Match Analysis: Why Djokovic ‘Feels Like Karlovic’
Heading into the Rolex Paris Masters final on Sunday, one of the adaptations top seed Novak Djokovic had to make was going from playing a right-hander like he did in the semi-finals against Grigor Dimitrov to facing a left-hander in the championship against Denis Shapovalov. But the Serbian's serve did not miss a beat.
The 32-year-old was dominant on serve in his 6-3, 6-4 triumph, helping him collect a record-extending fifth ATP Masters 1000 Paris trophy. Djokovic won 80 per cent of his service points — including 80 per cent of his second-serve points — en route to a 66-minute win.
Shapovalov managed to put just 35 per cent of his first-serve returns and 64 per cent of his second-serve returns back into play, and Djokovic interestingly used different strategies for each delivery. And Djokovic — who hit just two aces in the match — did not need to rely on a Karlovic-like ace count to hold his serve.
Djokovic bombarded the 'T' with his first serve, going to Shapovalov's forehand 74 per cent of the time in the deuce court, and to the Canadian's backhand 56 per cent of the time in the ad court. It was the second consecutive match in which he predominantly went to his opponent's forehand in the deuce court, after hitting 54 per cent of his first serves out wide against Dimitrov. Djokovic won 81 per cent of his first-serve points in the final.
Djokovic Final First-Serve Placement vs. ShapovalovDjokovic Semi-final First-Serve Placement vs. Dimitrov
"On the rare occasions like today, I do feel like Karlovic," Djokovic said in recognition of the big-serving 6'11" Croat, who has hit the most aces in history. "It's quite frustrating to play against a player like Ivo Karlovic, a player that serves very well. But it feels great when you actually can get out of your serve a lot of free points. And that was the case for me, not just today, but throughout this week."
Djokovic changed it up with his second serve, though. He flip-flopped on the Canadian, going to Shapovalov's backhand 71 per cent of the time in the deuce court and 57 per cent of the time in the ad court. And of Djokovic's 14 second-serve points (excluding one double fault), Shapovalov managed to put only 36 per cent of them back into play.
Djokovic Second-Serve Placement vs. Shapovalov
Shapovalov barely won any free points with his second delivery, as Djokovic put 92 per cent of his second-serve returns back into play. The lefty targeted the Serbian's body a majority of the time in both service boxes.
Shapovalov Second-Serve Placement vs. Djokovic
"[My] serve was definitely one of the best shots in my game and that allowed me to also feel more comfortable and more confident from baseline," Djokovic said.
The champion spread the ball around the court, hitting to Shapovalov's backhand more than anywhere else, doing so at a rate of 43 per cent. He made only nine unforced errors in the match.
Djokovic Shot Placement vs. Shapovalov
Shapovalov clearly targeted Djokovic's backhand, hitting 53 per cent of his shots in that direction. He also hit 58 rally forehands to just 24 backhands. There were only three points of more than nine shots in the match.
Shapovalov Shot Placement vs. Djokovic
- Hawkeye data and visuals courtesy ATP Media