Imagine losing the opening point of your service game and consequently not being favoured to hold serve. You must be playing Rafael Nadal.
An Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers analysis of the 2018 year-end Top 25 of the ATP Rankings identifies that there is just one player who statistically becomes the favourite when returning if he wins the opening point of the game.
The data set is from the past four seasons and uncovers that Nadal has won 50.4 per cent (649/1288) of his return games when he wins the opening point.
The average for the current Top 25 is breaking 39.5 per cent (9543/23,682) of the time when they win the opening point of the game, which highlights Nadal’s superiority in this specific area.
World No. 1 Novak Djokovic comes in second best breaking serve when he wins the opening point of the game when returning, at 49.2 per cent (673/1367).
Current Top 25 Over Past Four Seasons: Breaking Serve When Leading 0/15
% Breaking Serve When Leading 0/15
Return Games W/L From 0/15
Diego Schwartzman moved to a career-high ranking of No. 11 in June, and was the No. 1 returner on the ATP Stats Return LEADERBOARD, powered by Infosys Nia Data, in 2017.
Fabio Fognini was the fourth best returner on tour in 2018, and finished this season with his career-best ranking of No. 13. David Goffin finished second to Nadal in the Infosys Return Ratings in 2018.
Winning the opening point when serving against these return giants is crucial. Otherwise, the game may be over before it’s really started.
Editor’s Note: Craig O’Shannessy is a member of Novak Djokovic’s coaching team.