Profit margins

Novak and Rafa Wimbledon final 2011

I love competing. Mainly it’s not about beating someone else. It’s about testing myself. Seeing what I can achieve. So I thought I’d write about it and hopefully find other people who like pushing themselves like I do.

So I have many passions. Most I just do. The passion I’m most competitive with is Tennis. I’ve loved it ever since I started playing in my teens and I’ve been pushing my boundaries ever since. Right now I’m focusing on my edge. What’s my strength compared to my opponents. What should I be working on so that I win more points on average than I lose.

I’m starting to see it as my profit margin. The margin which describes how close a match is and how likely I am to win.

I’m seeing this play out watching the mens game particularly. Federer used to dominate so effectively he had a clear margin against any opponent on all surfaces except against Nadal on clay. His edge was his variety of shots and knowledge of the game. So in general he would win say 55-60% of all points at least. Thus most encounters would go his way. He’d have to make a lot of howlers to even come close to losing. Even then he’d just have to stop those errors to be assured of winning.

Federer no longer has this profit margin against the top two atleast. Nadal and Djokovic now have a profit margin against him. On average they now win more points than Fed does. I feel it’s because Fed hasn’t really improved much since his hey day. He’s added a drop shot to his arsenal but little else. Yet Nadal and Djokovic have both reached a new level. Introduced new aspects and gained an edge over him.

Nadal has shored up his weaknesses and made his legendary forehand more potent as a result. Federer gains much less profit attacking Nadals backhand than Nadal gains attacking Rogers backhand. So on average Nadal wins. So Fed is up against it.

Djokovic on the other hand profits from the backhand exchanges against Nadal. Or atleast he did for the last year until the recent clay court season. Nadal seems to have improved once more whilst Novak has been inconsistent.

I’m struggling to determine whether Novak still has his edge against Nadal. The Australian open final was very close in the end. And Novak has been second best since. Notable to me was the long string of wins Novak notched up last year starting with the Davis cup final. That kind of confidence boost cannot be bought. Novak doesn’t have that momentum any more.

So this years Wimbledon is very exciting. I expect both Rafa and Novak in the final. Who doesn’t. But the result is a big question. Both have won it and both have a major this year. Does Novak have the advantage on grass? I think it’s more a mental question than a physical one. It’s about decision making and nerve. Djokovic was regularly behind on his winning streak but had the nerve and nous to win. Does he have it this season and has he tested himself enough to figure out the answer?

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  1. I can categorically bet with you that Rafa won’t be winning the Wimbledon! Isn’t it beneficial to tarry a while before reacting to a topical Tennis issue like yours?
    Seriously, I largely agree with you and I would have picked Nadal Djoko or Fed for the final. I always thought other players have a better chance with Nadal on grass as shots bounce off faster and slide off faster on grass. This cuts down Nadal’s advantage of power and strength, a big part of his game, as he is physically immense when fresh and without injury.
    Djoko found all forms of inspiration to score consecutive wins over Nadal but it is hard to uphold that kind of inspired performances and psychological readiness to maintain such wins. So Djoko, Fed and Murray should be ready when Nadal is not at his full physically strength or when it is the green grass of Wimbledon.

  2. Interesting points Ade. Thanks for joining the conversation.

    It’s funny now that Rafa has been knocked out of wimbledon by Rosol. Especially Rosol has a very similar style to the only person to beat him at Roland Garros, Robin Soderling. Very hard flat strokes. It highlights the threat of that style to Nadal.

    I don’t think I’ve expressed myself perfectly but my points still stand. It isn’t about Rafa in this tournaments. It’s about over time and about the top players over time. Right now that’s Rafa, Roger and Novak.

    For Wimbledon right now the question is whether Roger has the right weapons against Novak. I hear they’ve never actually played each other at Wimbledon. So this is really hard to call. It’s a different surface where good movement is critical but it doesn’t favour styles that depend on movement. Yet Rafa has shown he can adapt and outgun Roger. Novak has an all court game. As dominant on clay as hard.

    Novak has the recent form against Roger. His strength on both wings and superior mental stamina seems to do it. But will dropshots and finesse win out. Hard to say.

    Let’s keep this discussion going. It’s interesting. Maybe we’ll considering Murrays chances against Tsonga. Tsonga did make the ATP world final and have match points against Djokovic in Paris. It won’t be easy for Murray

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