View Full Version : Federer: An Analysis

11-30-2009, 04:38 PM
Why is he not as dominant?

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.


By Tim Ruffin

11-30-2009, 04:58 PM
I liked the idea in this article. It's a good take in explaining Roger's recent losses to some of these young and hard hitting players.
It will be interesting to see if Roger will change something in his game, or bring in a new idea in 2010.

11-30-2009, 05:21 PM
Already posted.


11-30-2009, 05:24 PM
I hate all types of Freaks.

11-30-2009, 05:31 PM
BBC Interview:


11-30-2009, 05:38 PM
Fed still the #1.