Sinner and Karatsev Dominate
Sinner and Schwartzman's serve/return mismatch, Karatsev's brutal consistency
Sinner d Schwarztman: 6-2, 6-2
A complete and utter serve/return mismatch. While Schwartzman is one of the best returners on tour, Sinner’s recent improvements in 1st serve potency, coupled with Schwartzman’s own lack of a first serve weapon, made this extremely one sided.
After the first set, 67% of Sinner’s 1sts serves had gone unreturned compared to just 5%(!) of Schwartzman’s. After two whole sets it got a little better for Schwartzman, but not by much:
Unreturned 1st serves overall:
Avg 1st serve return position:
Sinner: 1.1m behind baseline
Schwartzman: 1.7m behind baseline
This serve potency differential manifested in all sorts of ways, but most importantly and simply it meant that Sinner earned a lot of free points and Schwartzman practically none, and that Sinner got to keep his aggressive court position up on the baseline for most of the match when points did develop past the serve, whereas Schwartzman was forced to make his home deep in the court near the tournament logo:
Unfortunately for Schwartzman, even when you take the serve performance differential out of the equation, Sinner was still superior from the baseline in neutral, or even initially disadvantaged, positions:
Sinner out-served Schwartzman, out-returned Schwartzman (although those two things heavily overlap), and out-rallied Schwartzman on the back of both serving and non-serving positions. This resulted in extremely one sided point length stats, across each category:
I’ve written quite a bit recently about Sinner’s serving improvements this year as he moved away from the pinpoint stance he tried for a few years, and back to his platform stance that he grew up with:
The caveat here is that Sinner’s serve is always going to be more effective on indoor hard courts than some of the slower and outdoor surfaces out there (I’ll keep track of this into next year to see how much of an improvement he’s made overall). But the good signs for his serve effectiveness continued with today’s final, albeit in conditions that may well be flattering. I’ll do some more digging on this but it looks to me like Sinner’s reversion to his original platform stance has allowed the following things on his 1st serve (my guess is that the more fluid motion of his natural platform stance, as opposed to sweeping that back leg forwards mid-motion in pinpoint, is helping these things along):
A more accurate and consistent toss.
More aggressive placement.
Sinner’s 1st serve placement today was exceptional, landing bombs close to the lines point after point. If I had to guess what Sinner and coach Piatti are working on, and have been working on, the most over the last few months, it’s this.
Today’s final was abnormally good, even for Sinner’s recent form, with the Italian hitting his highest ace rate of his tour level career so far at 18%.
An excellent performance from the young Italian, who is in a league of his own progress-wise compared to the rest of his age range right now:
Karatsev d Čilić: 6-2, 6-4
I’m not going to go into quite as much detail for this match because the reasons for the result were simpler, but I do want to give a boat load of credit to Karatsev. There has been a fair amount of recent skepticism around the Russian as the season has progressed.
Karatsev, after the incredible breakthrough in Australia to start the year, lost a few early rounds against tough opponents and all of a sudden he was faced with various ‘flash in the pan’ narratives. But Karatsev’s last few weeks on tour show signs of mmm-blocking out the haters.
While Karatsev’s brand of tennis looks simple, it’s really testament to how technically sound both his groundstrokes are (especially suited to these quick, indoor hard courts), coupled with impeccable footwork, that he manages to pull off such an illusion. Because Karatsev’s level this week, and style of tennis, are not even slightly easy to pull off.
There are two things I want to highlight in this matchup today:
Cilic’s backhand featured heavily in most of the break points he faced and lost today:
One of the most impressive examples of Karatsev finding more consistent depth and pace of shot than his opponent, even when under pressure, came when Karatsev faced his only break point of the match while serving for the title:
A wonderful week for Karatsev. The Russian putting in work to justify his early season hype.
Karatsev, as ever, thrilled by the win…
See you on Thursday.
Top: Laurie Dieffembacq via Getty, Bottom: Oleg Nikishin/Getty
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