Novak Djokovic French Open 2021

Analyst looks at how Novak Djokovic defied the odds against Rafael Nadal

An analyst has unpicked exactly how Novak Djokovic managed to defy the odds and battle past Rafael Nadal in the French Open semi-final.

Craig O’Shannessy of found that the key to success in Djokovic’s win against Nadal was his dominance in the mid-length rallies.

O’Shannessy found that Rafael Nadal got the better of the short exchanges and Novak Djokovic edged his rival in the longer, though the Serbian made the telling difference by winning more rallies between four and seven shots.

The average rally length for the match was 5.3 shots – right in the middle of the rally length which the Serbian enjoyed.

Here is a detailed analysis of the match from Brain Game:

Rally Lengths – 0-3 Shots
Nadal committed eight double faults in the match, and combined with nine return errors. Despite those uncharacteristic errors, the Spaniard still won seven more rallies between 0-3 shots than Djokovic.

Points Won: 0-3 Shots
• Djokovic = 41 points
• Nadal = 48 points

Rally Lengths – 4-7 Shots
This is the category where the Serbian asserted his authority on the match. These rallies frequently included a deep return from the World No 1 followed by a crosscourt backhand and a powerful forehand. Djokovic was utterly dominant with these mid-length rallies.

Points Won / Rally Length
• Four Shots = Djokovic 19 points/Nadal 9 points
• Five Shots = Djokovic 17 points/Nadal 15 points
• Six Shots = Djokovic 11 points/Nadal 11 points
• Seven Shots = 17 points/Nadal 5 points

• Djokovic = 54 points
• Nadal = 40 points

Rally Lengths 8+ Shots
For extended rallies of eight shots or more, it was Djokovic who eventually hit the most winners with 17 to 13. Overall, the Serbian won three more points in this category than the 13-time champion.

Points Won 8+ Shots
• Djokovic = 39 points
• Nadal = 36 points

Nadal had 48 winners and 93 total errors for the match, whereas Djokovic had 50 winners and yielded just 76 forced and unforced errors.

Tim Farthing, Tennishead Editorial Director & Owner, has been a huge tennis fan his whole life. He's a tennis journalist and entrepreneur as well as playing tennis to a national standard. He also helps manage his local club and volunteers for his local tennis organisation. He's a specialist in content about the administration of professional tennis and tennis coaching for all levels.