Rafael Nadal has never had a better start to a season. The Spaniard’s win over Cameron Norrie in the final of the Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado por HSBC in Acapulco took him to a 15-0 record in 2022, well clear of his previous personal-best season start of 11 wins from 2014.
It has long been known that there are few weaknesses in Nadal’s game, but one aspect particularly stood out in January and February as he swept to the title at the Melbourne Summer Set, added a historic 21st Grand Slam to his trophy cabinet at the Australian Open, and then clinched his fourth Acapulco title.
A quick dig into the numbers behind his winning streak shows that Nadal’s serving has been fundamental to his recent success.
The Spaniard has won 89.7 per cent of his service games this year, up on his 85.8 per cent career average. This solid base has made it difficult for opponents to make inroads against the 91-time tour-titlist. He has not dropped a set outside of the Australian Open and all but four of his 15 wins have been in straight sets.
Holding serve so reliably has also given Nadal more freedom to attack in his return games, a combination so effective that 23 of the 37 sets he has won have been by a margin of 6-3 or greater.
It has not just been about the number of service games Nadal has won, either. It has also been about navigating pressure moments on serve.
The Spaniard’s delivery has particularly come to the fore when the World No. 4 has faced break point. His 72.4 per cent of break points saved this year is up on his 66.7 per cent career average and, handily for Nadal, his delivery seems to be functioning particularly effectively against some of his biggest rivals.
A case in point is new World No. 1 Daniil Medvedev. In the two matches between the pair in 2022, Nadal has saved 27 of the 33 break points he has faced, including 11 out of 11 in their semi-final clash in Acapulco. Despite serving only two aces in that match to Medvedev’s 10, it was Nadal who secured three breaks of serve on his way to a 6-3, 6-3 victory.
Strong statistics do not guarantee success, but numbers like Nadal’s certainly help. Even when faced with the toughest of situations on serve, Nadal is showing he has all the answers in 2022.
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