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dirkgnuf
04-21-2009, 10:48 AM
In an interview with a Spanish newspaper, Higuras talks about his former coaching gig, and what he thinks Roger needs to do. Great stuff!

From gotennisblog.com:

On what it’s like to coach Roger Federer:

“He’s exceptional, he feels the game like nobody else, it’s instinct and that’s why working with him is very different. In spite of everything, he would benefit by having a person to help open his eyes at certain moments.”

On deciding to leave Federer to join the USTA:

“I would have stayed with him longer, even passed on the job offer that I have at present, but Roger only offered me 10 or 12 weeks a year to work with him, which wasn’t enough time to make any changes that would be evident on the court.” (Higueras is now Director of the USTA’s Elite Player Development program.)

On Roger’s current problems:

“When you stop improving, you deteriorate; in tennis it’s always like this” says the coach, who was prohibited by contract to speak about the Swiss last year. “But Federer continues just as before. His backhand, which today seems weak, is good, but the players have grown accustomed to it and that’s why it’s less effective, now it seems to play worse.”

Roger’s immobility contrasts with Nadal’s aptitude for reinvention. “In two years, (Nadal) is a completely new player, he has improved and changed his style. Federer keeps on being the same: now others can attack him. He has stagnated.”

On changes that need to happen:

It’s not only a problem of competition, but also of philosophy. “Tactics always work better if they win - it’s a question of confidence. Federer can improve his style of play, he doesn’t always use the most appropriate style. When I was with him, he played two brilliant matches, the semifinals and final of the US Open.”

“He was aggressive, he approached the net well, he was very fast, that’s why he won, this is the way he always has to be.” Higueras says on Federer’s current game, which has problems of strategy when he doesn’t cover the backhand, his worst shot, to optimize his resources. “The backhand has always served him well, it is a big shot, but the players know it. His forehand is more devastating and more difficult to defend,” says Higueras

Original Interview in Spanish:
http://www.publico.es/deportes/219526/federer/estancado




One thing I can deduce from this is that even with a Coach, Federer wishes to retain part of his independence, which is why he only works with coaches on a part-time basis (?), and perhaps this stubborn trait of his, in this case, is a weakness.

35ft6
04-21-2009, 10:58 AM
^ Interesting Higueras says Fed didn't get worse, but he didn't get better and the other players adjusted and got better. Muster said the same thing, that after his accident, he felt like he was better after the accident (I've heard other players say this... that during the season, which is non stop, that you can't really work on things... so that if you get injured, it's often a blessing in disguise because you have time to actually make fundamental improvements...) but that all the players had gotten better. I think Roddick and Hewitt said the same thing a few years after losing their number 1 spot, that they were better, but so was everybody else.

I just find this interesting because on this board, during the 70's versus 80's debates, or 80's versus now debates, the implication is almost never the game got better, but Poster A's favorite old time player got worse and that's why he lost to the next generation.

I agree that Nadal has come a long way. At this point, I think he's the most underrated player on tour. haha. Yeah, he's got a lot of fans but people almost never give him props for having great touch and very consistent volleys, not to mention some of the best point construction and court generalship ever, especially on clay.

dirkgnuf
04-21-2009, 11:27 AM
All right, let's not get this thread off topic into another stupid argument.

Nadal_Freak, we'd appreciate if you come up with something productive to the discussion. This thread is neither one that bashes nor glorifies Federer, and doesn't talk about eras. It's about Higueras and his viewpoints.

Interestingly enough, Federer offered Cahill 20 plus weeks on the road with him, while Higueras only got 10-12 weeks.

If you also read the Spanish interview through Google translate, Higueras talks about how stability is really important in a coaching relationship/ player's career, and that players need to be open to new suggestions and that when things go wrong, something different needs to be brought to the table and examined. He also speaks positively of how Gil Reyes and Uncle Toni have brought improvements to their players, presumably because these players were willing to change up their games. Something along those lines.

Lion King
04-21-2009, 11:34 AM
So we can reasonably assume that unless Federer changes something in his game, he will never get back on top again...

RalphNYC
04-21-2009, 11:38 AM
That was an interesting interview, I used Babelfish and it translated his name literally to Fig tree. I think it's interesting in particular how he identifies the 2008 US Open semi and final matches as what Fed needs to do to win. I recall him being so aggressive in those games, especially in coming to net. Easier said than done of course. But this is also how I recall Fed beating Nadal on clay wherever it was that he did that.

DarthFed
04-21-2009, 11:41 AM
So we can reasonably assume that unless Federer changes something in his game, he will never get back on top again...

More like a fact as opposed to an Assumption

Puma
04-21-2009, 11:44 AM
All right, let's not get this thread off topic into another stupid argument.

Nadal_Freak, we'd appreciate if you come up with something productive to the discussion. This thread is neither one that bashes nor glorifies Federer, and doesn't talk about eras. It's about Higueras and his viewpoints.

Interestingly enough, Federer offered Cahill 20 plus weeks on the road with him, while Higueras only got 10-12 weeks.

If you also read the Spanish interview through Google translate, Higueras talks about how stability is really important in a coaching relationship/ player's career, and that players need to be open to new suggestions and that when things go wrong, something different needs to be brought to the table and examined. He also speaks positively of how Gil Reyes and Uncle Toni have brought improvements to their players, presumably because these players were willing to change up their games. Something along those lines.


Your last paragraph certainly proves what many of us have suspected about Roger. He will not or cannot accept the idea that he needs to change up some things. Can you believe how difficult it would be to sit with Roger and try to tell him why or what he needs to change while
Roger believes he is the greatest that has ever been.

I really believe (sadly) that Rogers best days are behind him now. He recently got married. The dynamics of that alone will be difficult. He has a child on the was, ditto. Then the last thing is he needs a coach for some fresh ideas, which aint gonna happen. I hate to say it, but I predict 09 will be a truck slammer for my boy Fed.

mikeler
04-21-2009, 11:51 AM
Your last paragraph certainly proves what many of us have suspected about Roger. He will not or cannot accept the idea that he needs to change up some things. Can you believe how difficult it would be to sit with Roger and try to tell him why or what he needs to change while
Roger believes he is the greatest that has ever been.

I really believe (sadly) that Rogers best days are behind him now. He recently got married. The dynamics of that alone will be difficult. He has a child on the was, ditto. Then the last thing is he needs a coach for some fresh ideas, which aint gonna happen. I hate to say it, but I predict 09 will be a truck slammer for my boy Fed.


Marriage is not going to effect a man who has lived with the same woman for many years now. Now the kid is a whole different story.

DarthFed
04-21-2009, 11:54 AM
Marriage is not going to effect a man who has lived with the same woman for many years now. Now the kid is a whole different story.

I was just about to say this...he even mentioned that they don't need a special honeymoon because the whole thing (the relationship over the years) felt like a honeymoon

They were practically married now it just happens to be on paper

As for Fed jr/Mirka Jr.....this could either be a motivation (My life is about to change...my game should follow suit) or a distraction...but it really shouldn't be...he's the highest paid tennis player in hsitory leading the all time earnings with 45 mil, he got a damn car for winning the USO the kid is set for life

35ft6
04-21-2009, 12:09 PM
I read a while back that it was Higueras that suggested a stance change on Roger's forehand and started this slide. Roger is a very natural player, when he was at his best, he was like constantly changing tactics fluidly in real time during the match without a traveling coach. Maybe it was wrong to think "wow, he can do all this by himself! just imagine if a coach (post Lundren) could enhance all that natural court sense with some new ideas!"

Actually, the more I think about it, I'm not so sure Fed is still playing at the same level. He seems much more out of sync lately. He just seems to be "thinking" a lot more. And it's not just a matter of "well, it's because other players are imposing their games on him" but it's not just his groundstrokes, his serve seems off, too. I wonder if somebody tried to change that as well. Anyway.

Blade0324
04-21-2009, 12:17 PM
I agree that the marriage will not have any impact on Fed or his ability to change his game. However like others I expect the child to have a significant impact. Although being a father will improve the quality of his personal life greatly it will unfortunately have a negative impact on his tennis. Look at Hewitt and others that have gone this road. No matter if you can have full time nanny's etc. having a child is a tremendous burdon to the parent (a good one) but a burdon none the less. Fed has this years Wimby and USO as opportunities if he has any hope of catching or passing Pete for GS titles. After that he will be a dangerous player in the draw but likely not much more.

fantom
04-21-2009, 12:25 PM
I've noticed as well that his serve has let him down quite often. Usually as players get older, they are able to use their serve as more of a weapon. I remember Federer winning all kinds of easy points 2-3 years ago. That hardly happens anymore....mainly because they aren't landing in the box.

mikeler
04-21-2009, 12:27 PM
I was just about to say this...he even mentioned that they don't need a special honeymoon because the whole thing (the relationship over the years) felt like a honeymoon

They were practically married now it just happens to be on paper

As for Fed jr/Mirka Jr.....this could either be a motivation (My life is about to change...my game should follow suit) or a distraction...but it really shouldn't be...he's the highest paid tennis player in hsitory leading the all time earnings with 45 mil, he got a damn car for winning the USO the kid is set for life


It has been confirmed as Baby Fed. Gasquet will have to retire the name in a few months. He did not deserve it in the first place even though he has that awesome backhand.

Puma
04-21-2009, 12:29 PM
Marriage is not going to effect a man who has lived with the same woman for many years now. Now the kid is a whole different story.

I appreciate your comment. I think there is a possibility that the marriage might indeed affect him. I don't know, we'll will see. It may depend more on her than him. Her expectations might change. Thus far, Feds life has been all about him it appears. Might be a tough go with the "all about me" life from now on........

madmanfool
04-21-2009, 01:58 PM
^ (I've heard other players say this... that during the season, which is non stop, that you can't really work on things... so that if you get injured, it's often a blessing in disguise because you have time to actually make fundamental improvements...)

Yes and no i would say. If you have specific issues, for example something with your backhand, you could make that fundamental improvement. But overall when have been injured you're trying to get back to your old level while the rest has just kept on improving during your lay-off. Safin once made a good comment about how he got injured at one point and Roger started to dominate at the same time. His first task was and probably still is i guess, to get back to his old level first, while Roger ran away.

TheMagicianOfPrecision
04-21-2009, 02:05 PM
This proves my point about the weak era from 2003-2006. Fed has competition now.

Youve got some issues man,you just love to pick on everything and turn it and twist it to make Federer look bad. I dont like you.

Nadal_Freak
04-21-2009, 07:19 PM
Higueras was saying that Fed needed to keep improving. He chose not to and the rest is history.

veroniquem
04-21-2009, 07:31 PM
Higueras is saying in very polite fashion that Federer is stubborn (needs someone to open his eyes and tends to use the wrong strategy), inflexible (stagnates instead of trying to improve his game) and intractable (unwilling to hire a full time coach, just 10 weeks a year is useless).
This was obviously not a match made in heaven!

Nadal_Freak
04-21-2009, 07:35 PM
Higueras is saying in very polite fashion that Federer is stubborn (needs someone to open his eyes and tends to use the wrong strategy), inflexible (stagnates instead of trying to improve his game) and intractable (unwilling to hire a full time coach, just 10 weeks a year is useless).
This was obviously not a match made in heaven!
I've heard every coach has said the same about Federer. That's why not having a coach is not a big deal for Fed. He doesn't listen well to coaches anyway. He does what he believes works best for him.

veroniquem
04-21-2009, 07:38 PM
I've heard every coach has said the same about Federer. That's why not having a coach is not a big deal for Fed. He doesn't listen well to coaches anyway. He does what he believes works best for him.
At this point, if he can't change his attitude fast, he's gonna go down even faster...

CyBorg
04-21-2009, 08:11 PM
Federer is definitely worse than he once was. There is no doubt about this. But at the same time Higueras is correct to say that players did get used to his game and this helped them.

This however does explained the sudden downfall of Federer. The opposition aspect, that is.

Tennis is a game of constant adjustments - it evolves, because all players evolve. As Roger gets older, so do the really young players. And they get more confident, more fearless, more ambitious.

But when you're the best, it seems like you have nowhere to go but down. And how do you stay motivated? Federer I think drew the wrong conclusions. In order to stay at the top, he figured, he has to keep doing what he always did. It was perfect and thus would always be the right strategy. Of course, that's impossible.

Richie Rich
04-22-2009, 06:08 AM
this happens to every dominat player. the other players adapt and catch up. sometimes it just takes a little longer than others. same thing will happen to nadal. it's inevitable.

origmarm
04-22-2009, 06:14 AM
I've noticed as well that his serve has let him down quite often. Usually as players get older, they are able to use their serve as more of a weapon. I remember Federer winning all kinds of easy points 2-3 years ago. That hardly happens anymore....mainly because they aren't landing in the box.

I agree. Personally I think this has been more of a problem for him than his backhand that Higueras highlights.

john whilesmith
04-22-2009, 01:20 PM
I agree with Higueras. The only constant in tennis is the dimension of the court. Everything else is in a state of constant flux - racquets, strings, playing surface speeds, style and tactics, and players. Lendl raised the bar with his fitness. Agassi turned his game around under the fitness regime of Gil Reyes. Rafa has now raised the bar again with his fitness level. Johnny Mac ushered out the Borg-era with his hard-charging leftie s&v game. Nadal, Joker and Murray have improved their respective games in the scramble to reach the pinnacle of their sport, albeit at different speeds, and have the advantage of being a couple of years younger than Federer. Inevitably, when you reach #1 in the world and have the incredible success Fed has had over such a short period of time, there is a tendency to take one's foot off the accelerator - a sort of "if it aint broke don't fix it" mentality. The chasing pack doesn't relax though and is always looking for that edge. Nadal has found it first; others will inevitably follow to dethrone him - it's just a matter of time. We should look on Fed's accumulation of GS titles in such a short timespan as an incredible achievement; likewise with Pete's dtermination and doggedness to play at the top for so long to accumulate his GS titles.

RoddickAce
04-22-2009, 01:32 PM
Perfect example of how an economy is run! You innovate, you succeed; competitors then innovate as well; if you don't innovate, they pass you.

All-rounder
04-22-2009, 01:46 PM
this happens to every dominat player. the other players adapt and catch up. sometimes it just takes a little longer than others. same thing will happen to nadal. it's inevitable.
It will and i predict much earlier in nadal's career

sureshs
04-22-2009, 01:57 PM
So Higueras says what we have been saying here: Federer's BH is not up to par in the current competitive climate.

amx13
04-22-2009, 02:00 PM
It will and i predict much earlier in nadal's career

Me too, but I think Nadal´s decline would be consequence of the toll his style of play is taking on his body (knees specially), while Roger´s has more to do with his mental strenght.

All-rounder
04-22-2009, 02:12 PM
Me too, but I think Nadal´s decline would be consequence of the toll his style of play is taking on his body (knees specially), while Roger´s has more to do with his mental strenght.
Whatever factor it is every superstar player human being can't escape AGE

!Tym
04-22-2009, 03:14 PM
My opinion is that you don't just keep on improving in a vacuum. Players and coaches sometimes THINK they are, but it's really not the case. Plays go UP *and* DOWN. Your "level" is in a constant state of flux. Look at Felix Mantilla recently coming back from beating cancer, and he just CLEANED THE HOUSE at Barcelona seniors event, easily beating Alberto Costa in the finals. He said he shocked himself at how well he played.

For every incident where people conclude that see everyone got better, you have examples of someone like Richard Krajicek able to not play for a year and a half and come back cold turkey and nearly win Wimbledon...*just like that*.

Imo, it's more a matter of your *state of mind*. A positive state of mind, a clear head, an I've got nothing to lose attitude, just playing free in the moment can lead to very surprising results...see the almost shocking example of what Gene Mayer did. McEnroe stepped right back into tour life and won his VERY first doubles tournament back and the guy was positively ancient in age.

Look at Safin now, the guy is clearly heavier than he once was. He's not slow, but he almost looks like he lumbers now wheras when he first moved onto the big stage, he was a very crisp and lithe mover for his size, so much so that many people considered him the best big guy mover they had seen.

Put it this way, Rios once worked Agassi at the Lipton. Then a few years later, Rios has been riddled with injuries, he makes another comeback, takes on Agassi again at the Nasdaq, meanwhile Agassi's been at the top of his game and according to all logic must have been continuously improving during this time as all players not sidelined by injury do. Then what happens? Rios, ever confident against Agassi still, steps right in and AGAIN starts working Agassi on the same court as a few years prior during his alleged peak. Of course, injury would force him to retire from this match, thus "saving" Agassi from further embarassment, but that's indicative of what I mean.

So much of alleged improvement in tennis is "perception." I once had to take a long time off with injury, came back played a rival who had beren playing continuously and training more than he ever had before during this time and was beaing with confidence and alleged "improvement". Guess what, first time I played again I was really nervous feeling a bit like the kid who had just seen his rival take on a huge growth spurt over summer break. I lost real badly, I felt like oh my gosh, I can "feel" his "improvement" everywhere, what do I do? It's hopeless for me. Two weeks later, I again played him, I destroyed him this time by the EXACT same score he beat me last time. Hmm...go figure?

All I knew is that I just had a MUCH better mindset the next time. Meaning, I just had a what the heck mindset, I have nothing to lose, don't overthink it, just play...and suddenly it seemed like all him improvement felt more "normal" again, almost as if his shots suddenly magically, perceptively slowed down in my head during real time.

Top players repreatedly face the dilema that EVERYONE is gunning for them. When they're at the top of their game, people fear them. However, the second illlness or injury strikes and they come back at slightly less than full force, and the players watch some nobody like Janko Tisparavic take advantage of that and make a less than confident Federer look decidiedly "human". Guess what happens? It's already too late almost. The wheels have already begun to turn in all the players' minds. NOW, when they play Federer they are no longer negatively influenced by "perception." Now all they see is an opportunity for a HUGE scalp to add to their mantel when they're older.

The former top dog's balls somehow seem slower. Players are no longer as bamboozled by say Federer's variety, they CALM DOWN, and are not able to "stay in" points mentally, and not get that bow down, wow, what TOUCH look in their eyes! They in other words are mentally calm enough now to JUST STAY WITH IT, and in the flow. A guy like Safin's power no longer seems as overwhelming, again you calm down, thus giving you those pressure extra milliseconds to "see" and "track" the ball and hit it back cleanly, etc.

It's very subtle, but it's true imo.

What are the key factors of the "zone" state in tennis? That magical state where athletes say it almost feels like time slows down and they can see everything in slow motion even though everything's happening in real time, making them feel like they're always one step ahead of their opponent?

The key is basically adrenaline...but not TOO much adrenaline. In other words, you need to be "pumped up" and in/for the moment, which will ALWAYS occur when facing a "big name", yet not SO *caught up* with/in the moment that you PSYCHE yourself OUT of a match before it even begins...or in the critical moments.

Courier said it best about this sort of thing. When you're on top, the other players fear you in the critical moments that decide matches at this level. He said when you are on top you are GIFTED so many key points, because players respect you too much and buy into your hype too much thinking your're "not human". They end up GIVING you the matches as often as you take it in other words, and they don't even realize it.

HOWEVER, the second you start to hit a roadblock or stumble, then it's like wolves smelling blood. Now they just look at the OPPRTUNITY you represent. Now, YOU start playing worse on the key points feeling this "attacked by a hungy pack" type feeling of enclosure, AND then combine it with the other guys getting more and more bold and showing less and less respect, it becomes like a visiocus neverending spiral. Once this mentality sets in BOTH for the former top player on the "decline" and the hungy pack of wolves in the wings, it's VERY hard to reverse, it's almost always all downhill from there.

Many of the top players on the seniors tour retired in shambles mentally. Then they come back years later, and have a seemingly "refereshed', renwed vibe to them. Chang in his last year on tour hadn't just lost speed, he'd lost his MENTALITY. He was down right Rios like in tanking with a bad attitidue the SECOND things didn't go his way. It was truly shocking to witness. Chang on the seniors tour may not be as fast, but he at least has his "mind" back and doesn't GIVE points away in DROVES...in testiness like he did in his last year on tour.

The "break" rejuvinated that spirit within him, giving him a POSITIVE frame of mind again. It can make a huge difference.

Bruguera went on a tear two years ago on the seniors tour, and said he was actually playing BETTER than when he retired shockingly enough to him. That's the power of the mind INFLUENCING a player's play.

VERY poor attitude at the end on the real tour. Doesn't play tennis at all for two years, doesn't even pick up a racket. Long layoff from the game, MUCH older, and yet he's back playing shocking seemingly better than when he retired.

Mantilla echoed a similar "shocking" sentiment/feeling in destroying the field at Barcelona coming back from cancer with a "positive" attitude.

Bruguera his very first seniors tournament back won in shocking form, destroying the field. He said he "shocked" himself after his finals performance. He said, "couldn't believe" how well he'd just played. That he "felt" like he'd just played as well when he made the seminfinals here in early 97 when he was hot, and had beat Stich and Korda back to back that same tournament in the same place.

Shocking? Sure. Even the players *themselves* are shocked when this sort of black hole/Twilight Zone type feeling/thing happens to them.

And yet? It does happen in EXTREME examples. Why? Because I think the power and influence that the MIND plays in a game where things happen so fast, and so much of key performance is about able to see things happen in slowed down time. A positive, CLEAR mind (i.e. not the racket wrecking mindset Federer is now in...like so many other top players before him on the "decline") does wonders for being able to magically SLOW the ball, SLOW time, down just enough for you to do something BETTER with it than you just were in the "negative" mindset.

Look at how Sampras went from looking like a ****** against Bastl at Wimbledon to working Agassi in the finals of the US Open not that long later. Rusedski was saying oh everyone knows Sampras plays old and slwo now, that he ain't the same, blah, blah, blah...guess what, the "technical" reasoning didn't hold up. So much of what players think is happening is just as much if not MORE about what's going on in their respective HEADS. A bad, souring mindset will make ANYONE look slower and less reactive. In sports, that MINUTE difference is ALL it takes to make the difference between a winner and a loser. At the ellite levels, it taks precious little to change outcomes and that's why so much of it is in the head at elite levels. You're not talking about a 3.5 going to 4.5, you're talking about guys who've been doing this for so long that they end up taking one step forward, one step back, over and over and don't even realize it. The EBBS and FLOWS of competition at the elite level in other words.

Ocean Gypsy
04-22-2009, 03:37 PM
I agree with Higueras. The only constant in tennis is the dimension of the court. Everything else is in a state of constant flux - racquets, strings, playing surface speeds, style and tactics, and players. Lendl raised the bar with his fitness. Agassi turned his game around under the fitness regime of Gil Reyes. Rafa has now raised the bar again with his fitness level. Johnny Mac ushered out the Borg-era with his hard-charging leftie s&v game. Nadal, Joker and Murray have improved their respective games in the scramble to reach the pinnacle of their sport, albeit at different speeds, and have the advantage of being a couple of years younger than Federer. Inevitably, when you reach #1 in the world and have the incredible success Fed has had over such a short period of time, there is a tendency to take one's foot off the accelerator - a sort of "if it aint broke don't fix it" mentality. The chasing pack doesn't relax though and is always looking for that edge. Nadal has found it first; others will inevitably follow to dethrone him - it's just a matter of time. We should look on Fed's accumulation of GS titles in such a short timespan as an incredible achievement; likewise with Pete's dtermination and doggedness to play at the top for so long to accumulate his GS titles.

Smart, considered post. I wish more folks had such an intelligent, objective view of things here.

obnoxious2
04-22-2009, 03:48 PM
This proves my point about the weak era from 2003-2006. Fed has competition now.

You obviously need to stop sucking on Nadal's nuts. Read the effing interview first.

Ocean Gypsy
04-22-2009, 04:03 PM
My opinion is that you don't just keep on improving in a vacuum. Players and coaches sometimes THINK they are, but it's really not the case...

Imo, it's more a matter of your *state of mind*. A positive state of mind, a clear head, an I've got nothing to lose attitude, just playing free in the moment can lead to very surprising results...see the almost shocking example of what Gene Mayer did. McEnroe stepped right back into tour life and won his VERY first doubles tournament back and the guy was positively ancient in age.

Look at Safin now, the guy is clearly heavier than he once was. He's not slow, but he almost looks like he lumbers now wheras when he first moved onto the big stage, he was a very crisp and lithe mover for his size, so much so that many people considered him the best big guy mover they had seen.

...

So much of alleged improvement in tennis is "perception." I once had to take a long time off with injury, came back played a rival who had beren playing continuously and training more than he ever had before during this time and was beaing with confidence and alleged "improvement". Guess what, first time I played again I was really nervous feeling a bit like the kid who had just seen his rival take on a huge growth spurt over summer break. I lost real badly, I felt like oh my gosh, I can "feel" his "improvement" everywhere, what do I do? It's hopeless for me. Two weeks later, I again played him, I destroyed him this time by the EXACT same score he beat me last time. Hmm...go figure?

All I knew is that I just had a MUCH better mindset the next time. Meaning, I just had a what the heck mindset, I have nothing to lose, don't overthink it, just play...and suddenly it seemed like all him improvement felt more "normal" again, almost as if his shots suddenly magically, perceptively slowed down in my head during real time.

Top players repreatedly face the dilema that EVERYONE is gunning for them. When they're at the top of their game, people fear them. However, the second illlness or injury strikes and they come back at slightly less than full force, and the players watch some nobody like Janko Tisparavic take advantage of that and make a less than confident Federer look decidiedly "human". Guess what happens? It's already too late almost. The wheels have already begun to turn in all the players' minds. NOW, when they play Federer they are no longer negatively influenced by "perception." Now all they see is an opportunity for a HUGE scalp to add to their mantel when they're older.

The former top dog's balls somehow seem slower. Players are no longer as bamboozled by say Federer's variety, they CALM DOWN, and are not able to "stay in" points mentally, and not get that bow down, wow, what TOUCH look in their eyes! They in other words are mentally calm enough now to JUST STAY WITH IT, and in the flow. A guy like Safin's power no longer seems as overwhelming, again you calm down, thus giving you those pressure extra milliseconds to "see" and "track" the ball and hit it back cleanly, etc.

It's very subtle, but it's true imo.


...HOWEVER, the second you start to hit a roadblock or stumble, then it's like wolves smelling blood. Now they just look at the OPPRTUNITY you represent. Now, YOU start playing worse on the key points feeling this "attacked by a hungy pack" type feeling of enclosure, AND then combine it with the other guys getting more and more bold and showing less and less respect, it becomes like a visiocus neverending spiral. Once this mentality sets in BOTH for the former top player on the "decline" and the hungy pack of wolves in the wings, it's VERY hard to reverse, it's almost always all downhill from there.

Many of the top players on the seniors tour retired in shambles mentally. Then they come back years later, and have a seemingly "refereshed', renwed vibe to them. Chang in his last year on tour hadn't just lost speed, he'd lost his MENTALITY. He was down right Rios like in tanking with a bad attitidue the SECOND things didn't go his way. It was truly shocking to witness. Chang on the seniors tour may not be as fast, but he at least has his "mind" back and doesn't GIVE points away in DROVES...in testiness like he did in his last year on tour.

The "break" rejuvinated that spirit within him, giving him a POSITIVE frame of mind again. It can make a huge difference.

Bruguera went on a tear two years ago on the seniors tour, and said he was actually playing BETTER than when he retired shockingly enough to him. That's the power of the mind INFLUENCING a player's play.

VERY poor attitude at the end on the real tour. Doesn't play tennis at all for two years, doesn't even pick up a racket. Long layoff from the game, MUCH older, and yet he's back playing shocking seemingly better than when he retired.

Mantilla echoed a similar "shocking" sentiment/feeling in destroying the field at Barcelona coming back from cancer with a "positive" attitude.

Bruguera his very first seniors tournament back won in shocking form, destroying the field. He said he "shocked" himself after his finals performance. He said, "couldn't believe" how well he'd just played. That he "felt" like he'd just played as well when he made the seminfinals here in early 97 when he was hot, and had beat Stich and Korda back to back that same tournament in the same place.

Shocking? Sure. Even the players *themselves* are shocked when this sort of black hole/Twilight Zone type feeling/thing happens to them.

And yet? It does happen in EXTREME examples. Why? Because I think the power and influence that the MIND plays in a game where things happen so fast, and so much of key performance is about able to see things happen in slowed down time. A positive, CLEAR mind (i.e. not the racket wrecking mindset Federer is now in...like so many other top players before him on the "decline") does wonders for being able to magically SLOW the ball, SLOW time, down just enough for you to do something BETTER with it than you just were in the "negative" mindset.

Look at how Sampras went from looking like a ****** against Bastl at Wimbledon to working Agassi in the finals of the US Open not that long later. Rusedski was saying oh everyone knows Sampras plays old and slwo now, that he ain't the same, blah, blah, blah...guess what, the "technical" reasoning didn't hold up. So much of what players think is happening is just as much if not MORE about what's going on in their respective HEADS. A bad, souring mindset will make ANYONE look slower and less reactive. In sports, that MINUTE difference is ALL it takes to make the difference between a winner and a loser. At the ellite levels, it taks precious little to change outcomes and that's why so much of it is in the head at elite levels. You're not talking about a 3.5 going to 4.5, you're talking about guys who've been doing this for so long that they end up taking one step forward, one step back, over and over and don't even realize it. The EBBS and FLOWS of competition at the elite level in other words.

Wow. Even better. I thank you for taking the time to make such a well-decisioned case here for the issue. I'm an aggressive 4.0+ club player, but I've experienced exactly what you say here. I think the "precious little" distinction you make between the elite and the club players is telling here in a number of ways, not the least of which is that as "watchers" of the game on TV (or even live matches for that matter) we don't tend to always realize those subtleties, but as "players" of the game at the club or league level we need to be keenly aware of how they can help us be better. Especially as we get older. I'm 51 and have played in leagues for years and this year I'm playing better than I ever have precisely because I've tried to stay in better shape and tried to keep my head clear whereas when I was younger I would fret and fritter my game away because this wasn't perfect or that wasn't perfect and I let it get the better of me. Then, I didn't have the skills but I had the heart. Now I have both. I'm serving stronger than ever, hitting better forehands than ever and playing smarter than ever. It's a potent combination and I just "feel" better about my game. I also went back to a one handed backhand after years of hitting a hard two-hander (I started out playing one-handed and switched early on for the value of power, disguise and control but as time grew, it became harder physically to keep that up. I made the switch about five years ago after a year of drills with a pro who advised I do so and it has served me extremely well. I've ended up with a killer slice, especially effective in approaching the net and I've learned how to time my OH over the ball for maximum effect, most especially on kick serves where I stand farther back. It's always a matter of adjustment. But I wish I had the strength of a 30-year old with what I know today about the game in terms of strategy, patience and shotmaking. I still hit pretty hard but I have necessarily learned how to temper my "balls to the wall" attitude with smart shot selection and a cooler head.)

Tennis is a great game and it's a pleasure to be living to see guys like Nadal and Federer battling out there at such an incredibly high level with such radically different games. But Roger needs to make adjustments or be consigned to be happy with what he's already accomplished. He hasn't faded yet, but if doesn't change I fear he's done much of what he will do in his career.

dunlop1975
04-22-2009, 06:43 PM
Higueras is saying in very polite fashion that Federer is stubborn (needs someone to open his eyes and tends to use the wrong strategy), inflexible (stagnates instead of trying to improve his game) and intractable (unwilling to hire a full time coach, just 10 weeks a year is useless).
This was obviously not a match made in heaven!

I agree - the same stubborn 'qualities' that got Fed to #1, are now to his detriment, but it must be difficult to change, when you believe it got you to the top. We know he wants more slams, he must change/improve to compete at the top.

downthewall
04-22-2009, 07:59 PM
I noticed Fed started going downhill a bit after he cut off his hair. The new hair style seems to cause his bangs to get in the way or atleast it seems like.

35ft6
04-22-2009, 10:53 PM
For every incident where people conclude that see everyone got better, you have examples of someone like Richard Krajicek able to not play for a year and a half and come back cold turkey and nearly win Wimbledon...*just like that*. If this can happen anywhere, it can happen at Wimbledon. A serve and volleyer with a huge serve who's a natural on grass is going to still be better at Wimbledon than most of the players even after a lay off. Ditto for Sampras. And if Mac was 10 years younger, I might like his chances at winning a couple of rounds at Wimbledon if the grass was faster.

35ft6
04-22-2009, 10:59 PM
Bruguera went on a tear two years ago on the seniors tour, and said he was actually playing BETTER than when he retired shockingly enough to him. That's the power of the mind INFLUENCING a player's play. He's playing "better" against lesser players though. He's still in great shape playing against guys between the ages of early 30's to 50. If he had to play Nadal on clay, maybe he wouldn't feel like he's playing better than ever.

And yeah, some of these guys could probably still do some damage against a respectable pro on any given day, but the ATP is really about maintaining a high level.

Still, another great post Tym.

origmarm
04-22-2009, 11:41 PM
Tym I really enjoy it when you post!

Cheers, Orig

Mikael
04-23-2009, 12:42 AM
Tym said it best, it's all perception. People think that Federer is playing worse than a few years ago because all of a sudden he is losing more matches. They think his opposition has gotten better. At that level of play (ATP top 100) it all happens between the ears most of the time. It's all about confidence and having the right mindset. I don't feel that the level of play of the top 10 as a whole has improved tangibly in the last few years, people just get that impression because the once dominant player is starting to lose more often against younger players.

!Tym
04-23-2009, 03:14 AM
Tym said it best, it's all perception. People think that Federer is playing worse than a few years ago because all of a sudden he is losing more matches. They think his opposition has gotten better. At that level of play (ATP top 100) it all happens between the ears most of the time. It's all about confidence and having the right mindset. I don't feel that the level of play of the top 10 as a whole has improved tangibly in the last few years, people just get that impression because the once dominant player is starting to lose more often against younger players.

Well, here's the thing. You'll see players saying BOTH things. Muster would go on and on about how the level is always improving...and yet in another breath has said when you start to get older and have been out there awhile, a new guy always comes up who's not necessarily BETTER than you were, but FRESHER.

It's a really key distinction. I mean of all the major sports, I can think of no other that REALLY cheeeeews you out mentally. 1) It's one one one. There are no "pick me ups" from coaches or teammates, or feeling that responsibility like I can't let my team down so I'll continue to try even though I'm feeling burned out today. 2) The BIGGEST thing. Players on the seniors tour have to travel YEAR ROUND if they expect to get match tough and keep their ranking high enough. Bruguera his last two years on tour, would play here or there, but he just wasn't really willing to put the time in anymore or travel. I remember him losing to Pavel in a razor close three setter one week, and like practically the next week, Pavel goes onto have his career best tournament winning a masters on hard over Rafter in the finals. The same Rafter that Bruguera once dominated. You would think this would be motivation for the guy...but nope. He just stops playing again, then flies in RIGHT before the US Open, gets decimated by Bjorkman in the first round, then plays the Open? Say what? What kind of preparation or commitment is that? I remember being really frustrated by it. If you're gonna retire, retire. But why doddle about it. In this game, you're either ALL-in...or you ain't.

Bruguera's last match on tour was a close three set loss to Canas, who just weeks later went on a tear at the French. I'm thinking what the heck? How can Bruguera not even "gut it out" just a few more weeks and play the French one last time? It's not like he's COMPLETELY incapable at this point, he just almost beat Canas on the bare minimum of prep work. What is with him?

THAT'S burn out.

Muster was hardly trying at all at the end, it was inconceivable to see a guy who tried so hard losing like nothing. Same deal with Chang.

There's no other sport out there that requires as much from players MENTALLY than tennis. Time and time again, you hear it...if it weren't for the travel...I got tired of living out of a suitcase...I never want to take a flight again.

At the elite level, your GUT has to be willing to STAY WITH the points until the end. You can't just kind of feel like you WANT to win it for two shots...then eh, do I really want to be here? You'll lose the point that way. ALL of the guys are too good for that. If you go live, the average casual guy is honestly NOT able to tell the difference between the top guys and the nobodies. I've seen it with my own eyes. They can't tell. They all look about the same.

That's what I mean. They're all good enough to spar with each other. If that's the case, when it's really on the line, matches get decided by who's more confident and whose willing to go the extra mile and who's mind stays the most POSITIVELY centered "in the moment." Think of it this way, if you're in the middle of a NASCAR race, what do you think's gonna happen if you let your mind "steer" or "drift" to some other place, *for even a second*? ...not good.

To me, that's what it feels like to the top pros. After years and years of that it takes its toll on them. You just grow really wearisome after awhile, and that's all it takes.

You'll note that often times, the former top players will play current top players really close...but inevitably they just fold on the biggest of points, they just don't pull out the close one anymore. At the pro level, matches are almost always decided by that proverbial one break a set. It's like a few point swing, that's how tennis has always been. The way the games are structured, the unique scoring system, it makes EVERY game a "pressure point" situation. It's the only sport I can think of where you can win more points yet still lose the set and match. Imo, there is no other major sport where it's participants have to face so many key moments. For Kobe, crunch time comes at the end of the game. For, pro tennis players, there is NO respite. Right from the word go, you have to "close it out" or "take it" *every single game*.

It's no wonder pros can go off the bonkers so easily in tennis.

Btw, Bruguera was definitely playing diminished foes on the seniors tour, but by the same token, take into account that he too had aged. The point is more that he wasn't going through the motions or tanking with a bad attitude anymore or questioning if he really still wanted to be there anymore. I mean Chang's last year on tour, and did a role reversal of Hicham ARAZI of all people! He started off that match red hot, and it was honestly the best tennis I'd seen him play since his prime. He really looked like he was in his prime...right until it came time to close the match out. Then what did he do? He no longer believed in himself. He couldn't believe he was playing so well today. He inexplicably choked up, and LET Arazi STEAL the set. Then what happened? Chang gave up, he quit...more than that, he TANKED with ATTITUDE. He started hitting balls out on PURPOSE it seemed. The third set was over in a blink of an eye. Arazi ran away with it. ...I never thought I'd see the day...but it was NOT the first time I'd seen it that year from him.

A *clear* head and there is NO WAY Chang loses that match against Arazi is what I'm saying.

It's like with Medvedev. He spiraled to 66 in the world. Was out of shape, contemplating quiting. He goes up to Agassi in a night club just weeks before the French Open, and says, yo 'Dre, you came back from the pits, how'd you do it? Agassi tells Adrei to just hang in there and it'll turn around, keep a positive mindset, etc. Then next thing you know, Medvedev's winging it at the French, knocks out a "feeling the pressure" this year Kuerten right away in straight sets. Makes his FIRST grand salm final ever after all this time. And well, we all know what happened in that final now.

A CLEAR head is what turned it around for Medvedev so dramatically, so quickly, a what have I got to lose attitude. It's truly amazing how much difference that can make. ....then, we all saw what happened when he DID stop to think about how much he had to lose...he fell apart when the match was already in his pocket.

After that, Medvedev took a long break. Didn't even pick up a racket, he was so mentally distraught. Then, he comes back at the US Open with basically no preparation and gets killed by Kafelnikov right away, and after that Medvedev pretty much dissapeared forever and retired not that long after.

Medvedev's resurgence that French out of the blue wasn't due to him getting in shape again...

And by the same token, Medvedev's STARK drop into the abyss following that MENTALLY devastating French loss, wasn't due to him suddenly becoming half the player and ability overnight either. The same can be said about Coria...yes, injury problems since...but really, to the point where he should literally be like HALF the player and man he once was? Sometimes wounded animals never get their mind back.

I saw the documentary on "Christian the Lion" the other day. His companion gets wounded severely in the wild, comes back and his tempermant is never the same. So what does he do? He kills and "man eats" one of the handlers he was once friendly with one day.... I guess you can say, that's what Federer's "'tude" is quickly regressing to these days. I've seen it in many a top player before after they've been wounded deeply enough. I think in a way, the TRUE test of greatness is to be able to comeback from that the way Sampras did. A lot of elite players can play great when their feeling chipper, but the key is to do that when you feel like you've just been socked in the gut with a sledgehammer and no longer want to continue.

Leublu tennis
04-23-2009, 04:29 AM
A 1 .....................

*breaksracquet
04-23-2009, 04:33 AM
^^^ Nice post Tym. I read the initial post and felt there was some anguish in Higueras' interview. He would really like to be there it seems. If Fed would give him the time of day, then I think it would be really worth wild. But it really is up to Fed to make that decision. :(

mikeler
04-23-2009, 04:35 AM
I know for myself that everything goes in cycles. One month I'm beating my regular opponents and then the next month they are beating me. I'd like to think that I'm always improving, but I've been at the same level for a few years, so I know that really is not the case. It just comes down to confidence and concentration for me.