Nadal vs Medvedev Analysis

by GP

Our guest tennis analyst, Evan Gaudreau, is back with another piece of match analysis. This time it’s the latest instalment in the Nadal vs Medvedev saga.

I think most of us were surprised to see the latest match in Nadal vs Medvedev end 6-3 6-3 in Nadal’s favor! Yes, the Acapulco hard courts are quite slow and the scoreline mainly reflects how clutch Nadal is in tough moments. But it’s still a bit of a shock to see 36-year-old Nadal beat Medvedev in straight sets on a hard court. The match took place in the semi-finals of the Acapulco ATP  500.

Word over to Evan. You can check out more of his posts under the tag analysis.

Tennis is not a stat!

The Gauntlet has been thrown! I started looking at stats over the years. I thought maybe playing the game on feel and instincts isn’t going so well. Chasing timing and rhythm. And it wasn’t until I was willing to lose that I was able to let go and free my soul. I never felt that I could ever lose. How could I? I have more options than the other guy. Whether I was home, playing in New England tournaments or at Van Der Meer training with Nationally ranked players and touring pros.

College tennis? Pffff. When a touring pro asked me to be their hitting partner, I laughed. I’m going to be beside you on tour also. So I thought.

Life is not a stat! Tennis is not a stat! Don’t be fooled by the card tricks, like I was as a youth. After playing a match, I don’t look at the numbers. And I’m definitely not thinking about it during the match.

Unless something pops up, like first serve % being low. When is it low? At 30-all? At 40-30? To start the game? Or was my second serve to weak? And the location…serving up a meatball.

Instead, I focus on my baseline patterns and combos (more as a coach). Developing combos for different opponents Developing combos for students that suit their personality. Developing game plans for specific points… On service games. On return games.


In the first game, Nadal introduces a slice in a combo on shot #2. Granted, it’s a one, two, and then an unforced by Medvedev, but it’s a start of what’s to come. In the second game, Medvedev gets a shortball and hits it to Nadal’s backhand. Why wouldn’t you? Nadal passes him down the line (He had an idea that Med would start with that on the first shortball and covered it well). Does it matter? Maybe. Hindsight is 20/20. He gets out of the game anyway.

But in game 4, Medvedev Serves and Volleys at 15-40. Hmm. Why? Stress? Change? He fails on the attempt. First break. The first point after the break of serve, Medvedev drop shots Nadal. Winner. But! At 0-30 in the game, Nadal goes to his strong forehand crosscourt pattern, with a 1 and 2, and 3 to the other side of the court. Expected.

15-30. The next point caught my eye because Nadal ripped first ball to Med’s backhand and then threw in the backhand slice to Med’s forehand. And 2 shots later it was an Unforced error by Medvedev. Guess what? Nadal drops him on the first ball on the next point. Sneaky.

Knock Knock.
Who’s there?
Drop shot.
Drop shot who?
Drop shot #2 during the same point…To WIN the point.

Message sent

For me, this all started with the Aussie Open final. The way he used his slice in that match. Now Nadal is using it to disguise his drop shots. Mixed with the slice combos.

To start the next game, mixes a drop in on ball 5, his ball 5. But also used two slice backhands during the game. More trickery. Medvedev throws in a drop of his own. Then a successful S&V at 30-all (which is better than serving and volleying at 15-40…but those can work too, sometimes—when playing a conservative player who’s floating returns during your club matches).

The point I like during the game though, is when Med drops Nadal, Nadal covers it, Med throws up a crappy lob, and Nadal smashes it back at him, bouncing it over his head. Message sent.

Hey! Jenson Brooksby! You can’t do that to Zverev! You have to win majors and or at least be in the top 10 to do that. Didn’t you read the Placard at the entrance to the professional tour?

Anyway. I remember a point in college where a player did that to me. Later in the match, he got popped in the back with an overhead as he turned to run away. Message sent.

Nadal on top

It’s funny and odd to me that Medvedev’s big change was a few more Serve and Volleys and a few more drop shots.
What’s funnier is that Nadal was on top of these changes. Wouldn’t it be better to work on a more useful slice backhand, to set up your drop shot? And BTW, it helps your volley technique. Your local pro probably didn’t discuss that with you. That comes in year 10, apparently. Or never.

Do I have your attention?

Med’s starting to get unnerved. All that training since the last meeting isn’t paying off. I’d be frustrated too. On a side note, there was an elf sighting at the match. Or was it a Leprechaun? Or was it Med’s hitting partner? When is St. Patrick’s Day?

The second set was more of a blur, other than Nadal’s two long service games. Medvedev utilized the drop shots in those games to no avail. Nadal made a couple big drops on break points. I just noticed the reason why it was easy to watch the match. No announcers. No one to say how silly it was to use the drop shots on break point down.

No Slo-Mo

Couple things to be careful of: Slow Mo’s. During the replay during the match, and on Youtube. You don’t see the cut on the drop volleys during slow mo. And it’s painful to watch juniors think they know what they’re doing during practice. Trying to “dead drop” the ball, without a little spin.

Youtube is the same. Drives me bonkers when a player or parent (who cannot hit 2 balls in a row in the court) watch youtube and troll or play follow the leader with this “great video” on how to hit a volley.

I’ll leave you with this. Make your drops look like your slice. Use the same racket speed. If you don’t have a slice, work on hiding the racket on your backswing behind your shoulders. Easier said than done, but it can be done. And work on serve and volley, at least when up points during the game.

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