World No. 1 Novak Djokovic defeated 2017 Nitto ATP Finals champion Grigor Dimitrov 7-6(5), 6-4 in Saturday’s Rolex Paris Masters semi-finals. But despite the Serbian triumphing in straight sets, the match came down to just a few points, with Djokovic winning only four more points overall.
What proved key in the four-time champion’s victory? Hawkeye’s stats and graphics give key insight into Djokovic’s second-serve direction and backhand patterns.
Djokovic’s won a healthy 64 per cent of his second-serve points. But notably 29 per cent of Djokovic’s second serves were unreturned compared to 10 per cent of Dimitrov’s.
Djokovic interestingly went to Dimitrov’s forehand with 72 per cent of his second serves in the deuce court — compared to just 25 per cent in his quarter-final against Stefanos Tsitsipas — while the Bulgarian served out wide in the deuce court just once on his second delivery.
This proved crucial at 3/5 in the pivotal first-set tie-break. Djokovic had just double faulted to give Dimitrov the edge, and he missed his first serve in the deuce court. But the Serbian went out wide with his second serve to pull Dimitrov off the court, using the space he opened up to take a strong aggressive posture in the point, which he ultimately won to stay within striking distance and avoid giving the Bulgarian three set points.
The 33-time ATP Masters 1000 champion also struck a majority of his second serves down the ‘T’ in the ad court, doing so 60 per cent of the time to Dimitrov’s 50 per cent. Djokovic did not face a break point in his win.
In looking at contact points on the backhand side, Djokovic was often pinned deep behind the baseline. The Serbian hit 33 per cent of his backhands from more than two metres behind the baseline, nearly double Dimitrov’s 17 per cent rate from that far back.
Overall, Djokovic hit his backhands at 111 km/h on average compared to Dimitrov, who was at 104 km/h.
Djokovic notably kept his backhands cross-court 67 per cent of the time, showing a willingness to engage in backhand-to-backhand rallies. Dimitrov on the other hand only struck his backhand cross-court at a rate of 49 per cent.
Overall, Dimitrov went down the middle of the court more often on both wings, especially on the forehand side. The former World No. 3 hit 19 per cent of his forehands down the middle, while Djokovic did so at a rate of just five per cent, amounting to only six forehands in the match. Taking all shots into consideration, Dimitrov went down the middle 23 per cent of the time to just 11 per cent for Djokovic.
Dimitrov also used a lot more of his slice — coming under the ball 28 per cent of the time — compared to Djokovic, who almost strictly utilised topspin, hitting over hits shots at a 96 per cent clip.
Djokovic and Dimitrov put forth a thrilling battle in Bercy for one hour and 38 minutes. And while on paper they were within four points of one another, they used two significantly different strategies to get there.