Article - Nadal vs Djokovic - The Battle for Number One

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I was going to publish this article after the season finished but it seems a good time to publish it now with both Nadal and Djokovic about to battle in the final of the ATP World Tour Finals at the O2 arena.

These two players are by some distance the outstanding players on tour right now with stats that are a fair bit superior to the competition.  Andy Murray can compete with these two away from clay, but it’s his results on the dirt that let him down and mean he will probably never get to the ultimate level of these two incredible competitors.

The year started with Nadal still making his way back from knee surgery – he didn’t take to the courts until the start of February, with his first event a small clay 250 in Vina Del Mar, Chile.  He lost the final to Horacio Zeballos in a shock result, but subsequently has lost just five times – to Djokovic twice, Juan Martin Del Potro in Shanghai, David Ferrer last week in Paris and the amazing defeat to Steve Darcis at Wimbledon.

That Nadal can miss the first month of the season and still have accumulated 12,030 ranking points to Djokovic’s 10,610 this year is an incredible achievement. 

But who is the real number one?  Is it Nadal, who currently has that honour in the world rankings?  Or is it Djokovic, who starts as favourite for the final at around 1.70?  Clearly the market feels he has an edge tomorrow.  Let’s see what the stats say on the matter…

Category Nadal Djokovic Best Stats
Service Hold %
All Surfaces 88.3 87.8 Nadal
Clay 87.3 83.1 Nadal
Grass 82.4 88.9 Djokovic
Hard 90.3 88.9 Nadal
Indoor Hard 85.7 90.4 Djokovic
Opponent Break %
All Surfaces 34.3 33.2 Nadal
Clay 38.5 34.3 Nadal
Grass 11.8 25.4 Djokovic
Hard 31.7 35.6 Djokovic
Indoor Hard 28.4 27.8 Nadal
Break Point Save % 69.2 64.8 Nadal
Break Point Won % 46.8 42.3 Nadal
Break Points Faced Per Game 0.38 0.35 Djokovic
Break Point Chances Per Game 0.73 0.79 Djokovic
Loses Break Lead % 17.6 17.7 Nadal
Recovers Break Deficit % 60.5 53.2 Nadal

As can be witnessed above, the stats on the whole favour Nadal with the Spaniard leading Djokovic in 10 of the 16 areas assessed - on that basis it would appear the current world rankings are very fair.

It also does show how close the players are, with Nadal holding serve just 0.5% more on all surfaces and breaking 1.1% more - and with Djokovic's poor break point save and won percentages compared to Nadal (and compared to his overall serve and return points won) showing that the Serb has not played his best tennis in pressure situations this year, it would appear that if Djokovic could correct this, he has the potential to post some incredible numbers in the future.  

However, with the Final of the World Tour Finals being played on Indoor Hard, it would appear that Djokovic has the edge according to the basic hold/break stats - having held 90.4% to 85.7% in 2013 (4.7% more) and having broken his opponents just 0.6% less (27.8% to 28.4%).  This difference would indicate the current 1.70 on Djokovic is about right.

The closeness of the stats generally and with Djokovic having more potential to improve, it would appear that we will have another battle next year for supremacy...
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