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View Full Version : Interesting article, Why is Roger Federer Not as Dominant


dh003i
11-30-2009, 09:08 AM
I don't think he's quite right. Federer isn't as consistent as he was, his first serve has been wildly off in two slam finals (AO, USO), although dead on in the other two (FO, Wimbledon). I'm not sure how much the game has "evolved", that seems silly to me. In just a few years? Come on. There were enormous hitters, like Safin, several years ago. Federer had a positive H2H with Safin. There were other guys too.

I think Federer is still in his prime, but definitely has declined from his peak. A few things are better. When he is on, his serve is better. His drop-shots are maybe better, although it is difficult to tell because he used them so rarely before. However, for the most part, most shots in his game are more inconsistent. Maybe his best tennis is as good as it has ever been, or even better (due to serve & drop-shot). But his ability to attain his best or near-best levels of tennis seemingly almost at will -- which he had for almost 4 years -- seems to have vanished. It used to seem like he could just summon his best tennis upon command.

Why Is Roger Federer Not As Dominant? (http://bleacherreport.com/articles/299877-why-is-roger-federer-not-as-dominant)
TIM RUFFIN by

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Correspondent Written on November 30, 2009
LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 28: Roger Federer of Switzerland reacts during the men's singles semi final match against Nikolay Davydenko of Russia during the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals at the O2 Arena on November 28, 2009 in London, England. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images) Julian Finney/Getty Images
Vote Now! - Author Poll

Why do you think Federer is losing ground?

* a.) Age
* b.) Lack of mental toughness
* c.) Contentment
* d.)The other players have gotten better
* e.) The problem is physical

vote to see results

First of all let’s begin with the fact that it’s absolutely absurd to conjecture that a man who reached four grand slam finals in a calendar year, winning twice, all while finishing ranked number one in the world is on the decline. Roger Federer recorded victories over every player ranked in the top five, and reached all four major finals for the third time in four years. When the matches count (namely the majors) Federer shows up and plays at a high level. Period.

While Federer’s legions of unswerving, and unyieldingly loyal fans have been increasingly citing a decline in his level of play since 2008, primarily due to his relinquishing the top ranking to the younger Spanish upstart Rafael Nadal, recent losses to players such as Juan Martin Del Potro, Novak Djokovic, and most recently Nikolay Davydenko have increasing raised eyebrows. The common cry is a dismissive, “Federer is not he player he once was” assertion. The original reason given to his 2008 “sub-par” season was a case of mono that sapped his energy in grand slam finals. Then, there was the back injury the plagued him in the latter part of 2008. When the “slump” continued into 2009, it was proclaimed that Roger was simply not as good as he once was. He must have physically declined. Never mind that his serve was better than it had ever been in terms of both pace and placement. Federer’s trademark footwork seemed to be as nimble as ever, and by mid 2009 his “weaker wing” seemed to be better than it ever had been. In fact the only noticeable difference in the Federer game was a noted unpredictability with his trademark forehand, quite possibly the most lethal ground stroke ever.

The honest truth is that Roger Federer, the athlete, is either at or close to his physical peak. A tennis player is typically at their best at around 26, 27, and 28 because their bodies are still in very good shape and mentally they are at their toughest. Break down the man’s shots, his serve is better than it has been. His movement is as good as it has been, if not better. His backhand is better than it has ever been. His net game is as rock solid as usual. The only are which appears to be in decline is the forehand. There is an explanation for this, and it has less to do with Roger than you’d think.

Since 2003, when Federer first begain to showcase his huge forehand the other parts of his game have been constructed around it. His entire game has been based on the ability to absolutely end points with vicious racquet head speed, wicked topspin, and superior placement. In the last few years the only thing that has changed for Roger is the weight of shot of his opponents.

Four years ago there were only one or two guys could hit the ball heavy enough or hard enough to push Federer back and place him on the defensive. He could hit a forehand winner with three quarters pace against 99% of the field and as a result he was virtually unbeatable. With guys such as Del Potro, Djokovic, and some other youngsters having the ability to actually hit harder than Roger, the Swiss is ramping up his forehand swing speed even more. When you combine that with the fact that Roger uses one of the smallest racquet heads on tour (about 90 sq. inches), and takes the ball right off the bounce, mistimed ball are bound to happen. There is so little margin for error in Roger's game that if he is even a plit second off in his timing, the result will usually be a missed shot. That’s what I’m seeing from Federer right now. His forehand is a lot streakier against the better players, because for the most part the better players are hitting the ball a lot harder and deeper than the top players were even 3 years ago. This is not so much evidence of Federer losing his touch, as it is evidence of the evolution of the game. Federer appears to be unwilling to hit safer, and believes that the benefits of dictating play at all costs, even if it means sacrificing some extra errors, are worth the risk.

Furthermore, perhaps it is Federer’s own pride and self belief that clouds his vision. It appears that he feels he can beat anyone at their own game, so he employs sometimes foolish tactics. For instance, trying to out duel Nadal from the baseline on clay, or going forehand to forehand with Juan Martin Del Potro. Whereas Federer used to be known for his chameleon like style and ability to adapt his game to any opponent, he now appears to be more interested in going through his opponents with pure baseline aggression.

It’s a tactic that won him two majors in the past year, but it’s also cost him some important matches.

Is Federer getting worse? No, I think it’s a stretch to make such a claim. But is the competition getting better? Yes, I think it is. As guys are faster and hitting the ball harder than ever. The golden rule of tennis: He who takes time away from his opponents, will beat them in the end, continues to be true. For years no one was better at this than Roger Federer. Now, Federer is coping with the fact that guys are starting to be able to do it to him.

GinoGinelli
11-30-2009, 09:10 AM
f.) Needs a 95" racket


Just kidding!

nikdom
11-30-2009, 09:13 AM
Very interesting article. I agree with the last two sentences of the article - "The golden rule of tennis: He who takes time away from his opponents, will beat them in the end, continues to be true. For years no one was better at this than Roger Federer. Now, Federer is coping with the fact that guys are starting to be able to do it to him."

Roger himself has said that the best player at any given time is the one who's moving the best. Which means its all about those tens of milliseconds lost or gained in movement and the ability to take time away from an opponent.

President
11-30-2009, 09:17 AM
I don't think he's quite right. Federer isn't as consistent as he was, his first serve has been wildly off in two slam finals (AO, USO), although dead on in the other two (FO, Wimbledon). I'm not sure how much the game has "evolved", that seems silly to me. In just a few years? Come on. There were enormous hitters, like Safin, several years ago. Federer had a positive H2H with Safin. There were other guys too.

I think Federer is still in his prime, but definitely has declined from his peak. A few things are better. When he is on, his serve is better. His drop-shots are maybe better, although it is difficult to tell because he used them so rarely before. However, for the most part, most shots in his game are more inconsistent. Maybe his best tennis is as good as it has ever been, or even better (due to serve & drop-shot). But his ability to attain his best or near-best levels of tennis seemingly almost at will -- which he had for almost 4 years -- seems to have vanished. It used to seem like he could just summon his best tennis upon command.

I agree with you. Federer's best right now is probably close to or equal to his best in 2005/2006 (Cincinnati vs Murray and Djokovic was amazing, first two sets USO vs Soderling), but he can't come up with it as consistently. His forehand is really an error machine right now. It's not the best forehand in the game anymore. Overall he's still very good, but just inconsistent: both with his gamestyle and the level he brings to matches.

NamRanger
11-30-2009, 09:21 AM
The one thing that I agree with this article is that Federer is easily the most stubborn player on the planet. He refuses to change tactics despite the fact that he is losing.

dh003i
11-30-2009, 09:23 AM
Yet, despite not being as consistent as he was, he's still maybe the most consistent player on the tour? 4 GS finals and some good results elsewhere too. It is quite amazing.

TheMusicLover
11-30-2009, 09:43 AM
An interesting read, but I don't agree on most points. Just to name one: Still at his prime physically at past 28 years of age? Then why is there just one other player in the top-10 at age 28?
As for the other stuff, I agree with OP.

Furthermore, perhaps it is Federer’s own pride and self belief that clouds his vision. It appears that he feels he can beat anyone at their own game, so he employs sometimes foolish tactics. For instance, trying to out duel Nadal from the baseline on clay, or going forehand to forehand with Juan Martin Del Potro. Whereas Federer used to be known for his chameleon like style and ability to adapt his game to any opponent, he now appears to be more interested in going through his opponents with pure baseline aggression.

This part is spot-on, though. Hope he'll realize it in time.

GasquetGOAT
11-30-2009, 09:59 AM
An interesting read, but I don't agree on most points. Just to name one: Still at his prime physically at past 28 years of age? Then why is there just one other player in the top-10 at age 28?
As for the other stuff, I agree with OP.



This part is spot-on, though. Hope he'll realize it in time.

Can't blame him to feel that way though with all that he has achieved.

mental midget
11-30-2009, 10:37 AM
this is some atrocious writing.

sureshs
11-30-2009, 10:42 AM
"When you combine that with the fact that Roger uses one of the smallest racquet heads on tour (about 90 sq. inches), and takes the ball right off the bounce, mistimed ball are bound to happen. There is so little margin for error in Roger's game that if he is even a plit second off in his timing, the result will usually be a missed shot."

Finally, what I have been saying for a long time. This dependence on exquisite timing cannot continue as he grows older. He has to stand back more, take the ball a little later, reduce the swing speed a little, and compensate by using a bigger head frame. It is common sense, but some posters here keep arguing against it. The article also shows that the writer understands that arguing that the K90 has a larger sweetspot than some 100 sq in frames is not the point - that only applies to a stationary racquet hit by a moving ball, not when the racquet and the frame are both in motion at high speeds.

Vermillion
11-30-2009, 10:43 AM
this is some atrocious writing.

How so?

Just curious.

samster
11-30-2009, 11:04 AM
f.) Needs a 95" racket


Just kidding!

I disagree. He needs a 98".

aphex
11-30-2009, 11:10 AM
Federer’s trademark footwork seemed to be as nimble as ever, and by mid 2009 his “weaker wing” seemed to be better than it ever had been. In fact the only noticeable difference in the Federer game was a noted unpredictability with his trademark forehand, quite possibly the most lethal ground stroke ever.



someone get this man a pair of glasses

austro
11-30-2009, 12:38 PM
Racquet size barely makes any difference at all. Can you even see, let alone feel, the difference between a 96 or a 98 in racket? Try it and I doubt you will.

NamRanger
11-30-2009, 12:41 PM
Racquet size barely makes any difference at all. Can you even see, let alone feel, the difference between a 96 or a 98 in racket? Try it and I doubt you will.



There is a difference between 90 and 98 though. Also, do realize that pros are so sensitive to change that they can sense if there's a slightly different paint decal on their racquet.

P_Agony
11-30-2009, 12:45 PM
Fed's loss to Davy (with no disrespect to Davy) proves Fed's non-dminant results are more because of his own decline than the competition getting better. I mean, Davy was his competition for years now, and has lost to him every single time.

This article is dumb.

akv89
11-30-2009, 12:46 PM
The idea that tennis players reach their prime in their late 20's is outdated and in general not always applicable. I don't agree that Federer only looks worse because the competition improved. He's losing more often to the same guys that he would regularly beat a couple years ago. His serve has been more lethal than before. However, it has more to do with how much he is now relying on his serve because his ground game has weakened. His 1st serve % isn't particularly impressive either. His footwork is definitely not as good as it used to be.

I think the area of his game that worsened the most in the last couple years is the return of serve and his return game in general. Federer used to win 30-33% of return games in 04-06. This year he won only 25% of the return games he played. I believe that in 08 it was 28%.

P_Agony
11-30-2009, 12:55 PM
The idea that tennis players reach their prime in their late 20's is outdated and in general not always applicable. I don't agree that Federer only looks worse because the competition improved. He's losing more often to the same guys that he would regularly beat a couple years ago. His serve has been more lethal than before. However, it has more to do with how much he is now relying on his serve because his ground game has weakened. His 1st serve % isn't particularly impressive either. His footwork is definitely not as good as it used to be.

I think the area of his game that worsened the most in the last couple years is the return of serve and his return game in general. Federer used to win 30-33% of return games in 04-06. This year he won only 25% of the return games he played. I believe that in 08 it was 28%.

Agreed. His return of serve has been quite awful (For his own standards) this year.

TheMusicLover
11-30-2009, 01:01 PM
Can't blame him to feel that way though with all that he has achieved.

Oh, I'm not blaming him at all. It's all too understandable. And he's always been a rather stubborn fellow so it's of no surprise.

I think the area of his game that worsened the most in the last couple years is the return of serve and his return game in general. Federer used to win 30-33% of return games in 04-06. This year he won only 25% of the return games he played. I believe that in 08 it was 28%.

Fully agree. He just seems to be slicing the ball back into play nowadays some 90% of the time, with no 'bite' at all.

araghava
11-30-2009, 01:19 PM
While athletes in other sports reach their prime at 27 or 28, it has traditionally not been the case in tennis. Most of the tennis greats hit their peak at 24 or 25. Going back to the mid 70's the following players all hit their peak at around 25.

Connors, Borg (even earlier), McEnroe, Becker, Wilander, Edberg, Courier, Sampras.

The only 2 players who hit their peak later are Lendl and Agassi.

mental midget
11-30-2009, 03:32 PM
How so?

Just curious.

"While Federer’s legions of unswerving, and unyieldingly loyal fans have been increasingly citing a decline in his level of play since 2008, primarily due to his relinquishing the top ranking to the younger Spanish upstart Rafael Nadal, recent losses to players such as Juan Martin Del Potro, Novak Djokovic, and most recently Nikolay Davydenko have increasing raised eyebrows."

seriously? reading this is like watching ASIMO lumber down a flight of stairs at a honda research facility.

IvanisevicServe
11-30-2009, 04:14 PM
Anyone who thinks Federer's backhand is better than it has ever been has absolutely no idea what he/she is talking about.

Federer's backhand isn't even 50% of what it used to be. He can't hit a backhand down the line for the life of him anymore...that used to be a key part of his game.

If you go back to 2001-2006 videos of him, you'll see him unloading on the backhand side with supreme confidence. He took a much bigger cut at the ball (same goes for his forehand)...hit it much bigger. And his margin for error was fine...he seemingly hit everything.

Granted, there were rare occasions when his backhand would go awry in a match, but that usually only lasted for one set and then he found his range and demolished his opponent.

kishnabe
11-30-2009, 06:56 PM
Maybe it is true but his physical peak is gone! There is the mental peak still to reavh.

MuseFan
11-30-2009, 07:03 PM
Maybe it is true but his physical peak is gone! There is the mental peak still to reavh.

It's more mental then physical now how he wins slams.

sh@de
11-30-2009, 11:11 PM
I disagree with the entire article save for the point about Fed's own pride. I think it's really quite obvious that Fed has declined. Anybody who says that his movement is 'as nimble as ever' seriously needs a mental check...

bjk
12-01-2009, 01:56 AM
Djokovic hits harder than Federer? Djokovic hits some of the loopiest groundstrokes on tour . . . He's more of a grinder than a shotmaker.

Blinkism
12-01-2009, 02:05 AM
Federer needs to really think about adding an extra hand to his backhand shot, getting a bigger racquet, and getting some sleeveless shirts and capri pants.

Just sayin'.

big bang
12-01-2009, 02:31 AM
WTF his backhand better than ever LOL!!!!

zapvor
12-01-2009, 03:47 AM
to give credit to del Potro he adjusts his fh to his opponent on the fly, which i am amazed. federer doesnt seem to do it as much as he used to. i am curious what the real cause is. combination of various factors.

zapvor
12-01-2009, 03:47 AM
Djokovic hits harder than Federer? Djokovic hits some of the loopiest groundstrokes on tour . . . He's more of a grinder than a shotmaker.

yea i agree. unless hes going for the winner