Roger Federer had a dream start to his comeback on clay as he defeated Richard Gasquet in the 2nd round of the Madrid Open. He even backed that up with a sensational victory over Gael Monfils, but eventually fell short against the in-form Austrian Dominic Thiem in the quarterfinals.
Let's analyze the match according to the numbers.
Federer's first serve percentage was a phenomenal 72% in the match. Even Thiem made 70% of his first serves, and that mean both the players were able to dictate points on their serve throughout.
When it came to points won under 5 shots by both the players, the numbers were astonishingly close as Federer won 74 points and Thiem won 76.
Both the players resorted to playing shorter rallies, and there were very few points that went beyond 9 shots. It was Federer who won five of those points, compare to Thiem's three.
Even the winners and unforced errors were almost the same for both the players. Thiem hit 31 winners and 27 unforced errors whereas Federer hit 33 winners and 27 unforced errors.
The closeness in the numbers speaks a lot about the quality of tennis produced by the two. The margins were very close but things didn't go Federer's way in the end. He took a few too many risks by coming forward to the net, leaving wide open spaces for Thiem to hit passing shots into.
But that doesn't mean Federer was unsuccessful in his net approaches. He won 23 out of 35 points at the net, which was just three fewer than the number of net points he won against Gael Monfils yesterday.
This net play and dominant first-strike tennis really helped Federer in the first set. He didn't give any time for Thiem to read his serve, and his razor-sharp volleys made life difficult for the Austrian.
The second set was where Thiem really started to get into the match. He changed his return position and came a couple of meters forward, to take the ball on the rise. This strategy worked in the tiebreaker and Thiem hit a crucial return winner before taking it 13-11.
In spite of some striking similarities between the two players with respect to the stats in this match, there was one factor that separated the winner from the loser: the percentage of points won on second serve. Federer started getting into trouble with his serve from the second set onwards and his choice of going for the serve and volley on the second serve didn't work well as Thiem was pretty strong from the baseline.
The Swiss won just 47% of his second serve points, while Thiem really fared well in this department with a win percentage of 55%.
All in all, the quarter-final match between Thiem and Federer was a tight and entertaining contest. Even though Thiem could only break Federer twice out of the 12 chances he had, that was sufficient for him to emerge victorious in the end.
Here are few of the brilliant shots played by the two in this match: