You Think Rafa Likes Long Rallies? Think Again
The common perception is that Rafael Nadal engages in significantly longer points in his matches than the rest of the Tour.
Not so Down Under.
An Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers analysis of rally length from the 2022 Australian Open uncovered that Nadal – who won the tournament – averaged a rally length of 4.4 shots through seven matches. The tournament average was 4.2 shots per rally.
Nadal averaged right at 4.2 shots per rally to the final, but a bruising five-set epic against Daniil Medvedev yielded an average rally length of 5.6 shots in the final. Nadal’s match with the shortest average rally length was 3.1 shots per point against Denis Shapovalov in the quarter-finals. Average rally length data is only collected on the main show courts at the Australian Open, with 78 men’s matches and 84 women’s matches included in the data set.
Nadal has consistently averaged 4.4 shots per rally in Melbourne for the last three seasons and was below that at 3.9 shots in 2018 and 2019.
Australian Open – Average Rally Length
• 2022 = 4.4 shots
• 2021 = 4.4 shots
• 2020 = 4.4 shots
• 2019 = 3.9 shots
• 2018 = 3.9 shots
Nadal played two matches at the 2022 Australian Open in the three-shot rally range, four in the four-shot range, and just one averaging five shots or longer.
2022 Australian Open: Rafael Nadal Average Rally Length
• Rd 1 vs. M. Giron = 4.75 shots
• Rd 2 vs. Y. Hanfmann = 4.87 shots
• Rd 3 vs. K. Khachanov = 4.16 shots
• Rd 4 vs. A. Mannarino = 3.53 shots
• Q vs. D. Shapovalov = 3.11 shots
• S vs. M. Berrettini = 4.51 shots
• F vs. D. Medvedev = 5.56 shots
• Average = 4.36 shots
Nadal’s forehand was the prime-mover from the back of the court in Melbourne this year, producing more winners, and also more errors than his backhand wing. When you factor in winners minus errors, the forehand side shined the brightest.
• Nadal Forehands: 127 winners / 225 errors = -98
• Nadal Backhands: 50 winners / 173 errors = -123
What’s fascinating is that the women’s average rally length at the 2022 Australian Open was slightly shorter than the men this year.
• Women’s Average Rally Length = 4.09 shots
• Men’s Average Rally Length = 4.12 shots
Ash Barty won her first home Slam title, averaging a brisk 3.44 shots through her seven matches.
2022 Australian Open: Ash Barty Average Rally Length
• Rd 1 vs. L. Tsurenko = 4.40 shots
• Rd 2 vs. L. Bronzetti = 4.08 shots
• Rd 3 vs. C. Giorgi = 2.78 shots
• Rd 4 vs. A. Anisimova = 3.07 shots
• Qtr’s vs. J. Pegula = 4.17 shots
• Semi’s vs. M. Keys = 3.41 shots
• Final vs. D. Collins = 3.44 shots
• Average = 3.62 shots
There is no “ideal” average rally length for players on tour, as we see victory and defeat existing at both ends of the rally length spectrum. Variables such as temperature, weather conditions, court speed, type of ball, and even day versus evening matches are all factors to consider to develop the right game style and average rally length.
But this specific metric does serve as a solid guide to pinpoint if players are being patient or aggressive or employing the right strategy against an opponent who you already know thrives at a specific rally length.