Affect of Time Violations on First Serves of Rafael Nadal

World Number two, Rafael Nadal was mentally agitated during the US Open 2019 finals against the young star, Daniil Medvedev. He received multiple time violation penalties for crossing the threshold of 25-seconds time limit while serving.

Rafa became apprehensive after he received a warning for a time violation in the opening game of the first set by the chair umpire Ali Nili and his first-serve in percentage oscillated in the entire match.

At that instant, Nadal was a break point down (40-30*), but he brought the game to deuce with his serve. It was a courageous hold produced by the aggressive lefty, Rafa despite having a rollercoaster ride in the very first game of the match.

The time violation warning for prolonging his first serve effected Rafa psychologically. Since getting a time violation warning, Rafa tried to be swift with his serves and apparently, the 19-time Grand Slam champion drifted away from his slow play and endeavored to stick with the shot clock to maintain the 25-seconds time constraint.

Rafael Nadal

The 33-year-old, Rafael Nadal is one of the slowest tennis players on the ATP Tour. According to Australia-based Data Driven Sports Analytics in Melbourne, while serving, Rafa takes 26.1 seconds between points. In the interim of two points, his rituals gobble up the 25-seconds.

Drenched Nadal towels himself as the aggressive hitter perspires profusely. Before he begins his serve, Rafa picks his shorts, fiddles with his t-shirt, tucks his hair and then tosses the ball to serve. In a nutshell, all these rituals consume 25-seconds of the time allotted to the servers.

His next service game (after the time violation warning) resulted in a disastrous outcome, it might be due to the fear of getting his first serve docked. Medvedev came across a chance to break Nadal’s serve, with the Spaniard flawing his ferocious forehand from the baseline, the lanky Russian led by 2-1 in the opening set.

Till then, Rafa got 5-of-14 first serves in which is roughly 36%. Prior to finals at Flushing Meadows, Nadal just dropped just six service games (four of them against Diego Schwartzman in the quarterfinals), but in the championship match, he lost his serve in the opening set.

Rafael Nadal

Nadal could retaliate for his break of serve, but his first-serve in percentage remained low. Since the time he was broken, the Spaniard held won 12 straight points on his serve, but first-serve in percentage was 46% at 5-4 (with Rafa in the lead). The set concluded in 62 minutes and Rafa’s first-serve in percentage in the opening set was just 47, which is a low number relative to Rafa’s standards.

Later, in the following three-sets, Nadal’s first-serve in percentage lifted up. The figures were 59.4%, 62.5%, and 65.5% in the second, third and fourth set respectively. In those three sets, Rafa was not penalized with the time violation penalty on his serves and continued his warrior-like tennis against the Russian debutant.

In the deciding set of the Grand Slam final, the legendary tennis player, Nadal was serving second. The Spaniard was on tenterhooks and was on the verge of losing his fourth Open in New York as Medvedev had a pair of break points on Rafa’s opening service game (0*-1, 15-40) of the fifth set.

The Spaniard saved both of them, but later flawed on the net and gave the Russian a third break chance. Exhausted Rafa was penalized with a time violation which snatched away his first serve while he was break point down. An erroneous second serve could have costed him a service game in the deciding set of Grand Slam final or maybe his 19th major title, but the nervous lefty managed to save himself from going an early break down in the final set.

After that edgy service game, Nadal tried to maintain his the time constraint parameter of tennis and once again, his first-serve in percentage had a downward slope. Nadal just focused on protecting his first serves and fortunately, he could break Medvedev twice before he got another time violation penalty in the match.

Rafael Nadal

The arduous five-set path to his 19th Grand Slam title tested the Spaniard’s fighting spirits in every dimension after he pulled off the second set of the US Open 2019 finals. In tennis, the encounter isn’t over unless the player converts his/her match point and the tennis legend, Rafael Nadal was uncertain about his fourth US Open title while he was serving for it at 5*-2 in the final set.

A wide backhand from Nadal at 30-all, 5*-2 gave the Russian a break chance. While serving to save his service game, the chair umpire Ali Nili called another time violation and once again annulled Rafa’s first serve, with the Spaniard double-faulting on the next, the show was still on at 5-3.

With the 25,000 spectators cheering ‘Rafa! Rafa!,’ the Mallorca native closed out the match for his 19th Slam title, but his first-serve in percentage dropped to 56%. Overall, his first-serve in percentage was 58% in the championship match.

Mahalakshmi Murali

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