four-shot rally range, and that has been no different for Medvedev and Nadal this fortnight. Within that range, Medvedev has won 54.1 per cent of his points (560/1,036) compared to 53.6 per cent for Nadal (430/802).

But keep an eye on what happens if points last longer than four shots. Nadal has been more dominant in those rallies, winning 59.4 per cent (244/411) of them through six matches. Medvedev has been good in that same range, but not as good as Rafa. He has won 53.8 per cent (239/444) of points lasting five or more shots.

Points Won By Rally Length At 2022 AO

 Player  Daniil Medvedev  Rafael Nadal
 0-4 Shots  560/1,036 (54.1%)  430/802 (53.6%)
 5-8 Shots  151/285 (53%)   157/266 (59%)
 9+ Shots  88/159 (55.3%)  87/145 (60%)

After defeating Stefanos Tsitsipas in the semi-finals, Medvedev made clear he enjoys the longer rallies.

“Probably [it will be a] physical match,” Medvedev said. “Rafa likes to drag people into long rallies. I like it, too.”

In many metrics, Medvedev and Nadal have faired similarly well at the Australian Open. Medvedev has earned a slightly better rate of break points won (39% to 36%) and break points saved (79% to 76%), while also averaging 1.6 winners for every unforced error (263-163) compared to 1.4 for Nadal (214-151). The lefty has won 56 per cent of his baseline points (362/651) compared to 51 per cent for the Russian (383/746).

When Nadal spoke to the media, he did not yet know whether he would face Medvedev or Tsitsipas. But he said that no matter his opponent, one thing will always stay the same.

“If I’m not able to play at my top level, [there] will be simply no chance,” Nadal said. “Of course [tactics] change a little bit, playing against one or the other. But one thing [that is] not going to change is that I need to play at my highest level.”

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