Clutch Kei: Nishikori Did This Better Than Federer, Djokovic and Nadal

Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers shows how NIshikori stepped up big when he needed to in 2018

When was the toughest time to break Kei Nishikori in the 2018 season? Right after he just broke serve.

An Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers analysis of the year-end Top 10 identified that Nishikori led this elite group by improving his hold percentage the most right after breaking serve compared to his 2018 season average.

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Nishikori held 81.4 per cent (638/784) of the time in 2018, which was actually the lowest hold percentage out of the Top 10. But his hold percentage jumped a substantial 5.9 percentage points, to 87.3 per cent (151/173), in the ensuing service game right after breaking. Nobody improved as much as Nishikori did.

Eight of the players inside year-end Top 10 also improved holding in this specific situation, with only Roger Federer and Kevin Anderson unable to hold more after breaking serve than their season average.

Top 10: 2018 Season Average Holding Serve vs Right After Breaking Serve

ATP Ranking

Players

Holding After Breaking Serve

Season Average Holding Serve

+/- Difference

9

Kei Nishikori

87.3%

81.4%

5.9

4

Alexander Zverev

86.5%

82.9%

3.6

1

Novak Djokovic

90.5%

87.2%

3.3

2

Rafael Nadal

89.6%

86.4%

3.2

8

Dominic Thiem

88.1%

85.2%

2.9

10

John Isner

96.0%

93.6%

2.4

7

Marin Cilic

89.1%

87.0%

2.1

5

Juan Martin del Potro

87.9%

87.6%

0.3

3

Roger Federer

88.6%

91.1%

-2.5

6

Kevin Anderson

82.4%

89.1%

-6.7

The player with the second highest improvement holding serve after breaking compared to his season average was Alexander Zverev, who had a 3.6 percentage-point jump. Zverev won the biggest title of his career at the Nitto ATP Finals in London last month, impressively holding serve seven out of eight times (88%) at The O2 right after breaking serve.

World No. 1 Novak Djokovic was in third place with a 3.3 percentage-point jump. Djokovic’s last title of 2018, a victory at the Rolex Shanghai Masters, saw the Serbian hold 100 per cent (13/13) of the time after breaking serve for the tournament.

Holding after breaking is all about cementing an advantage and building momentum as the match unfolds.

Editor's Note: Craig O'Shannessy is a member of Novak Djokovic's coaching team.

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