The last three matches of the strangest Open Era season to date, made sense in terms who participated in them – those who deserved it the most. For the first time since 2004 the four highest ranked players reached the Masters semifinals, and there’s no doubt they were the best in the crazy Covid-19 season because they won all six most important events (out of standard 13) leading to the season finale: Djokovic won Australian Open (and two Masters 1K titles), Thiem won US Open, Nadal won Roland Garros, and Medvedev won Paris-Bercy. Given the past two years, it seems that Thiem & Medvedev are the biggest threats for the legends Djokovic & Nadal. Admittedly Medvedev has never won a five-set match yet (!), but he’s such a good tactician, and his physical preparation is outstanding, thus he must be considered as a potential new Grand Slam champion next year.
Final: Daniil Medvedev d. Dominic Thiem 4-6, 7-6(2), 6-4 [2:42 h]
Almost a repeat of Medvedev’s semifinal match against Nadal. The scoreline looks almost the same, the progress was familiar too. Medvedev began the final running around his backhand, something I had not seen much from him in his previous London matches. This tactics didn’t pay off, Thiem got the only break of the set at 2-all even though the Russian led 40/0 in that game. Medvedev had changed his tactics after the opener against Nadal, and against Thiem he did the same. The Russian came back to his standard patience from the baseline keeping the ball with cross-court backhands (forcing the Austrian to play much more backhand slices than in the previous matches) and began applying serve-and-volley tactics at times. A pivotal moment of the final came at 3-all in the 2nd set when Medvedev attacked the net behind his second serve (just 133 kph) and played a decent stop-volley, Thiem (running forwards) decided to play a FH pusher instead of hitting the ball with top-spin (it wasn’t very difficult because the ball was at the level of his knees & he didn’t need to change the grip – he’d returned with FH), he played it wide… Nonetheless, he led 2:0 in the tie-break when missed another FH passing-shot and it initiated a 9-point streak for the Russian, who broke in the decider to lead 3:2 and served out the championship without any troubles. Medvedev finishes the season with two big titles, a reminiscence of his terrific form in Autumn ’19 when he played six finals in a row, winning three of them. “I always said before this tournament that it would be an amazing story if, here in London, where the tournament was for  years, that the first champion would be Russian and the last champion would be Russian, too,” Medvedev said during the trophy ceremony. “A lot of thanks to Nikolay Davydenko for being an inspiration for many kids [like] me [by] winning here. I hope to continue doing his job.” The longest ‘best of three’ final in the tournament history. Stats of the match.
Daniil Medvedev d. Rafael Nadal 3-6, 7-6(4), 6-3 [2:36 h]
Their fourth meeting, Nadal led 3:0 so despite Medvedev’s great form recently, the Spaniard seemed to be very self-confident. He saved three break points in the 3rd game of the match and easily won three games from 3-all. In the 2nd set Medvedev began serving faster, it changed the pace of the match and made the things quite complicated because after Medvedev’s easy holds, service games of Nadal produced quite demanding rallies. Nadal saved a break point at 1:4 and was serving for his place in the final at 5:4 – Medvedev broke back at ‘love’. Just like then, in the tie-break Nadal wasn’t closer than four points away from victory (the most important point of TB happened at 1-all when Medvedev won a 26-stroke rally with a forehand winner being pushed to defense a couple of times). In the 3rd set the Spaniard led 3:2* (deuce) when his legs stopped perfectly working, he run out of steam while the ten years younger Medvedev was still fresh and convincingly took the last four games, nevertheless there were ‘deuces’ in Nadal’s last two service games. “I felt really strange until 5:4 for him in the second set, when he was serving for the match,” Medvedev said in an on-court interview. “It felt like I was doing great shots but there was no link in my game and that was why I was losing. He was better in the important moments, I couldn’t return in the important moments, I couldn’t make a good shot in the important moments.” Stats of the match.
Average serve speed: Medvedev 201/161 kph, Nadal 190/159 kph… Total points: 105-94
Dominic Thiem d. Novak Djokovic 7-5, 6-7(10), 7-6(5) [2:54 h]
# Unbelievable match, actually the tightest “best of three” in the 50-year-old history of the event! Thiem went through the match unbroken (saved break points in two games of the 2nd set), he broke just once at 5-all in the opener. In the preceding game, Djokovic was two points away from the set at 5:4* (deuce) when Thiem hit fast ‘down the T’ serve. The Austrian squandered four – two on serve – match points in the 2nd set tie-break: 6:5 (service winner), *7:6 (double fault), *9:8 (FH long), 10:9 (FH winner on the line). Despite losing such a dramatic set, Thiem stayed cool and firmly held the opening game of the decider with no signs of frustration. In the deciding tie-break, Djokovic built an insurmountable 4:0* advantage, but just like one year ago on the same court, Thiem managed to produce a miraculous comeback, even better than in 2019 when he trailed *1:4 in the deciding tie-break before winning 6-7, 6-3, 7-6… At 0:4 he fired an ace down the T, followed by a FH winner. A point at 4:2 was perhaps crucial – there was a long rally, and Djokovic decided to attack the net with BH slice… he netted. Thiem won six points in a row in total, Djokovic fought off the fifth MP with an ace, but on the sixth occasion, Thiem placed his fast serve out-wide, and forced the running Djokovic to send the ball long. Thiem covered his faced in hands a moment after winning the match. “It was for sure a mental battle. I got so tight in the second-set tie-break because to play these legends is always going to be something special,” said Thiem in an on-court interview. “Playing for the final here at the Nitto ATP Finals is also something very special and I thought that after my first big title in New York, maybe I’m going to be a little bit more calm, but that was a mistake, I guess. I was just as tight and as nervous as before. It was so much on the edge that match, like every single match here. The best players in the world are facing off. So I’m just incredibly happy to be through and just [will] try to get ready for tomorrow.” It’s Thiem’s 300th main-level match won. Djokovic finished the season with an amazing 15-2 record in tie-breaks (.882)
Average serve speed: Thiem 196/161 kph, Djokovic 193/148 kph… Total points: 119-115
# Comparison of the tightest (38-game) semifinals in Masters history:
1996: Sampras d. Ivanisevic 6-7, 7-6, 7-5… 2:00 hours… Points: 110-100… 3 pts away (breaks: 1-0)
2016: Murray d. Raonic 5-7, 7-6, 7-6… 3:38 hours… Points: 138-136… 1 m.p. (breaks: 3-4)
2020: Thiem d. Djokovic 7-5, 6-7, 7-6… 2:54 hours… Points: 119-115… 3 pts away (breaks: 1-0)
Group “Tokyo ’20” – Day 6
Daniil Medvedev d. Diego Schwartzman 6-3, 6-3 [1:13 h]
Medvedev tactically played a perfect match. Two weeks ago he had defeated Schwartzman 6-3, 6-1 in Paris, so feeling such an advantage over ~30 cm shorter opponent indoors, and actually playing “an exhibition match” the most important thing it was not to waste too much energy before a demanding confrontation against Rafa tomorrow. Once the Russian established a 3:1* lead he fully controlled the rest; I noticed that among 18 games they played, he didn’t care in three at all (two in the opener, one in the 2nd set). His serve was working very well (35% of points directly behind the serve) as well as his ground-strokes. “I was playing great in the two previous matches. I think it is always good to stay undefeated for the confidence. I wanted to win the match, so I am really happy that I have done it,” said Medvedev in an on-court interview. “I was serving really good today, so that helped me a lot throughout all the match.” Before the tournament I expected Schwartzman to win 4-6 games in just one of his six lost sets, and it almost happened (Zverev lost the plot a bit as he missed a casual forehand leading 6-3, 3:1 ‘deuce’ against the Argentinian).
Average serve speed: Medvedev 199/160 kph, Schwartzman 169/141 kph… Total points: 65-49
Novak Djokovic d. Alexander Zverev 6-3, 7-6(4) [1:36 h]
Similarly to yesterday’s evening match (Nadal-Tsitsipas) it was like a quarterfinal – the winner was supposed to advance to the semifinals being aware of his next opponent, and again the great champion controlled his destiny against a young player who only aspires to be a great one in the future. Zverev surprised me a bit because he won the toss, yet elected to receive (did the same against Medvedev). He didn’t feel his body well enough after Djokovic’s first service game though; maybe he wanted to avoid being broken in the opening game, it haunted him anyway. The Serb quickly led 3:0* and there was no other break to the end of the match. In the 2nd set the German led 5:4 (deuce) and 6:5 (30-all), but Djokovic delivered good serves then, and came back from a *0:2 deficit in the first tie-break of their six meetings (Djokovic leads 4:2). ”I felt great. Early in the first set he had a couple of break point chances. I managed to serve well in the important moments and contrary to the last match against Daniil, I just managed to find the right shots at the right time,” said Djokovic. “Sascha, I have tremendous respect for him. He’s a great player, huge serve. Obviously not easy to return the 140 miles per hour first serves.” Djokovic’s equalled Rublev’s 41 matches won this year and Becker’s nine appearances in the semifinals of the season-ending championships, previously known as Masters.
Average serve speed: Djokovic 195/156 kph, Zverev 209/167 kph… Total points: 70-65
Group “London ’20” – Day 5
Rafael Nadal d. Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 [2:03 h]
Their previous two matches where very tight, Nadal won 6-7, 6-4, 7-5 last year in London, one month later 6-7, 7-5, 7-6 in an exhibition event in Arabia. The first two sets suggested that another tight decider would be required. They held many times easily; Nadal got the only break of the opener at 4-all, Tsitsipas his first break of the match at 5:4 in the 2nd set. The decider began with three breaks of serve though, Nadal broke to lead 2:1 with the help of phenomenal backhand overhead (gave him 30/0). The Spaniard broke again at 4:2 and ousted the defending champion with a backhand down the line winner. Nadal won 11 of 15 times when he charged the net, losing as many as three actions of this type in the crucial game of the 2nd set, but every time he was forced to play very difficult volleys. “I still won two matches like last year,” Nadal said. “Last year, I was a little bit unlucky not to be in the semi-finals. The year before I had to pull out. It is always difficult to play here against the best players in the world every single day [at the] end of the season. Most of the time, you get here a little bit tired, but this year is a little bit different… I am just excited to be in the semi-finals and I hope to be ready to try my best.”
Average serve speed: Nadal 191/163 kph, Tsitsipas 203/164 kph… Total points: 84-67
Andrey Rublev d. Dominic Thiem 6-2, 7-5 [1:14 h]
Rublev – winner of the most titles (5) this year – finished the best season of his career in very good style. I considered him as a favourite because Thiem, who had lost two previous meetings to Rublev, has already advanced to the semifinals as a group leader, so the question was: will they both play in exhibition mode or just the Austrian? As I expected, Thiem delivered 80-90% mode while the Russian was trying to give his best from start to finish. He quickly jumped to a 4:0 lead. In the 2nd set he led 4:2*, but Thiem broke back thanks to forehand errors of the Russian. Thiem even led 5:4 when Rublev held in his most convincing fashion. At 5-all Thiem led 40/0 to be broken, in that game occurred the best baseline rally, so I cannot exclude that Thiem wanted to play a decider. Rublev finished his season with an ace out-wide. “I feel happy to be here,” he said. “I was so close in my second match. I had match point and I was serving, so it could have been a completely different story if I won two matches. I would maybe still have a chance to be in the semi-finals… It is a part of life, [I] just need to keep working and we will see what is going to happen next.” Three things Thiem did in this match he usually doesn’t do: faster second serves, more frequent & rather careless attacks to the net behind the serve & casual dropshots.
Average serve speed: Rublev 198/151 kph, Thiem 195/172 kph… Total points: 69-53
Group “Tokyo ’70” – Day 4
Daniil Medvedev d. Novak Djokovic 6-3, 6-3 [1:21 h]
Very disappointing match. I had an impression that Djokovic wasn’t particularly interested once he was broken at 3-all in the opener. Medvedev won seven (!) straight games in total, he even led (30/15) at 3:0* in the 2nd set, so Djokovic’s utter devastation could happen. The Serb claimed 2 out of his 5 titles in the season-ending championships, despite losing a group match, he is fully aware that this defeat may mean nothing. I don’t know, but cannot exclude that he didn’t want to hypothetically lose a tight match to Medvedev facing another “Russian tower” Zverev on Friday… It’s rather untypical situation for the formula of the event, that after four days no mathematics is involved in group scenarios leading to the semifinals: Thiem & Medvedev are already through as group leaders regardless of their next matches. In the semifinals they will face the winners of Djokovic-Zverev and Nadal-Tsitsipas matches. “To be completely honest, I am sure he didn’t play his best today. But still, it happens for everybody,” Medvedev said. “I always say the Big Three are the champions because it happens less for them than for other players. It is still tough to beat them, even on their bad days so I am really happy about the win. I am feeling good [and] confident right now… I knew I had to take my chances [and] serve good.” The best player in the world won just 1 of 8 BH dropshot attempts (the only time when played it cross-court).
Average serve speed: Medvedev 203/167 kph, Djokovic 195/161 kph… Total points: 70-54
Alexander Zverev d. Diego Schwartzman 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 [2:11 h]
A meeting between the tallest and the shortest player of the event (~30 cm difference) looked like I expected with one significant exception – I didn’t think that Zverev would lose a set, especially leading with a break. It happened in the 2nd set; he led 3:1* (deuce) on the way to repeat his recent easy victory over Schwartzman in the Köln final (6-2, 6-1) when played a nonchalant forehand return which landed behind the baseline. In the first two sets I was thinking the German wanted to win that match in a 80-90% mode which in my opinion efficiently Djokovic applied two days ago. It’s not easy against someone like the Argentinian with his “never say die” attitude. In the 3rd set Zverev had to be fully concentrated from the start, and it paid off at 2-all when he played his best tennis, breaking Schwartzman with difficult backhand volley. Another break at 5:3 came after Schwartzman’s casual errors. “It was much better than on Monday,” said Zverev in an on-court interview. “Diego is a very difficult player. He deserves to be here… There are no easy matches, but I am happy to get the win. I am happy to give myself a chance to go to the semi-finals and I am excited for Friday… is going to be the most difficult match you can have here against Novak.”
Average serve speed: Zverev 215/153 kph, Schwartzman 169/138 kph… Total points: 95-80
Group “London ’20” – Day 3
Stefanos Tsitsipas d. Andrey Rublev 6-1, 4-6, 7-6(6) [1:55 h]
The first, 19-minute set it was a joke. Rublev played like a novice, perhaps his worst set in the past two years. The Russian couldn’t play any worse, nevertheless his straight set loss hung in the air as he faced double break point at 3-all in the 2nd set – the second BP he saved with a forehand winner on the line. He survived a five BP game to lead 2:1 in the decider, and led 6:5 (30/0) when the ball was in play, but Tsitsipas forced an error and with the help of the serve obtained another three points. The Greek led 5:2* in the tie-break, at 5-all they both played their best tennis from the baseline – Rublev won the 25-stroke point, but he was running much more in it and oxygen debt cost him a double fault with his second serve netted (133 kph) much below his average speed. After the change of ends Rublev still couldn’t regulate breathing and made two simple errors. They have played three tight deciding 3rd set against each other thus far, and the Greek has survived it for the first time. For the tournament it’d be better if the Russian won; now he’s eliminated so his last round robin match will have an exhibition character. “It was an unbelievable match from both sides. We produced some incredible tennis,” Tsitsipas said in an on-court interview. “The relief at the very end of putting all that effort and all that fight on the court paid off. I am very happy that I showed determination and a willingness to not give up when he had match point. It came easier when he was up 6/5, but then I produced some really good tennis and that helped me take the win.” Rublev admitted he was close to lose the match 1-6, 3-6.
Average serve speed: Tsitsipas 203/166 kph, Rublev 199/144 kph… Total points: 92-82
Dominic Thiem d. Rafael Nadal 7-6(7), 7-6(4) [2:25 h]
High quality encounter, the best 2-0 match of the season in my opinion. From the beginning they both were playing better than on Sunday in the opening matches… Nadal was very aggressive, he displayed alacrity to apply serve-and-volley in every game. No break of serve, in the tie-break the Spaniard led 5:2 on serve when Thiem’s inside-out forehand found the sideline. Similarly to his first ’round robin’ match, Thiem erased a three-point deficit, then he saved two set points with solid ground-strokes (5:6, 6:7) and clinched the set after 72 minutes (with his third FH winner in the tie-break) even though his first serve deserted him at the end. In the 2nd set there where two consecutive breaks, the first for Nadal. Thiem had a triple match point at 5:4, but Nadal saved it quickly, winning the second point with a S&V action behind his 2nd serve (his winning FH stop-volley touched the net-cord). Thiem didn’t dwell on wasting chances and played another excellent tie-break. He has now won 6 out of 8 tie-breaks against Rafa (including the last five sets he has won against him!). “Indoors and [on] hard courts, it was probably one of the better matches I have ever played,” said Thiem. “It came very close to last year’s match against Novak here. [That was] also [a] second group match, which is probably the best three-setter I have ever played. Today came very close to that match and now the goal is to enjoy this victory and to maintain that level until Thursday.”
Average serve speed: Thiem 193/164 kph, Nadal 191/161 kph… Total points: 86-81
Group “Tokyo ’70” – Day 2
Daniil Medvedev d. Alexander Zverev 6-3, 6-4 [1:29 h]
Just eight days after their final in Paris-Bercy, they met again – this time Medvedev won much easier. The beginning indicated it would be very long affair, albeit the second game was short (Zverev committed three double faults in a row, risking the 2nd serve only at 30/0). Medvedev won a titanic third game saving five break points, one of them after a punishing 29-stroke rally, and that game cost them both a lot of energy. Actually until 5:2 they both were playing breathing heavily, being involved in several gruelling rallies. Then the pace was accelerated, the Russian won the easiest the most important games, serving both sets out. “When you play a Top 10 opponent [in the] first match of the tournament, you have to be there all the time,” Medvedev said. “That is what I managed to do, actually. I just lost one service [game] in the first game of the match. Finally, when you win it, you can say, ‘Okay, that was just the start.’ I am happy about my [performance].” At 4:3 (30-all) in the 2nd set, he decided to hit an underarm 1st serve and won the point, I think it’s been the first serve of this type in the tournament history.
Average serve speed: Medvedev 209/150 kph, Zverev 201/154 kph… Total points: 73-58
Novak Djokovic d. Diego Schwartzman 6-3, 6-2 [1:18 h]
Schwartzman – the first Argentinian in “Masters” since 2013 (Juan Martin del Potro) and the shortest player (around 170 cm) since 1980 (Harold Solomon). Before the tournament I thought that each player would beat all others except Schwartzman, especially on the assumption he would go to the group he has landed. I thought about him not only as a good material for a 0-3 (0-6) record, but also one of the worst game ratios in the tournament history, similar to Alberto Berasategui in 1994. His opening match confirmed my pondering. Djokovic played just a decent match, but it was enough to get an easy win. His main strategy of late, to propose backhand dropshots on a regular basis, didn’t work at all. “Everything is difficult against [Novak]. I think what he’s doing when he’s playing his best, he’s moving the ball… to every single point on [the] court,” said Schwartzman. “It’s very difficult to see or to know what he’s going to do and [to] try to make good points… He has a lot of talent when he has the chance to move the ball.”
Average serve speed: Djokovic 194/165 kph, Schwartzman 171/138 kph… Total points: 59-40
Group “London ’20” – Day 1
Rafael Nadal d. Andrey Rublev 6-3, 6-4 [1:17 h]
I badly wanted to watch their second, yet first match in three years because Rublev has improved a lot since Nadal trashed him in the US Open quarterfinal. I wondered how a potentially crucial combination ‘Nadal’s FH vs Rublev’s BH’ would look like. It wasn’t important at all, the Russian began the match serving very poorly (0 of 6 first serves in his opening game which he held). He found himself 3-6, 0:2 quickly, being frustrated, and basically since that moment, the 34-year-old Nadal was only focused to hold a few times more. “It’s important to start well, of course, for the confidence, because winning [in] straight sets helps,” Nadal said. “The serve tonight was very important. I played solidly with my serve. I didn’t suffer much, and that helps [me] to play more relaxed on the return. That’s what I did.”
Average serve speed: Nadal 195/164 kph, Rublev 197/151 kph… Total points: 63-49
Dominic Thiem d. Stefanos Tsitsipas 7-6(5), 4-6, 6-3 [2:17 h]
Unusual situation that the first round robin match was a repeat of the final a year before. When they met in 2019 Tsitsipas won in three sets, this time more luck was on the Austrian side. Thiem came back from a *1:4 deficit in the tie-break serving very well then, as well as at 4:5 – he obtained four quick points behind the serve. Having the first set point, he lobbed Tsitsipas, even though the Greek had been in a good position to finish the point at the net with his forehand. Only one break in each of the following two sets separated them: at 1-all in the 2nd and 1:0 in the 3rd set. Quite interesting and crucial was a six-deuce game when Thiem held to lead 4:1; the Austrian served three aces out-wide on deuce court, but on ad-court he made three very similar errors trying to finish the points with aggressive backhands down the line directly behind returns of the Greek… Thiem has been very solid at tight moments especially in the past two years. I’ve noticed that at his ~60% of first serve in, he increases to ~80% at the most important moments, certainly it helps to win tight situations more often than lose them. His tie-breaks against all the best players in the world are very telling, he has won ‘longer tie-breaks’ against them all: Djokovic (12/10, 7/5); Nadal (8/6); Federer (9/7, 13/11); Medvedev (9/7, 7/5); Zverev (8/6); Tsitsipas (8/6, 7/5); Schwartzman (9/7, 8/6). Admittedly he hasn’t won a tie-break against Rublev yet, but he defeated the Russian saving a match point on serve. “Today was a little bit different [to last year]… [There were] only two breaks in the whole match,” said Thiem. “I think the conditions are pretty fast here, so I am super happy with my win. Every win against a Top 10 player at the Nitto ATP Finals is something special and every win against Stefanos is something special, because he is such a great player. He is established and has won so many big titles already.”
Average serve speed: Thiem 193/164 kph, Tsitsipas 205/164 kph… Total points: 101-96
Group Tokyo ’70
1. Novak Djokovic – 13th appearance (5 titles)
4. Daniil Medvedev – 2nd appearance
7. Alexander Zverev – 4th appearance (1 title)
9. Diego Schwartzman – debut
Group London ’20
2. Rafael Nadal – 10th appearance (6 times skipped!)
3. Dominic Thiem – 5th appearance
6. Stefanos Tsitsipas – 2nd appearance (1 title)
8. Andrey Rublev – debut
13. Denis Shapovalov (alternate)
No. 5 – Federer, withdrew (knee injury)
I’ve been currently adding stats of important matches prepared by myself in a pictorial form. That what is written below, comes from June 2013 when I decided to suspend my previous activity. All majors are already included to the site!
After two and a half years, I’ve decided to suspend updating voodemar.com for an undetermined amount of time. I mean weekly updates in which I was summarising tournaments, besides I won’t be adding posts considering archive majors, however, I will be still adding those majors as sub-pages, and I would like to make all tournaments that left (24) to the end of the year! Generally speaking I’m proud of the work I have done here, all major tournaments of the 80s have been included since March ’12, and most of the 90s. Here are those left to add: *** (5) Australian Open: 1997, 2004-05, 2009-10 (2) Roland Garros: 2009-10 (6) Wimbledon: 1997, 1999, 2000-01, 2009-10 (11) US Open: 1992, 1996, 1998, 2002, 2004-2010 *** Some important pages (like Head-to-Head) should be updated after majors. Thanks to all of you who’ve contributed to this site in the past 30 months!! 🙂
Years 2006-2008 in men’s tennis are characterized as a period of the biggest domination of two players in the entire Open era. Boris Becker and Stefan Edberg had created for many years the only pair of players to compete three consecutive finals in a major; Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer played three consecutive major finals at two different venues (Roland Garros Wimbledon) There was a symmetry involved in that rivalry at the highest level: Nadal won twice in Paris, Federer avenged those defeats in London. The pattern was broken in 2008 though, Nadal devastated Federer in Paris, and it was such a boost of confidence for the Spaniard that he was able to snap Federer’s 65-match winning streak on grass four weeks later in the Wimbledon epic final.
Two Germanic, tall blond-haired serve-and-volley specialists, Swede Stefan Edberg and nearly two years younger German Boris Becker, dominated Wimbledon in the late 80s and early 90s playing against each other three finals in a row – something like this had not happened at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club since 1894 when two local players, Joshua Pim and Wilfred Baddeley met in four consecutive finals. Edberg and Becker almost repeated the feat of the British gentlemen in 1991 – Becker advanced to the final again. Edberg was unexpectedly beaten by Michael Stich in the semifinal! Because it’s supposed to be the first Grand Slam match in history that a loser held all his service games! It’s interesting that Becker overwhelmed Edberg in their pro rivalry 25-10, which is one of the most lopsided Head to Heads of the Open era, but the Swede prevailed in 3 out of their 4 Grand Slam meetings, including two Wimbledon finals!
Three consecutive finals between the same players within one GS event (Open era) *
1988: Edberg d. Becker 4-6, 7-6, 6-4, 6-2
1989: Becker d. Edberg 6-0, 7-6, 6-4
1990: Edberg d. Becker 6-2, 6-2, 3-6, 3-6, 6-4
2006: Nadal d. Federer 1-6, 6-1, 6-4, 7-6
2007: Nadal d. Federer 6-3, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4
2008: Nadal d. Federer 6-1, 6-3, 6-0
2006: Federer d. Nadal 6-0, 7-6, 6-7, 6-3
2007: Federer d. Nadal 7-6, 4-6, 7-6, 2-6, 6-2
2008: Nadal d. Federer 6-4, 6-4, 6-7, 6-7, 9-7
* In the pre-Open era only two pairs of players met in three consecutive finals, in fact it was extended to four consecutive editions (Joshua Pim vs. Wilfred Baddeley at Wimbledon 1891-94 and Bill Tilden vs. Bill Johnston at US Open 1922-25)
(3)Rafael Nadal d. (4)David Ferrer 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 [2:16 h]
Fourth all-Spanish final at Roland Garros (previous occurred in 1994, 1998 & 2002). There were some factors which could allow to expect the underdog wasn’t chance-less: Ferrer spent six hours fewer (!) on courts en route to the final, besides the weather was ugly (almost the entire final was played in a drizzle; 16 Celsius) so the favorite couldn’t generate the enormous spin with his forehand. But… Nadal is never tired and he wins on clay so many matches in different conditions that the most important factor at the beginning of the final was simply one: his “head to head” against four years older compatriot (19-4, including eight straight wins, three this year). There are not too many similarly lopsided rivalries in the Open era # Andre Agassi correctly pointed out before the final, they play the same type of tennis, they are like two boxers, but the difference is that one of them combats in heavyweight while the other in lightweight… The first-time major finalist Ferrer wasn’t tense, he started strongly holding the opening game at ‘love’. He led 3:2* in the 1st set when Nadal stepped up winning seven games in a row. There were three longest games of the final in the mid-2nd set (4, 4 & 2 deuces respectively) – Nadal won two out of three, and he was serving for a two sets lead at 5:1 – then a protester with flare jumped down from the stands running towards Rafa (something like this happened for the second time in the last four years in the Parisian final), but was quickly removed by bodyguards. Perhaps that incident distracted the King of Clay a bit because he lost his serve at 15. Afterwards won three games in a row though, dropping just one point in the process. Ferrer, like in the two previous sets, managed to get a break and even had a break point at 3-all, however, he couldn’t convert it sending a forehand long, and Nadal took the last three games finishing the tournament with a blistering inside-out forehand in an equilibristic position. A moment later he fell down on the court covering face with hands to celebrate his two new records: eighth French Open crown (no-one had won so many majors in one city before) ## and 59th win in Paris! “The feeling on court was great. The matches against David are always difficult,” Nadal said. “I think the score is much easier than what the match was today. I think for moments I played great. I think a few moments in the match, I played at very, very high level.” The Mallorcan has now claimed 57 titles, including 12 majors which moves him on the third place in the Open era behind Roger Federer (17) and Pete Sampras (14). “To beat Rafael [on a] clay court, I need to play more aggressive,” said Ferrer. “I need to finish the points at the net and play my best tennis to beat him. But when the court is slower, it’s very difficult. He has more power than me with his shots and it’s very difficult to beat him.” After the 7-month sabbatical, Nadal is enjoying the best season of his extraordinary career; he has played in nine finals this year capturing seven titles, and currently is on a 22-match winning streak! He hasn’t actually any points to defend to the end of the season, so if he stays healthy, very likely he will finish the year as the best player in the world for the third time in career (previously in 2008 & 2010). Stats of the final.
(1)B.Bryan/M.Bryan d. M.Llodra/N.Mahut 6-4, 4-6, 7-6(4)
# The most lopsided H2H’s in the Open era:
+18 Roger Federer vs. Andy Roddick, 21-3 (2001-2012)
+17 Roger Federer vs. Nikolay Davydenko, 19-2 (2002-2013)
+17 Bjorn Borg vs. Vitas Gerulaitis, 17-0 (1974-1981)
+17 Ivan Lendl vs. Tim Mayotte, 17-0 (1980-1990)
+16 Ivan Lendl vs. Brad Gilbert, 16-0 (1982-1991)
+16 Ivan Lendl vs. Scott Davis, 16-0 (1980-1991)
+16 Rafael Nadal vs. David Ferrer, 20-4 (2004-2013)
## Most major titles in the Open era:
17 – Roger Federer (2003-12; Australian Open – 4, Roland Garros – 1, Wimbledon – 7, US Open – 5)
14 – Pete Sampras (1990-02; Australian Open – 2, Wimbledon – 7, US Open – 5)
12 – Rafael Nadal (2005-13; Australian Open – 1, Roland Garros – 8, Wimbledon – 2, US Open – 1)
11 – Bjorn Borg (1974-81; Roland Garros – 6, Wimbledon – 5)
(4)David Ferrer d. (6)Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-1, 7-6(3), 6-2 [2:04 h]
Unfortunately Tsonga couldn’t deal with the pressure, there was a lot of talk about 30th anniversary of Yannick Noah‘s triumph at Roland Garros; because there are some resemblances between him and Tsonga, the expectations were high. I saw a Tsonga-Ferrer match in Paris-Bercy last Autumn, so I knew that if Ferrer had won that match easily, he would have been a strong favorite to win again on clay, but Tsonga’s performance must be considered as a disappointment anyway. The antsy Tsonga played the entire match much below his standards, even when he led 3:0* in the 2nd set and later had a set point at 5:4 (Ferrer saved it with a service winner), it was more a consequence of decrease of Ferrer’s reliability than Tsonga’s improvement. Actually Tsonga delivered a good tennis only in the 11th game of the 2nd set when he saved four break points, including one with a stretching backhand volley from no-man’s land. That point could shift the momentum onto his side, but it didn’t happen. The Frenchman was talking to himself all the time, some of his reactions were weird, for example in the tie-break, when he suggested to his box troubles with visibility, but was deprived of eye-drops, and during change of ends used water to wash his eyes! “I’m very, very happy. This tournament is very special for me and to be the first final of Grand Slam in Roland Garros is amazing,” said Ferrer, who had lost his five previous Grand Slam semifinals. “Now I want to enjoy this moment, to rest tomorrow, and to try my best in the final.” Like Alberto Berasategui 19 years ago, he advances to his first Grand Slam final not dropping a set! Stats of the match
(3)Rafael Nadal d. (1)Novak Djokovic 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 6-7(3), 9-7 [4:37 h]
Their 35th meeting will be remembered as one of the most exiting ones in their amazing rivalry. For Djokovic it’s been an ultimate task to beat Rafa in Paris, which virtually would have guaranteed him capturing the title, the only Grand Slam title he hasn’t won yet. The Serb started strongly as he counted on repeating in some sense the Monte Carlo ’13 final when he stunned Nadal from the beginning. This time Nadal was much more vigilant, and made a break in the 7th game despite a game point for Djokovic. That game initiated a period of Nadal’s superiority which extended onto the next 30 minutes or so. The Spaniard led 3:2 with a break in the 2nd set when Djokovic decided to give his best, trying at all costs to avoid theoretically insurmountable on clay a two-sets-to-love deficit against Rafa. Djokovic played four consecutive games brilliantly to level the score, however, it cost him a lot of energy and he couldn’t recover physically at the beginning of the 3rd set. He had to save a double set point to avoid the first bagel in their rivalry! In the 4th set Djokovic came back to his disposition from the early stages of the match, he was dictating the points with well-placed backhands in all directions mixed up with perpendicular backhand dropshots, but it was Nadal who led with a break of serve 4:3 and 6:5. In the 12th game, after two forehand winners he led 30/15 being two points away from another final, but stumbled a bit and lost his confidence – Djokovic not only forced a tie-break, but he jumped to a 4:1 lead and won it in convincing style. A great backhand return gave him an early break. Leading 3:1, Djokovic tried as hard as could to get the second break, but the Spaniard responded with fantastic shots to take the game after a couple of deuces. The 8th game was the key to this match: Djokovic saved a break point and was in a position to finish a point with an overhead, and then a disaster came – he touched the net with his body after a bounce far away from Nadal’s range. Djokovic argued but obviously Pascal Maria had to award Nadal with a point – rules are clear – before the second bounce a player can’t touch the net! After that point the Serbian was not the same, above all he lost ability to get a point directly with an overhead. Trailing *6:7 (40/15) he netted an overhead like a beginner, and missed another one opening the 16th game. It was too much for him to handle, in the following point his shaky shot was punished by Nadal’s FH, and two forehand errors off Nadal’s returns finished an epic encounter in rather poor style. “You need to love the game,” explained Nadal. “You [need to] appreciate what you are doing in every moment. I learned during all my career to enjoy suffering, and these kind of matches are very special. You don’t have the chance to play these kind of matches every day. So when these kind of matches happen you suffer, but I really enjoy these moments.” Djokovic, who lost his first five-setter in nine matches when 5th set reached 5-all, stated: “It’s been an unbelievable match to be part of, but all I can feel now is disappointment. I congratulate my opponent, because he showed the courage in the right moments and went for his shots. When he was break down in the fifth, he made some incredible shots from the baseline. I congratulate him, because that’s why he’s a champion. That’s why he’s been ruling Roland Garros for many years, and for me it’s another year.” It was their 10th meeting at majors (fifth in Paris) # They are just one match away from equaling a record of Ivan Lendl and John McEnroe, who met 36 times. Stats of the match
# Biggest H2H’s at majors:
11 – Roger Federer vs. Novak Djokovic (6-5)
10 – Rafael Nadal vs. Roger Federer (8-2)
10 – Ivan Lendl vs. John McEnroe (7-3)
10 – Rafael Nadal vs. Novak Djokovic (7-3)
# 5-set barometer: 16-5 Rafael Nadal, 18-7 Novak Djokovic
(1)Novak Djokovic d. (12)Tommy Haas 6-3, 7-6(5), 7-5 [2:13 h]
In a very similar style (7-5 6-1 7-6 in 2 hours 14 minutes) Djokovic defeated Haas at Roland Garros seven years ago – it was rather surprising back then, now the Serb was a clear favorite despite a bitter loss to Haas a couple of months ago in Miami… In the first two sets Haas couldn’t get a break point, yet he was two points away from taking the 2nd set at 5-all in the tie-break – then occurred one of the best rallies of the match, which Djokovic won with a succulent cross-court backhand. In the last set Haas broke back twice, the second time surviving a match point at 3:5 on serve, but wasted a game point in the 11th game and Djokovic converted the second match point with a backhand down the line – he’d failed the same type of a shot on the first occasion. It’s the first time in the Open era that all quarterfinals were concluded in Paris after straight setters (in 2011 three matches ended 3-0, Djokovic got a walkover from Fognini). In the entire French Open history it happened just once before, in 1948 and a retirement was involved in one of those quarterfinals. “Now I have a big challenge in front of me, and I’m ready for it,” said Djokovic. “I have been playing well. I know that this is the biggest challenge for me in Roland Garros, no question about it, and I’m sure that it’s going to be quite a good match.”
(3)Rafael Nadal d. (9)Stanislas Wawrinka 6-2, 6-3, 6-1 [1:56 h]
The Swiss entered this match on Philippe Chatrier having a 0-9 record against Nadal, not winning even a single set, with a recent one-sided loss in the Madrid final. With such a poor stats it had been tough to expect the main favorite would have had any problems in advancing to the semifinals, but Wawrinka’s performance is concerning anyway. He had lost his serve two times in a 4-hour battle against Gasquet, Nadal broke him twice already in the opening 25 minutes and the final outcome was never questioned since then. Wawrinka showed his inefficacy & frustration in the 7th game of the 1st set when netted a backhand from a good position in the end of spectacular rally, and devastated his racquet right afterwards. “I’m disappointed because I couldn’t find solutions. I couldn’t make the right choices at the right moments. I couldn’t execute,” reflected Wawrinka. “Apart from this, Nadal is a complicated player. You have to play an incredible game. And when you play really well, he shouldn’t be playing his best level. If you are at my ranking and at my level, given the conditions, it’s very difficult.”
(6)Jo-Wilfried Tsonga d. (2)Roger Federer 7-5, 6-3, 6-3 [1:51 h]
It’s 22nd Open era pair of players to have faced each other at all four majors. Federer had beaten Tsonga severely at Australian Open ’10 & US Open ’11, this time it was a time of a sweet revenge. The initial phase of this match didn’t suggest that Tsonga would finish the contest as a comfortable straight sets winner. He was *2:4 down in the 1st set. In the 8th game Federer led 40/15 on serve, but lost four straigh points. In the 12th game Tsonga had a triple set point, Federer won three points in a row, the second one with a beautiful backhand passing-shot, but made two casual errors afterwards, and the Frenchman took the momentum. Tsonga’s ground-strokes were functioning very well, and he grabbed another two sets without any troubles. He is through to the French Open semifinals for the first time in career, and he makes it not dropping a set (!) – he’s lost his serve four times (twice against Federer). “I thought he played great today,” said Federer. “He was, in all areas, better than me today. That’s why the result was pretty clean. I was impressed by the way he played today. I think I struggled a little bit everywhere. To be honest, personally, I’m pretty sad about the match and the way I played.” Tsonga becomes the 10th Open era Frenchman to reach semifinals at Roland Garros, only Yannick Noah managed to lift the trophy 30 years ago.
(4)David Ferrer d. (32)Tommy Robredo 6-2, 6-1, 6-1 [1:25 h]
After historic, three consecutive comebacks from two sets down (two that lasted almost four hours), Robredo ran out of gas on Suzanne Lenglen court. Obviously he would have had amazingly tough task against anyone, but his tiredness must have been visible especially against a rock-solid Ferrer, who in contrary to his peer and compatriot, spent the fewest amount of time prior to the quarterfinals among eight players. “I wasn’t 100 per cent ready to fight in the match,” said Robredo. “Playing a guy like David, who is a machine, it’s very tough. So there was no match today. I’m not sad about losing today. I just wish [that] I had managed to fight a bit more. It was very difficult, if not impossible.” Robredo becomes the first Open Era player to lose major quarterfinals six times not having reached a semifinal. Guy Forget is second in this stats, with five quarterfinal defeats, nine players couldn’t break through to the semifinals in four quarterfinal attempts. “I think it’s quite normal [that] the crowd is going to be supporting Jo,” said Ferrer about his semifinal match. “He’s French and I am very happy he’s made it that far. I’ll do everything I can to make it to the final. I have to remain focused.” Stats of the match
There are records that seem untouchable, one of them belonged through 86 years to Henri Cochet, who triumphed at Wimbledon 1927 coming back from two sets down in three consecutive matches, however, nothing lasts forever. In the Open era several players managed to win two matches in a row trailing 0-2 in sets, but no-one did it three times until Sunday, when Tommy Robredo produced arguably the most astonishing comeback in his career #. He had lost all five meetings against Nicolas Almagro prior to their fourth round match, and after losing first two sets, he won another three being a break down in every one of them: *1:4, 2:4* & 0:2* respectively. He was also 3:4 down in the decider, but repeated the feat of two previous sets winning all games since the opponent had won four in a set. Robredo during the match was supported by the Parisian crowd like never before outside Spain, the crowd was chanting “Tommy! Tommy!”, and it brought Robredo to tears in the end. “I played a player who is incredible on clay,” said Robredo about his 3-hour, 49-minute victory. “I’m not thinking about history. History is this match I played today. It’s not the score that counts. Nothing more than that.” Besides Robredo, all other quarter-finalists were expected at this stage of the tournament. David Ferrer and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga have advanced to the last eight not even dropping a set. No-one even played a tie-break against Ferrer, yet Marinko Matosevic led *3:0 against him in a 2nd set of their first round encounter before losing all games to the end of set, Tsonga in turn, was forced to fight off a set point against Jarkko Nieminen. It seemed Roger Federer would enter the quarterfinals with four straight set victories too, when he won easily 1st set against Gilles Simon and led 3:2* (30/0) in the 2nd. Since then, Simon turned the things around, but Federer subdued him from 2-all in the 4th set collecting seven games in a row. Simon saved a couple of break points to end that streak and gave the hope to his numerous supporters gathered on Philippe Chartier stadium for a magnificent comeback. Federer serving to win the match was able to play all the most important points hitting all 1st serves in, and saved two break points to notch a 6-1 4-6 2-6 6-2 6-3 victory just under three hours. 17-time Grand Slam champion Federer won a record-tying 58th match at Roland Garros (Nicola Pietrangeli, Guillermo Vilas). The Swiss has now won 900 main-level matches, this milestone accomplished only three players before. Rafael Nadal revealed that elbow-pain was the reason of his uncertain form in the first three matches. The 7-time champion celebrated his 27th birthday with no pain and quick destruction of Kei Nishikori (6-4 6-1 6-3). It’s just one match away from his anticipated semifinal against Novak Djokovic, who dropped his 1st set of the tournament against Philipp Kohlschreiber, to whom lost their only previous encounter in Paris, four years ago. Kohlschreiber won then three sets ‘6-4’, and repeated the same scoreline in the opening set. Djokovic snapped that streak thanks to very important two games in the mid-2nd set when he broke the German, then held his serve and it lasted 18 minutes (8, 10) – Kohlschreiber wasn’t the same afterwards. “We were very close throughout my whole life and she taught me a lot of things that are part of me, part of my character today. I have the nicest memories of her. She was 77 years old, and before she passed away two days ago, last week she was giving lessons to kids.” said Djokovic about his first coach, Jelena Gencic, who died on Saturday. Stanislas Wawrinka and Richard Gasquet played perhaps the match of the event on Suzanne Lenglen. The Swiss came back for the sixth time in career from two sets down while Gasquet suffered his fifth defeat despite winning the first two sets. The highlight came in the 8th game of the 4th set when both guys exchanged nine consecutive points concluded with spectacular winners (5-4 edged Wawrinka). After that Gasquet delivered a service winner to save fifth break point and had mini-match points in two following Wawrinka’s service games. When Gasquet started limping at the end of the 4th set, I expected the decider would be quick, but he somehow regrouped and had another mini-match points at 5-all in the deciding set, it was a double break point – Wawrinka escaped with brave attitude and converted his only break point of the set in the last game. “I played the best level I ever played at,” said Wawrinka, who was broken only twice in the match (at the beginning of the 2nd set & trailed 0:4 in the consequence). Gasquet, a Wimbledon semifinalist in 2007, can’t even reach a major quarterfinal since then, the loss to Wawrinka is his 11th fourth round defeat in the meantime – he’s been ousted in the last 16 of the last six Grand Slam events! Tommy Haas with an unexpected ease dismissed Mikhail Youzhny, to whom lost in straight sets recently in Rome. The 35-year-old Haas has now advanced to quarterfinals at all majors, he is the first German in the quarterfinals in Paris since 1996, and sixth German overall of the Open era in the last eight of the French Open.
Longest match: 4 hours, 16 minutes. Stanislas Wawrinka d. Richard Gasquet 6-7(5), 4-6, 6-4, 7-5, 8-6
Most aces: 13 – Wawrinka against Gasquet
5-set barometer: 22-17 Roger Federer, 20-14 Stanislas Wawrinka, 13-4 Tommy Robredo, 13-11 Nicolas Almagro, 12-7 Gilles Simon, 5-12 Richard Gasquet
# Comebacks from a two-sets-to-love deficit in three straight matches:
Henri Cochet – Wimbledon 1927
Q – Frank Hunter 3-6, 3-6, 6-2, 6-2, 6-3
S – Bill Tilden 2-6, 4-6, 7-5, 6-4, 6-3
W – Jean Borotra 4-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 7-5 – 6 m.p.
Tommy Robredo – Roland Garros 2013
2 – Igor Sijsling 6-7(2), 4-6, 6-3, 6-1, 6-1
3 – Gael Monfils 2-6, 6-7(5), 6-2, 7-6(3), 6-2 – 4 m.p.
4 – Nicolas Almagro 6-7(5), 3-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4