Welcome to another installment of LiveAnalysis! Today we have the eighteenth meeting between World No. 2 Novak Djokovic and Stanislas Wawrinka. The head-to-head stands 15-2 in favor of Djokovic, who’s won the last 14 matches they’ve played.
Remember to refresh this page often, as I will be providing game-by-game analysis throughout the match!
Remember to refresh this page often, as I will be providing game-by-game analysis throughout the match!
As in previous LiveAnalysis posts, I’ll be using a bit of “tennis shorthand” today. Here’s your glossary:
BP: Break Point
DTL: Down the line (means the same as “up the line”)
GP: Game Point
SP: Set Point
S&V: Serve and Volley
SW: Service Winner
UFE: Unforced Error
No preamble – let’s just jump into the action!
First Set – Novak Djokovic will serve first.
0*-0: Pretty easy hold to love for Djokovic, capped by a very nice net approach + classy volley combo.
1-0*, Djokovic: A similarly easy hold to 15 for Stan (the only point Djokovic won was due to a very poor short BH putaway that Stan netted). Only thing Djokovic will regret is missing not one, but two 2nd serve returns.
1*-1: Stan starts going for his FH a little more, and coherently, he’s trying to attack Djokovic’s FH corner (Deuce court). Djokovic holds to 30, and the 2 return points won by Stan were both Djokovic UFEs (1 BH, 1 FH). A couple of returns were missed.
One unusual thing I saw in that game was Djokovic’s decision to go I-O with his BH. He missed on the first try, but later forced an error. He has great disguise on that two-hander, and historically he’s gone CC when standing in the middle of the court. So no can can blame Stan for being surprised at the I-O pattern.
2-1*, Djokovic: The first point of this game is so far, the point of the match. Both men seemed to have a handle on the point, but both found ways to turn defense into offense. Stan ends up coming on top. The hitting was very reminiscent of last year’s epic. Highlight was Stan defending a very good Djokovic BH DTL early in the rally. From there on, Stan ends up holding to 15 after some good serves trigger short balls. Only point won by Djokovic was due to a very good 2nd serve return.
2*-2: The hitting keeps getting bigger and bigger. However, that hasn’t translated necessarily into more winners, but into more UFEs that fly long. Djokovic ends up holding to 30. The highlight was a huge 2nd serve up the middle from the Deuce court to make it 40-15.
3-2*, Djokovic: Couple of bad UFEs by Stan to go down 15-30. 2nd one was a wild BH UFE. A first BP comes when Djokovic prods Stan’s BH first, then the FH, and the Swiss loses patience, and fires a FH into the net. 15-40. The point is masterfully played by Djokovic – he sends a deep 2nd serve return into the Deuce court, and then yanks Stan wide on the BH, and wide on the FH. The last shot triggers the error, and Djokovic has taken the lead.
It’s always been a good idea to move Stan around the court. Wawrinka has improved his defense considerably, but he’s still slightly below average in that department. Once he’s pushed behind the baseline and pulled wide, a lot of court opens up.
4*-2, Djokovic: A straightforward game that seemed destined for a hold to 15 is prolonged by a very lucky letcord winner for Stan. Djokovic then clinches the game by once again yanking Stan from side to side. What makes the strategy effective is the nice angle on the first aggressive CC BH. That eases the task of the FH greatly.
So far, Djokovic seems intent on employing the simple gameplan that has seen him beat Wawrinka 14 straight times. It is also the same idea that Rafael Nadal has used against the Swiss over and over again (Stan has never taken a set from Nadal – he’s 0-26).
5-2*, Djokovic: A deflated Wawrinka gifts the first 2 points of the game rather tamely, but regroups rather nicely with 3 straight 1st serves. All were extremely good. However, a fourth doesn’t come, Djokovic eats up the 2nd serve return with a BH DTL, and levels the game at Deuce. Then, a Set Point comes when Stan horribly messes up a smash from the baseline. It is saved when a Djokovic FH clips the net and lands out. However, a 2nd Set Point is taken when Djokovic races to catch another letcord, and masterfully slices it wide, beyond Stan’s reach.
Djokovic played a supremely focused set, which reminded me of the last four sets these men have played (all four have been won by Djokovic).
First Set to Novak Djokovic, 6-2.
Here are your Set 1 Stats:
Second Set – Novak Djokovic will serve first.
0*-0: Djokovic starts the set with a cheap FH error, but then fully commits to attack Stan’s FH with that same shot. It’s being quite effective, and 2 big FHs seal a hold to 30.
1-0*, Djokovic: A key point takes place at 15-30 (Djokovic was up 0-30). Djokovic can’t find a whole lot of depth, Stan survives a long rally, and Djokovic shanks a FH. Stan screams in delight, and rides the momentum to a hold to 30.
Stan is noticeably trying to pump himself up, and Djokovic will rue the lack of aggression on that 15-30 point – a FH he hit was extremely loopy and short.
1*-1: Djokovic’s FH now having a little bad patch: 2 UFEs off that wing put him behind 0-30. Make that 3 FH UFEs, though the last one was off a tricky low slice by Stan that forced Djokovic to come forward. 0-40, triple BP. The first BP is saved by two huge FHs that set up an easy volley. Nice commitment to the shot that has let him down in this game. 15-40. The second BP is saved with a SW up the middle. 30-40. Third is saved by a SW out wide. Djokovic then struggles mightily with depth, but Stan bails him out with a cheap BH UFE. The GP is not converted since Stan punished Djokovic’s lack of depth to great effect, finishing with a huge CC FH. Then, we get a “bravado” point: Djokovic eschews the side-to-side tactic, and stubbornly fires sort-of-big FHs into Stan’s FH corner until he triggers an error. The game ends when Stan goes for a big (albeit very risky) I-O BH winner. He doesn’t come close.
Tactically, nothing has changed in this match. However, Djokovic’s initial pace and depth have taken a backseat to more spinny and short shots. Stan has started to step in and punish some of these, but his execution isn’t nearly as sharp as he needs it to be. It goes without saying that a big reason why Djokovic struggled against Wawrinka last year was this lack of pace and depth, along with Stan’s mostly excellent execution.
Last thought: let’s see how Stan regroups after that big game.
2-1*, Djokovic: Stan avoids falling into the “don’t take your chances, get broken immediately” trap, and holds rather straightforwardly to 15. We had another Djokovic FH UFE, and not a whole lot of depth, either.
2*-2: Djokovic gets very good pace and depth on a CC FH to start the game, and Stan has no answer for it. The rest of the game goes by very quickly, and Djokovic holds to love.
Stan’s notorious problems during his career have been his movement and his return of serve. Aside from the previous service game (which was more due to Djokovic messing up groundstrokes than good returning), Stan hasn’t found ways to put Djokovic serves back in play consistently.
3-2*, Djokovic: Another big CC FH from Djokovic draws an error, and then Stan foolishly lets a return go by, only to watch it clip the net. However, two Aces level the game at 0-30. More great play from Stan, keyed on by 2 more 1st serves, see him hold to 30. That was impressive.
To me, Stan’s chance of success depends on two things: his ability to hit 1st serves, and Djokovic not getting a whole lot of groundstroke depth. Sadly for him, he can only control one of those things. This is how lopsided H2Hs are built.
3*-3: As Darren Cahill notes, Stan seems to be showing a positive commitment to hitting good FHs. This is a sound idea – him taking the initiative is the only way he’ll win this match. Stan fires two absolute bullets at 30-0, and levels the game. Not only that, Stan finds a way to attack with a huge CC BH, and he creates a BP. Then, we get the point of the match – Djokovic stubbornly goes after Stan’s FH, but he can’t get enough pace to draw an error, Stan gets a chance to unload on a BH DTL, and he nails it straight on the tape. Amazing point, amazing shot. Stan goes up a break.
Stan has now fully understood that for him to have a chance, he has to play big. He has to attack with either wing, and take advantage of any short Djokovic shot. Which he did to great effect in that BP rally.
Djokovic’s mistake in that BP rally? Forgetting the successful strategy (yanking Stan side to side), and engaging in an ill-advised FH-to-FH exchange.
3-4*, Wawrinka: A very, very long and fascinating rally takes place – it feels like the first one Stan has won after Djokovic actually put pace on groundstrokes. Key point, too – it was at 15-30. Stan later tosses in a costly DF at GP, so it’s Deuce. Holding her is an absolute must. Djokovic gets not one, but two great looks at passing Stan at net, and sends both straight towards Stan’s racquet. GP, and break consolidation via Ace.
Another half chance goes begging for Djokovic, and Stan’s confidence level keeps going up.
One thing I did notice in that last game is that Djokovic seemed far more comfortable to flatten out his shots from the far court. Earlier you could see how there was a breeze going around the near court, and that’s where he’s been over-spinning his shots.
3*-5, Wawrinka: A much needed hold to love for Djokovic. But now comes the tough task of putting together a good return game from the side of the court that’s been giving him trouble recently.
Stan was in a similar juncture to this one last year, and failed to serve out a second set. Back then it hampered his chances, but didn’t kill them. It does feel like failing to take this set (in which he’s been the better player) would be fatal.
4-5*, Wawrinka: Djokovic starts this key game by sending a 2nd serve return long. Then, a very, very cheap BH slice UFE into the net by Stan. 15-15. A huge 2nd serve out wide by Stan triggers Djokovic’s error, and then a SW out wide gives him double Set Point. Another good 2nd serve into the body can’t be returned by Djokovic, and Stan has taken the set.
Djokovic only had to deal with 1 first serve in that entire game. Normally, that would be great for him. The last 2 2nd serves were masterful by Stan, though – the first one out wide was a beauty, and the last one into the body was really smart.
Second Set to Stanislas Wawrinka, 6-3.
Here are your Set 2 Stats:
Third Set – Novak Djokovic will serve first.
0*-0: A very simple service hold for Djokovic, which was much needed.
1-0*, Djokovic: One thing that has gotten Djokovic in trouble is sending 3/4 pace shots up the middle. Stan has eaten those up. However, receiving from the far end, he seems to be flattening out his shots more. Still, Stan holds to 30 after some more good first serves.
We get this very interesting graph, that details Djokovic’s fanatical attachment to his return of serve position:
1*-1: Djokovic comes to net quite successfully in this game, exposing the fact that Stan can’t get a whole lot of “dip” on his passing shots. All the volleys Djokovic hits are at the hip level. However, 2 cheap UFEs from Djokovic mean this is a 30-30 game instead of a love hold. Stan then hits a very, very good deep return to Djokovic’s Fh, and forces the error. Break Point, 30-40. A great return deep up the middle sets up a fantastic CC BH by Stan, which ends up forcing the error. Stan is up a break.
That certainly has to rattle Djokovic: he just got broken from the side of the court from which he had been playing better. Also, his 1st serve on BP was a very good one up the T. Those two cheap UFEs early in the game certainly seem costly: one in particular was an especially damaging short FH into the net when Stan was well out of position.
This graph speaks for itself:
1-2*, Wawrinka: Stan hits a wonderful wide Ace from the Deuce court down 0-30. Another huge SW out wide levels the game. Then, on a huge point that starts with a 2nd serve, Djokovic buries a regulation BH into the net. Costly, and quite sloppy…particularly when Stan DFs in the next point. more sloppiness continues as Djokovic badly misses a 2nd serve FH return. Then a wide SW bomb seals the hold.
Djokovic doesn’t seem all that comfortable changing the direction of the ball anymore. He’s not committing himself to stepping up to the baseline to yank Stan around from side to side anymore. More often than not he’s merely reacting to what Stan is doing, and providing the Swiss with plenty of chances to attack.
1*-3, Wawrinka: Stan Wawrinka is not hesitating anymore, and blasts his way to a BP at 30-40. Djokovic is quite uncomfortable out there (as he was for most of last year’s battle). Djokovic sets up the point by engaging in a dubious BH-to-BH exchange, then reluctantly switching to a FH-to-FH exchange, and when he tries to change the direction of the ball and go I-O with the FH, he misses wildly. Stan is now up a double break.
The wheels have come off Djokovic, in more ways than one. Tactically, he’s completely lost his focus, having completely forgotten the easy scheme he had executed to begin this match. He’s giving Wawrinka endless opportunities to unload, since Stan is not having to defend or hit on the run.
1-4*, Wawrinka: Djokovic shows flashes of the early tactics go up 0-30, but then sends a regulation FH into the net. 15-30. Two very good 1st serves make this 40-30. Soon after, Stan holds.
Djokovic has yet to create a break point since dominating the 1st set. And he’s had at least 3 chances where playing a good point would’ve given him a BP. He’s messed up all of those chances with rather cheap UFEs. Not the “going for a good shot” kind – the “regulation rally shot into the net or long” kind.
1*-5, Wawrinka: This was a “too little, too late” love hold for Djokovic.
2-5*, Wawrinka: Wide SW out wide, 15-0. Horribly bad BH UFE from Djokovic, 30-0. DF, 30-15. Another cheap BH UFE by Djokovic, 40-15. Wide SW, and the set is sealed.
Key difference from the 2013 Australian Open match between these two: last year, Stan dominated Sets 1 and 2, only took one of them. This year, he’s dominated Sets 2 and 3, and he’s taken both.
Third Set to Stanislas Wawrinka, 6-2.
Here are your Set 3 Stats:
Fourth Set – Novak Djokovic will serve first.
0*-0: Djokovic looks impressive to go up 30-0, but then his depth wobbles come up again, and Stan punishes accordingly. At 30-30, a huge chance for Stan comes up, he lines up a BH DTL, and misses badly. But then Djokovic’s 1st DF makes it Deuce. However, Djokovic goes back to his successful side-to-side scheme, ends up holding.
1-0*, Djokovic: More mediocre 2nd serve returning from Djokovic make it 40-15. Later, the same cause produces a hold to 30.
1*-1: Better depth, better pace, and better changing of direction from Djokovic make it 40-0. A simple volley seals the love hold.
To put it bluntly, unless Djokovic shakes off his tactical indiscipline, this match won’t even go to a fifth set. Also, the second serve returning has been abysmal since the first set. Key reason why no break points have been created in over 2 sets.
2-1*, Djokovic: Stan barely survives a point which he had no business losing (had 2 smashes to put it away), barely getting a CC volley in. 40-15, but then 2 cheap UFEs make it Deuce. Another botched 2nd serve return gives Stan a GP, which is denied by a great FH pass by Djokovic after some S&Ving by Stan. Another GP, after Stan gets a short reply from a 1st serve, and attacks the FH. Then, Djokovic seems to have a chance to send us back to Deuce, but nets a supremely easy short FH.
Djokovic’s sloppiness is reaching extremely problematic levels. He’s just hitting the ball with very little conviction. And the second serve returning has been a disaster.
2*-2: Another extremely easy love hold for Djokovic.
3-2*, Djokovic: At 15-30, Djokovic has 2 chances to pass Stan yet again. Both times were comfortable BH passes, and they go wasted, as a bad lob attempt gets smashed by Stan. Then, an Ace gives Stan GP. It is wasted, along with another one later on. Both on Stan UFEs. A third is denied by a simply brilliant BH DTL winner from Djokovic, hit while on the run. Another GP is unused when Djokovic shows some more forceful hitting, pushing Stan into hitting a desperation BH pass that doesn’t come close. But two huge 1st serves end up sealing the point for Stan.
That game felt huge. But Djokovic once again wasted a half-chance to create two BPs at 15-30. A correct pass away from Stan would’ve done the trick. Speaking of the Swiss, man, has he served some bombs today.
3*-3: Barring an early UFE, Djokovic gets yet another easy hold. His problem? Finding a way to carry this momentum into a Wawrinka service game. He still hasn’t created a single BP since the first set.
This is now crunch time for Stan – a break here allows Djokovic to serve for it.
4-3*, Djokovic: Stan races to a 40-0 lead after a nice net foray, a good FH, and a big SW out wide. Djokovic then plays two very impressive points, full of power and purpose. 40-30. Now Djokovic chases a dropper rather easily, and suddenly, it’s Deuce. Incredibly, a Break Point is created when a desperation FH DTL return barely catches a corner. Not sure if Stan had a play on it, but he definitely let it go. Then, Stan gets a chance to unload on a FH…but sends it miles wide. Djokovic with the unexpected break.
That literally came out of nowhere, and while Djokovic did play some excellent tennis in there, Stan will rue that final FH, as well as the silly dropper he played at 40-30.
5*-3, Djokovic: Novak goes down 15-30, but then fires an Ace up the middle to tie the game up. He then plays a very good point, sets up a short FH to put Stan away…but barely misses wide. Break Point for Stan, 30-40. The point is saved due to a horrible, horrible Stan BH UFE into the net. He wasn’t even trying to do much with the ball, which is worse. However, Wawrinka most definitely did a lot with the next point – he blasts FHs left and right, and creates another Break Point. Which is saved by another huge Ace up the T. Nervy times on Rod Laver Arena. Djokovic seems to be in trouble when Stan unloads on a huge BH DTL, but after Djokovic gets it back, misses a CC BH. Then Djokovic clinches the set with an enormous Ace out wide. That was clutch.
Third Set to Novak Djokovic, 6-3.
Here are your Set 4 Stats:
Fifth Set – Stanislas Wawrinka will serve first.
0*-0: A much needed love hold for Wawrinka.
Here ESPN shows us this graph:
No pressure, Novak!
1-0*, Wawrinka: Djokovic keeps the pace coming on the CC FHs, seals a simple hold to 15.
1*-1: Unbelievable defense from Djokovic to take the opening point. Some more insane defense at 30-15, so 30-30. But then, a very smart wide serve from the Deuce court is coupled with a simple FH behind Djokovic for a GP. That’s erased by a DF by Stan. Wawrinka then has Djokovic on a string, has a simple BH volley after a slice pass from Djokovic…and sends it wide. Which means, Break Point. Then, a simply gorgeous, imposing point by Djokovic to yank Stan Wawrinka first on the BH side, and then on the FH side, culminating with a simply stunning angled CC FH. A fantastic way to go up a break.
Do not that even in that gorgeous point, Djokovic once again declined to simply yank Stan from side to side.
1-2*, Djokovic: Two FH UFEs give Stan an opening: 0-30. It’s 15-30 after some good hitting from Djokovic…but then a third FH UFE makes it 15-40, double Break Point. And why not a 4th FH UFE to hand over the break? That’s how Stan got back on serve.
Simply bizarre game of tennis by Djokovic. All 4 FH UFEs were extremely poor.
2*-2: Djokovic fires a hard pass straight at Stan’s racquet, but it’s hard enough to draw the error. 0-30. Another BH pass from Djokovic, but it ends up in the net. 15-30. A simply horrific FH 2nd serve UFE from Djokovic. 30-30. A hard-hitting rally ends with a Wawrinka FH UFE (just to mix it up). Break Point for Djokovic. An extremely tentative rally ensues…and it ends with, you guessed it, a Djokovic FH UFE. It’s GP after Djokovic mangles not one, but two volleys that seemed perfectly makeable. Stan fires an Ace to seal the very key hold.
3-2*, Wawrinka: Djokovic plays the kind of easy, convincing service game that he should’ve 10 minutes ago. Holds at love.
Little room for tactics now. Both guys are just trying to get good, deep shots in, preferably where no one is standing. A lot of caution is in play, as well. One thing to monitor is Stan’s serving from the Deuce court – he’s been mostly untouchable there.
3*-3: Thumping BH DTL from Stan makes it 40-15. Stan messes up an I-O FH, 40-30. BH UFE by Stan, Deuce. A tentative rally ends with Stan little by little pushing Djokovic back, until a desperate pass ends up in the net. A similar point ends, but with the opposite roles: Djokovic stands in the middle of the baseline, bossing Stan around. Deuce again. Then, insane defense by Djokovic, coupled with some smart shot selection: instead of going hard DTL with the BH after being able to get back close to the baseline, he sends a good slice DTL BH, and triggers the error. Break Point…erased by an Ace up the middle. Rinse, and repeat, and later, a hold after Djokovic misfires on a FH.
Enormous hold for Stan. Simply insane Aces at the end of that game.
4-3*, Wawrinka: SW up the middle makes it 30-15, and another out wide makes it 40-15. BH UFE, 40-30. SW into the body, hold.
4*-4: Great serving by Stan, and he goes up 40-0. A hold is achieved when Djokovic mishandles yet another second serve.
5-4*, Wawrinka: Simply crazy 2nd serve out wide from Djokovic to start. 100 mph. Another similar bomb makes it 40-0. SW out wide, love hold.
This bit of data is fascinating:
5*-5: Both trade UFEs to make it 15-15. First Djokovic with a FH DTL, then Stan with a BH DTL. Both missed by a wide margin. Great CC FH by Stan after a loopy return, 30-15. Djokovic then tries to hit behind Wawrinka with his BH, but misses wide. And now…it’s raining. So we’ll stop. But only for a bit. Stan fires an Ace out wide, and he’s held.
One thing that is happening is that Stan is anticipating the side-to-side patterns very well. Time for Djokovic to mix in some shots behind Stan, some droppers, and some timely net approaches. You cannot afford to be predictable on a tennis court.
6-5*, Wawrinka: Djokovic quickly races to a 40-0 lead, and finishes with a flourish.
6*-6: Stan seemed to be imitating Djokovic’s easy hold, until Djokovic hits a simply unreal I-I BH return winner off a good 2nd serve. Another good 2nd serve return nets an easy smash. 30-30. A forceful rally ends when Djokovic badly misses a FH. Once again, Novak wasting a chance to create a BP. Then, a phenomenal BH DTL by Stan seems to seal the hold.
7-6*, Wawrinka: Stan hits a gorgeous CC BH on the run, which sets up a huge CC FH. 15-15. Djokovic then bosses Stan around, forces the FH error. SW out wide, 40-15. And for once, Djokovic hits behind Wawrinka quite well – so well Stan fell to the ground.
7*-7: Two straight SWs make it 30-0. A short FH makes it 40-0. Big BH DTL 2nd serve return, 40-15. Some great hitting by Stan after a very good return by Djokovic seals the hold.
8-7*, Wawrinka: A huge FH return of serve forces Djokovic’s error, and it’s 15-15. Short FH winner, 30-15. Short FH-to-FH exchange ends with a Djokovic FH UFE. 30-30. Stan as close as he’s ever come, I think. 2 points away. Stan then mishits a return, Djokovic tracks it down, but messes up the putaway, so it’s Match Point #1. And then…horror for Djokovic as he gets a very easy FH volley and botches it by a mile.
The better player won. He didn’t even need to zone to do it, either. I thought he was done after getting broken in the 5th, but once he got that break back (via horrific FH UFEs by Djokovic), he looked extremely solid.
Game, Set and Match to Stanislas Wawrinka, 2-6, 6-4, 6-2, 3-6, 9-7.
Here are your full match stats: