Similarities & Differences between Federer & Dimitrov

Federer & Dimitrov are very often compared because of their game similarities. It’s true that technically they really look alike and that’s why Dimitrov is also named “Baby Federer”. But do we have the same similarities between them in terms of shot effectiveness & game plan?

This study will put face to face Federer to Dimitrov and explain in a statistical point of views what are really their similarities but also their differences with all the possible shots (service, return, forehand, backhand & volley). 33’510 analysed points were needed to make that research.


Federer & Dimitrov first serve percentage is almost the same: 63% for Federer against 61% for Dimitrov. Both also have the same tendencies to get a higher first serve percentage with the slicer (wide on deuce court & T on ad court). So, as long as the first serve percentage is concerned Federer & Dimitrov are very similar.

Federer & Dimitrov both slightly serve more the flat/kick serves T on deuce court and wide on ad court (51% of the time) than the slicer in the opposite directions (45% of the time). Both also don’t really use the body serve (4% of the time). In that area, they are almost identical.

Federer has a first serve won points 3% higher than Dimitrov; 79% for Federer against 76% for Dimitrov. This in on deuce court that Federer is slightly better than Dimitrov. Although, in statistics 3% more points won is a bigger difference that what it seems both players won more points than the average of the ATP players on their first serve so the similarity is rather high.

Federer’s first serve effectiveness is better than Dimitrov’s one. When Federer’s first serve is in, he has 45% of chance to make an aces or a service winner against 38% for Dimitrov. This difference of 7% is taken as a medium difference in stats so in that area they are close but not the same. As a consequence of that first serve effectiveness, Federer gets a bigger edge against the direct opponents than Dimitrov with the serve. For Federer, the serve is the shot with which he takes the biggest advantage on average against his rivals, for Dimitrov it comes in the second place after the forehand.

On the second serve, Federer is better than Dimitrov. Federer wins 60% of the points against 53% for Dimitrov. Both results are above the average of the ATP players but 7% more points won is a medium-high difference in stats. Two reasons might explain such a difference between Federer & Dimitrov. The ratio of double faults which is much higher for Dimitrov (10% against 5% for Roger) and the second serve variation which is better for Federer. It’s proven statistically that a better variation of the areas on the second serve lead to a higher second serve won percentage. And in that field, Federer uses two times more the slicer (wide on deuce court & T on ad court; 36%) than Dimitrov (only 18%).


Federer & Dimitrov’s serves have more similarities than differences. The biggest similarities are the first serve percentage and placement which are almost identical. The medium differences come to the serve effectiveness. To sum it up, Federer makes on average slightly more aces/service winners and two times less double faults than Dimitrov. This helps him to get a better first & second serve won points than Dimitrov and to take a bigger edge on average with the serve effectiveness against the direct opponents.


Federer & Dimitrov first serve return won points is almost the same. 31% for Federer and 30% for Dimitrov. However, Federer is better than Dimitrov returning with the forehand (33% vs 30%) but Dimitrov gets a better result with the backhand return on ad court (34% vs 29%). Despites these small differences, we can say that Federer & Dimitrov’s first serve return is rather similar. Another stats in that area which is almost similar between the two players is the percentage of first serve put back in play : 70% for Federer and 69% for Dimitrov.

Federer & Dimitrov’s rivals have almost the same tendency to serve more their backhand (60% of the time) than their forehand (40% of the time) on first serve. So in that regard, we can say that the opponents see their strengths/weaknesses on the return the same way.

For the first time in this research, Dimitrov gets a better result than Federer and this is with the second serve won points percentage. Dimitrov wins 52% of the points on the second serve return against 50% for Federer. Once again, the opponents have the same tendency to serve more their backhand (more than 75% of the time) than their forehand. And once again this is with the backhand return on ad court that Dimitrov is the most effective (54% of the points won against 49% for Federer). Despites these small differences, we can say that Federer & Dimitrov’s second serve return have more similarities than differences.

The biggest difference between Federer & Dimitrov with the return is their ratio of points/errors with this shot. Federer wins points with the return according the general average of the ATP players but Dimitrov’s return’s points is just below average. Then, Federer makes less errors than average with the return and Dimitrov’s result is in the average. As a consequence, Federer’s return balance (number of points minus number of errors) is above average and Dimitrov’s one below average. So even though Federer & Dimitrov’s return position & intentions are rather similar, Federer’s performances with the return are better.


Federer & Dimitrov’s Returns have more similarities than differences. The first & second serve return points are almost the same as well as the return position & intentions. The backhand slice return is also something that Federer & Dimitrov have in common but the Bulgarian is slightly better with this kind of return, especially on first & second serve wide on ad court. The biggest difference between the two players come with the return direct effectiveness which is better for Federer than Dimitrov. Interestingly, if Dimitrov gets a return balance (difference between points & errors) below average, this is mainly because of the backhand slice return errors. So Dimitrov’s backhand slice return helps him to get a first & second serve return points won above average but this shot doesn't help him to get a decent return balance. However, this kind of tendency is common with the return of serve.


Both Federer & Dimitrov wins more points than the average of the ATP players with the forehand. However, Federer makes on average less errors than Dimitrov with that shot which explains a slightly better forehand balance (difference between points & errors) for the Swiss. Despite this small difference, we can say that globally Federer & Dimitrov have the same forehand effectiveness in terms of the ratio points/errors. When we analyse every forehand direction, we notice that Federer gets a slightly better balance than Dimitrov with the inside in and the inside out forehand. Then, when we look at the rally lengths we notice that Federer is also slightly more effective with the forehand than Dimitrov in the medium & long rallies (over 5 shots). These differences of effectiveness are rather small but they show maybe that Federer’s footwork, endurance or concentration is slightly better that the ones of Dimitrov.

The biggest difference between Federer & Dimitrov with the forehand effectiveness comes when this shot is compared with the one of the rivals. Federer gets an edge with the forehand against the direct rivals because he makes 30% more points for almost the same amount of errors than them. In Dimitrov’s case, this is almost the opposite. The Bulgarian makes on average 10% more points but 30% less errors than the opponents with the forehand. Federer is often called the “Fedexpress” and this result totally proves that. The Swiss often controls the baseline rallies and doesn't really let the rival attack him. So, as a consequence they make less points than average with their forehand against him which increases his advantage taken with his forehand attacks. Unless Federer, Dimitrov plays much more with the rivals from the back of the court. This allows the rivals to win more points against him with their forehand but also to make much more errors given the quality of Dimitrov’s retrieve. When compared, Dimitrov’s rivals make on average 30% more points with the forehand than Federer’s rivals. So, when compared with the rivals Federer & Dimitrov’s forehand get results above average but not in the same way.


So except from the number of points, Federer & Dimitrov’s forehand have a couple of differences. First, we have the number of errors which is 10% higher for Dimitrov. We also saw that Federer was slightly better with the inside out and the inside in forehand balance. The same tendency also appeared in the rallies over 5 shots. But the biggest difference between them occurred in the way they play the forehand and we could see that Federer is much more a dominant player that controls the baseline rallies with his attacks than Dimitrov. The Bulgarian retrieves more with the forehand than Federer and we see that in the percentage of points won from Dimitrov by the errors of the opponents which is 30% higher than the one from Federer.


There are similarities & differences of effectiveness between Federer & Dimitrov’s backhand. The main similarity is the percentage of points won with the backhand which for both players is below the average of the ATP players. The biggest difference comes with the number of errors with the backhand. Federer is more solid with that shot than Dimitrov making on average 25% less errors. As a consequence, when Federer & Dimitrov’s backhands are compared with the ones of the rivals, the Swiss makes 20% less errors than them on average meanwhile the Bulgarian makes 10% more mistakes. But interestingly, what explains a better backhand balance (difference between points & errors) for Federer than Dimitrov is not especially the backhand cross or down the line but the backhand slice. Federer makes on average four times less errors than Dimitrov with the backhand slice and this is mainly what explains a better backhand balance for Federer in every kind of rally lengths (short, medium & long).


So Federer & Dimitrov’s backhand looks the same, the game plan is also very alike (more defensive than offensive, use of the slice) but the effectiveness of that shot is a bit different. As we could see, the main difference between these two backhands is the errors ratio which is bigger for Dimitrov than Federer. After a deeper analysis we could see that the main reason explaining such a difference of effectiveness is mainly the backhand slice where Dimitrov makes on average 4 times more errors than Federer.


Both Federer & Dimitrov win exactly the same percentage of points when they come in : 73%. However, the first difference between them is the total of points won at the net (with or without a volley to play). Federer wins on average 21% of the totality of his points at the net against 15% for Dimitrov. So, both win the same percentage of points at the net but Federer comes in 40% more than Dimitrov.

From the back of the court, both players mainly charge the net with the forehand and this game plan make them win exactly the same percentage of points : 14% of the totality of their points are won when they come in from the baseline (with or without a volley to play). However, for the second time in this study Dimitrov gets a better results than Federer. The ratio points/errors with the forehand approach is better for Dimitrov (88%) than Federer (80%). It means that the Swiss makes slightly more errors with the forehand approach than Dimitrov. The Bulgarian also uses more the forehand than the backhand to come in than Federer : 84% of the time against 77% for Federer. So, despite these small differences of effectiveness or choice, we can say that Federer & Dimitrov have almost the same game plan from the back of the court with the forehand approach.

The first difference between Federer & Dimitrov with their net charging is the ratio of serve & volley and return volley played. Federer plays these game styles 10 times more than Dimitrov. It’s totally part of Federer’s game to vary the four ways to come to the net meanwhile Dimitrov uses only two (1-2 punch approach right after the serve & approach during the baseline rally). In the end, that makes Federer a more complete offensive player than Dimitrov.

The second difference between Federer & Dimitrov is the ratio points/errors with the volley. Federer is at 79% against 70% for Dimitrov. It means that Federer’s volley is more effective than Dimitrov’s one because he makes less mistakes.


Federer & Dimitrov have similarities & differences with their volley game. The thing they really have in common is the net charging with the forehand from the back of the court. Both win exactly the same percentage of points with this game plan (14%). Then, we could also see some minor differences in effectiveness like a slightly better forehand approach ratio for Dimitrov or a slightly better volley ratio for Federer. However, the main difference between these two players is the use of the serve & volley and the return volley which is 10 times superior for Federer than Dimitrov.


Overall, there are more similarities than differences between Federer & Dimitrov’s shots effectivenss & game plans.

Strategically, the first serve placement, the return position & tactical choice, the use of the slice for the backhand return or during the baseline rallies, the backhand retrieve and the forehand approach are almost identical between Federer & Dimitrov. However, in terms of strategy, the main differences between these two players are the second serve placement where Federer uses more variation than Dimitrov, the forehand mind-set which is more aggressive & self-centred for Federer than Dimitrov and the net game where Federer uses 10 times more serve & volley and return volley than Dimitrov.

In terms of effectiveness, except from two stats (second serve return won points & forehand approach ratio) Federer’s shots are always more effective (or equal) than Dimitrov’s ones. First of all, it starts with the global serve effectiveness : more aces/service winners (45% vs 38%) and less double faults for the Swiss (5% vs 10%). Then, Federer makes on average 25% less mistakes with the return, the forehand and the backhand than Dimitrov. He also manages to make 5% more points with the return and forehand. Eventually, Federer’s volley is globally more effective than the one of Dimitrov (more points & less errors).

In total, Federer wins 2% more points than Dimitrov. It might seem nothing but this is what separates the GOAT to a talented player from the top 10.

=> Go to Roger Federer Stats Profile

=> Go to Grigor Dimitrov Stats Profile

=> Download Full Article in PDF


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