Welcome to another installment of LiveAnalysis! Today we have the first ever meeting between the two-time Canada Masters champion Rafael Nadal, and Jerzy Janowicz, who is playing this event for the first time.
Nadal beat Jesse Levine rather handily yesterday, while Janowicz struggled through a par of three-setters against Julien Benneteau and Frank Dancevic.
There is no Head-to-Head to look at between these two. One even wonders if they’ve had a chance to even practice against each other.
- This will be the third member of the Big 4 that Janowicz will face in 2013. He lost a tight match to Federer in Rome, and as we remember, was up a break in the third set of his Wimbledon semi against Andy Murray (who he beat at the Paris Masters last year). Unrelated: it’s been 5 years since Rafael Nadal last won the Canada Masters. Also unrelated: though Nadal is just 5 years older than Janowicz, he’s played a whopping 679 more ATP matches than the Pole.
Three Things to Watch For:
1. Can Jerzy Janowicz serve at a high level today? The man from Lodz had been struggling with a right arm injury since before Wimbledon started, and he finally had to tap out in Hamburg and give that limb some rest. He claimed he hadn’t been able to serve for a while – in fact, until he arrived in Canada. That lack of practice showed in his first two matches: Janowicz served just 54% 1st serves against Dancevic, won only 44% of 2nd serve points and donated 11 double faults. Against Benneteau it was more of the same: 59% 1st serves, 35% of 2nd serve points won, and 9 double faults. I cannot say this emphatically enough: either Janowicz serves better today, or this will be a very, very short match.
2. How will Janowicz’ backhand fare against the dreaded Nadal cross-court forehand? Impossible to predict, really. What I can say is that Janowicz prefers a slightly lower ball on that side (as we saw at Wimbledon), and that he’s probably never faced the kind of spin and angle Nadal usually sends that way. Again, if Janowicz’ backhand starts leaking errors, this will be a short match.
3. How well will Nadal’s backhand hold up? One good match-up for Janowicz in this match is the cross-court forehand (his favorite shot) to the Nadal backhand. Of course, the Pole needs to be consistent with that shot (something that hasn’t happened this week), and be able to finish points with his inside-out forehand (not a given). If Nadal’s backhand can find ways to direct traffic to Janowicz’ backhand, good things will happen to the ATP Race leader.
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
The players are on court, so we should be starting very, very soon:
First Set – Rafael Nadal will serve first.
0-0: Nadal starts us off with a body second serve and then a FH UFE. The second point is fantastic: Janowicz used his CC FH wisely, then an I-O FH, and finishes with a dropper. 0-30. Nadal then returns the favor off a Janowicz shot that clipped the net, and puts away an easy volley. Janowicz then has a glorious chance to go up 15-40, when a framed returned put Nadal in big trouble, but the Pole can’t put the FH away. 30-all. Now, Janowicz kills a bad 2nd serve with an I-I BH RW. 1st BP of the match, and it’s saved by the classic Nadal ace up the T. Deuce #1. Janowicz floats a BH long, and it’s GP for Nadal, which is converted when Janowicz goes for too much with a FH 2nd serve return and misses wildly.
That was an eventful first game. The highlight? How composed Janowicz is. As I’ve written before, the Pole is a big-time player. I had no doubt in my mind that he’d show up and compete. If anything, I worry more about him when he’s on an outer court.
1-0, Nadal: 1st Janowicz DF is also his first service point. Then a FH UFE follows. 0-30. Ace up the T, 15-30. SW, 30-all. Very symmetrical, these two. Until now: another Ace up the T and it’s GP for Janowicz. SW, and it’s a game for the Pole.
🙂 at Rafa's return of serve position
— amylu (@amylu_sports) August 8, 2013
Yep – Nadal has abandoned his preferred return stance (from way behind the baseline) and is standing in a much better return position.
1-1: At 15-0, Janowicz goes straight at Nadal’s body with a passing shot, which Nadal somehow volleys back and ends up winning the point. Later, a very good CC slice BH by Janowicz earns him his 1st point in the game. 40-15. A FH DTL goes long for Jerzy, and Nadal holds.
2-1, Nadal: Janowicz holds at love pretty easily. According to Jason Goodall, Nadal has yet to return a Janowicz 1st serve. Not a good sign.
2-2: Nadal returns the favor with a love hold of his own. The rallies are quite short – very difficult to spot any trends so far.
Stats Update: Both men are dominating with their first serve: Janowicz has won all 7 points played with it (and is serving 70% 1st serves), while Nadal has won 11 of 13, and is serving 76% 1st serves.
3-2, Nadal: Janowicz starts the game with a DF again, and later sends a BH into the net for 30-all. Moments later, he finds two good first serves and holds.
A handy graph:
3-3: Janowicz just can’t get a hold of Nadal’s 2nd serve when it’s coming to his forehand. Botched two of those returns, and Nadal goes up 40-15. Then Janowicz forces Nadal’s error when he drills a BH deep up the middle. Then, another good dropper from Jerzy ends up winning him the point, for the sole reason that he followed it into the net. Deuce #1, but it’s GP Nadal after a good Ace out wide. Janowicz then has a good look at a short FH, but nets it. Tough hold for Nadal.
4-3, Nadal: For the 3rd time in 4 service games, Janowicz starts with a DF. Then Nadal chases down a dropper, and his counterdrop lands smack on the line. 0-30. Janowicz then pummels a short FH into Nadal’s BH and draws the error. 15-30. 2nd serve SW, 30-all. Another dropper, but this time Janowicz is ready for Nadal’s DTL counter drop and puts away the volley. 40-30, but it’s Deuce after a FH UFE by Janowicz. Then…an absolutely audacious FH CC dropper after a fantastic disguised swing. GP Janowicz. Another 2nd serve SW (more like a Nadal UFE, really), and the Pole has escaped.
Tactical Update: Janowicz has been simply masterful with the drop shots. He’s disguising them well, and hitting them from inside the baseline. Not only that, but he’s following them into the net, which is a must against someone as fast as Nadal.
4-4: If the last game was a battle, this was a quick rout: 40-0 for Nadal in a heartbeat. He was millimeters away from starting the game in a very Janowicz way: his 2nd serve at 0-0 barely caught the back of the service line. Then the rout turns into a battle: Janowicz hammers a 2nd serve return, forces the error, and it’s now 40-30. A little luck for Janowicz follows, as a defensive BH clips the net and dies short on the other side. Deuce. SW for Nadal (quasi UFE for Janowicz – it was a soft 1st serve), and it’s GP for the Spaniard. Nadal then sends a 2nd serve quite deep, forces the error, and holds.
— TennisTV (@TennisTV) August 8, 2013
Stats Update: Janowicz is now serving 42% 1st serves. That’s really, really problematic. However, he’s won 8 of 11 2nd serve points, so that’s why we’re still on serve.
5-4, Nadal: Disaster for Janowicz as he sends 2 easy FHs well long, and he’s down 15-40. First two BPs for Nadal, which are also Set Points. 2nd serve…and it’s a HUGE one from Jerzy. Threading the needle there, as always. Then, a fun point that has Janowicz hitting two great volleys to survive. The key was a great CC FH approach. Deuce. 2nd serve…yet again. Then…an absolutely sensational Nadal CC BH return winner of a very good wide serve by Janowicz! What a shot – that was nuts. SP #3. Saved via another great CC FH approach + volley. A SW out wide gives Janowicz his first chance to hold. And another provides the key, key hold.
5-5: A hard CC BH by Janowicz forces Nadal’s error, and it’s 30-all. Then, a great angled CC FH forces Nadal’s error, and Janowicz has a BP, 30-40. 2nd serve…and it’s pummeled with an I-O FH RW by Janowicz. The Pole will serve for the set!
Stats Update: I thought Nadal was playing with fire when he kept going to Janowicz’ FH with his 2nd serves. Yes, the Pole donated quite a bit of UFEs off that wing, but it was a question of timing and getting used to the unusual lefty spin (Janowicz hasn’t played many southpaws in his life). A much safer option is to go to Janowicz’ BH with anything.
6-5, Janowicz: The young Pole starts with a silly jumping BH UFE, but makes amends with a glorious dropper. 15-all. Then, another ill-advised DF. As in his previous two matches, Janowicz keeps insisting on those monster 2nd serves. Nadal returns the gift immediately, as he sends a tame BH DTL wide. And then…nightmare for Janowicz, as he has a simple smash at net, and buries it in the net. It wasn’t even close: he almost hit his own side of the court. BP for Nadal, and it’s converted, with a great CC FH. Onto a tiebreaker!
Tiebreaker – Rafael Nadal will serve first.
0-0: Nadal goes on the offensive with his CC FH, and his resulting smash is too much for Janowicz to handle.
1-0, Nadal: A glorious CC BH slice winner by Janowicz. Completely umpredictable.
1-1: 2nd serve….and a fantastic dropper again.
2-1, Janowicz: Ace up the T – per usual.
2-2: Uncommon error by Nadal, who has a short pass lined up for his FH…and nets it. MINIBREAK.
3-2, Janowicz: 2nd serve…and Nadal with another gift with the FH. It flies long.
4-2, Janowicz: Another great CC FH approach by Janowicz, and an easy BH volley ensues.
5-2, Janowicz: Nadal seemed to be on the ropes, but as he’s done so many times in his career, digs out a great deep CC FH from a defensive position, and then bullies Janowicz with his own CC FH.
5-3, Janowicz: 2nd serve…Janowicz gets a look at a short serve…and blasts the FH DTL return well long and wide.
5-4, Janowicz: Nadal wisely comes to net with a CC BH slice, and forces the error from Janowicz. Extremely smart play. MINIBREAK.
5-5: 2nd serve…and it’s a double. Into the net this time. Of all his DFs, this was the only one I think was a nervous one. Short armed it completely. MINIBREAK.
6-5, Nadal: 2nd serve…and Janowicz gets some luck, as a BH DTL clips the net and dies on Nadal’s side of the court. MINIBREAK.
6-6: Another soft serve from Nadal to Janowicz’ FH, and the Pole just can’t put it back in play. It really wasn’t a big one. SP #5 for Nadal.
7-6, Nadal: 2nd serve…and Nadal comes up with the magic! A fantastic backhand smash right up at net that goes through Janowicz’ legs.
First Set to Rafael Nadal, 7-6 (6).
Here are your 1st set stats:
Easy analysis: Janowicz needs more 1st serves.
Second Set – Jerzy Janowicz will serve first.
0-0: Janowicz starts with a much needed hold to 15. Even ends with with a successful BH pass.
Tactical Update: Here’s another handy graph about Nadal’s return of serve today:
1-0, Janowicz: A bad DF for Nadal makes it 30-all. Then Nadal doesn’t move his feet properly for an I-I FH, and sends it wide. BP for Janowicz, and it’s converted! Nadal donates it, really – a simple CC FH ends up long.
Well, that’s an interesting twist, no? However, it’s early in the set.
2-0, Janowicz: It’s an emphatic hold for the Pole, who seems to have brushed off the disappointment of coming so close to taking that 1st set. Let’s remember that he had an atrocious smash miss at 30-all at 6-5 when serving for the set, and then DFed at 5-all in the tiebreaker.
3-0, Janowicz: Janowicz’ FH is on song, and he’s up 30-40. BP for a 2nd break, but it’s saved by a good serve up the T. Another good serve up the T gives Nadal a GP, and he holds, after he yanks Janowicz wide with that classic CC FH.
3-1, Janowicz: Janowicz hits a glorious dropper, but forgets to come in behind it – Nadal punishes him accordingly with a beautiful counter-dropper. 0-30. Then…a DF. 0-40 for Nadal. 1st BP is saved with an Ace out wide. 15-40. And then… another DF. Nadal is back on serve.
Janowicz insists with his big 2nd serves, and it keeps costing him dearly. He was getting good results with his 2nd serve kicker early on, and that’s a much safer option for him. You simply cannot double fault twice in a game against someone like Rafael Nadal and expect to hold serve. You just can’t.
3-2, Janowicz: Nadal consolidates the break in the most emphatic way possible: a love hold.
3-3: Jerzy sends his first dropper into the net. He then makes amends by correctly putting away a short FH. Then…another DF. 15-30. Hilarity ensues when Janowicz telegraphs a dropper…and nearly forgets to follow it in the net. Manages to remember just in time, puts away the volley. He then puts away another short ball, and he has a GP. Rinse and repeat, and the young Pole gets a most necessary hold.
I couldn’t stop laughing at Janowicz hitting that dropper and staying back. His moment of hesitation was just comical.
4-3, Janowicz: A glorious FH volley by Nadal avoids a 0-30 hole. Janowicz again goes for a big I-I FH return, and misses narrowly. 30-15. Moments later, Nadal holds after putting away a short FH.
This speaks for itself:
4-4: Janowicz misses a FH DTL, and then DFs for the 9th (!!!) time in the match, and it’s 15-40 for Nadal. The Spaniard plays a weird point, almost daring Janowicz to come to net. It works, though: Jerzy hits a bad approach, and Nadal drills him with a BH pass. Nadal will serve for the match.
5-4, Nadal: Janowicz sends a FH return long, 15-0. Nadal pummels Janowicz with the CC FH, and it’s 30-0. Then, Janowicz drills a FH DTL RW. 2nd serve, 30-15. Another dose of Nadal’s usual medicine: huge CC FH, and then 40-15, Double match point. Nadal gets a clownish time violation on match point by Damián Steiner, but fires an ace anyway. The Spaniard is through!
Game, Set, and Match to Rafael Nadal, 7-6 (6), 6-4.
Here are your full match stats:
In the end, I was wrong: Jerzy Janowicz didn’t serve much better than in his previous two matches (you could argue that he served worse, given that he didn’t crack even 50% 1st serves and still rattled off 9 DFs in just two sets), but this was far from a very short and easy match for Rafael Nadal.
The Spaniard found himself having to break serve just to stay in the first set at 5-6 (after having set points on Janowicz’ serve at 5-4), only to then face a 2-5 hole in the ensuing tiebreaker. And even though Janowicz committed some calamitous errors to let those two leads slip, he still had Nadal down 0-3 to start the second set.
But the 22 year-old wavered, and you just can’t afford to do that against someone of Rafael Nadal’s stature, even if the all-time-great is just starting to shake off the rust of not playing competitively since the first Monday of Wimbledon.
The Spaniard, however, frequently finds ways to win this kind of match. His experience was a clear edge in his favor, and he also gifted those watching from the stands quite a few nuggets of his class. His backhand overhead at net on set point was a glorious piece of skill. He also identified Janowicz’ forehand as his main target (particularly with his serve), and even though Janowicz made him pay for it a few times, the tactical ploy ended up working.
Nadal has been here before: he knows the first few matches after a layoff are tricky, so it’s all about surviving and improving incrementally from match to match. Today his forehand gifted quite a few unforced errors, and his backhand didn’t look all that impressive. But more troubling was a bit from his on-court interview, when Pam Shriver asked him about what a good thing it was to see him out there without the tape on his knee. Pam was simply echoing the feeling of many tennis fans around the world – the absence of the tape had to be a good thing, no? Nadal’s answer kind of chilled that sentiment, as he said that the tape isn’t helping his knee at all, so there was no point in wearing it. Notice that he didn’t say he didn’t need the tape – it just wasn’t helping anymore.
As for Jerzy Janowicz, the best one can say about the Pole is that he doesn’t fail to show up for a big match. Once again, he acted like he belonged, even though his rookie status showed in that horrific smash at 30-all, 6-5 in the 1st (a correctly hit overhead would’ve given him a set point), and on that short, nervy DF at 5-all in the TB. He’s struggling with his serve, and with the timing on his forehand side. When you consider that those are two of the pillars on which Janowicz’s game is built upon, it’s quite remarkable that he even managed to make this match competitive.
2013 is still all about gaining experience for Jerzy, and he can’t say he hasn’t accumulated plenty of it. This match will remind him of the Rome quarterfinal against Roger Federer, where he also served for a set and couldn’t pull through. Apart from today’s tough lesson, Janowicz does leave Montreal knowing that even though he was far away from his best, he still won two matches and made Nadal work for his win.
Of course, if the serve comes back to its usual levels, and Janowicz gets his forehand timing right, he’ll have US Open Dark Horse written all over him.