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54 Shot Rally between Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal (US Open Championship 2013)

Updated on December 12, 2013

Who played the better rally?

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Below is a chart of the longest rally of the Men's championship match during the 2013 US Open.

When watching this rally, I remember thinking to myself, "this can't continue!" Little did I know that these two tennis champions were only halfway through what ended up being a phenomenal rally--one that would decide a break point in the second set. Since I love to watch and analyze tennis, as I know others do as well, I decided to create a chart showing the approximate placement of each shot.

At the top of the graphic you'll see a legend. From left to right, the legend defines the shot markers as:

  • BH TS = Backhand Topspin
  • BH Slice = Backhand Slice
  • FH TS = Forehand Topspin
  • FH Slice = Forehand Slice
  • Nadal was on the top of the screen. Djokovic was on the bottom.
  • The markers on the top represent where Djokovic's shots landed.
  • The markers on the bottom represent where Nadal's shots landed.
  • The shot with the green halo won the rally.
  • The shot with the red halo lost the rally.

The markers are teardrop shaped. The point of the tear drop points to the approximate position of the player who struck the ball. This can give us an idea of how many cross court (CC) shots compared to down the line (DTL) shots were hit. You can also glean whether a shot was inside-out (though this is slightly harder to do).

Below the graphic I will break down a few statistics and provide some light commentary. Disclaimer: I did not have access to any of the official ball tracking technology used at the event. I gleaned this data by observing the CBS Broadcast in the United States.

Above is the shot placement chart for the super long rally between Djoker and Rafa, as they are sometimes called. The top half shows where Djokovic's balls landed and the bottom half shows where Nadal's balls landed.
Above is the shot placement chart for the super long rally between Djoker and Rafa, as they are sometimes called. The top half shows where Djokovic's balls landed and the bottom half shows where Nadal's balls landed. | Source
A jubliant Djokovic celebrates after a deep backhand wins him the longest rally of the match.
A jubliant Djokovic celebrates after a deep backhand wins him the longest rally of the match.

Some stats about the longest rally of the match

It's fairly unusual to see rallies of this length during a match of this caliber, during a break point. It was something special, for sure. Usually shot placement charts like this will span a whole game, or sometimes even a set! So to see such a detailed placement chart for one rally is rare.

  1. Djokovic hit 14 backhands.
  2. --> 0% of his BH's were slices.
  3. Djokovic hit 13 forehands.
  4. Nadal hit 17 backhands.
  5. --> 53% (9) of his BH's were slices.
  6. Nadal hit 10 forehands
  7. --> one of them was the slice serve to start the rally.

This rally, in some ways, was a microcosm of the entire match--save the ultimate victor. Nadal dedicated himself to the slice backhand down the line, whereas Djokovic hit extraordinarily few backhand slices.

Was Djokovic's lack of BH Slices during this match a strategic error?

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Watch the longest rally of the 2013 US Open Men's Finals match

Here is a video of the remarkable rally, for your reference. The second half of the video shows some highlights of the match. Enjoy!

Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with the publisher of the below YouTube video.

What do you guys think of this rally, or this match?

I'm not a professional tennis pundit, so I'll reserve my commentary of this rally and this match, however, I wouldn't mind hearing what you guys have to say! I know people all over the place, in forums, on social media, and around the watering holes are all discussing this rally, so I figured, "Hey, let's let people look at the shot placement. Hopefully this can add to the conversation."

I hope you enjoyed the article!



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    • AUPADHYAY profile image



      An interesting hub. Liked it. thanks for sharing it.


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