Nadal break points

Aside

Rafael Nadal on break points

Because of its unique scoring system, tennis is all about winning the big points. A match can be decided by a crucial break point won or saved. Often the difference between a good player and a great player, is how they perform on these match-defining points.

Rafaal Nadal is frequently praised for his mental fortitude, and his ability to dig out the big points at all costs. Let’s see if the stats back this up, by looking at Rafa’s 2012 stats for saving break points.

The Stats:

These stats are taken from the atpworldtour.com rankings of players according to various statistics from the 2012 season.

Rafael Nadal is ranked 61st in number of aces served, 16th in 1st serve points won % and 8th in 1st serve %.

The top 4 players in terms of break points saved %:

1st Milos Raonic

2nd John Isner

3rd Tomas Berdych

4th Rafael Nadal

These are revealing statistics. Nadal is far from the top spots in terms of aces served, 1st serve points won or 1st serve %. Despite this, when it comes to saving break points he is 4th, behind only the best two servers in world tennis and Berdych, who also has a massive serve. This shows that Nadal is the best around at the moment when it comes to digging deep and grinding out points at the most important moments.

To emphasize this fact via another statistical comparison, let’s look at Roger Federer.

1st serve points won ranking 2nd serve points won ranking break points saved ranking
Federer 5th 1st 7th
Nadal 16th 2nd 4th

Even though, on average, Federer wins more points behind both serves than Rafa, he is worse than Nadal when it comes to saving break points.

Nadal seems to find an extra gear from somewhere on the huge points. His serve has never been a true weapon, as the stats show. But in situations where the chips are down and the pressure is on, there has probably never been anyone better in the game.

A quick video example of Nadal playing the break points brilliantly. On the brink of defeat against an unstoppable Novak Djokovic in the final of the 2012 Australian open, Rafa comes back from 0-40 down on his serve to take the game and the set:

Nadal eventually lost that day, but it was still one of the best performances in the history of tennis, and a perfect example of the Spaniard’s insatiable desire to win, and his massive heart.

ATP statistics correct as of 22.10.2012. http://www.atpworldtour.com/Rankings/MatchFacts.aspx