Federer's footwork: why is it superior?

Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by Pirc Defense, Mar 30, 2005.

  1. Pirc Defense

    Pirc Defense New User

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    I've heard from various sources that Federer's footwork is very good, and may be the best currently on the tour. Why? What is it about his footwork that makes it so good?

    I ask because while watching the Tennis Masters: Facing Federer show I saw Federer returning some balls in slow motion, and though he did look fluid (as do the vast majority of pro players) all I saw was a split step, a step or two left or right, then stepping into the ball to hit. This is no different from other players. So what makes his that much better?

    On a related note, does anyone know his strength/conditioning/agility regime? Any special footwork drills or anything?
     
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  2. tom-selleck

    tom-selleck Professional

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    on one level of your question.... unfortunately, it's 90% genetic and doesn't relate to his workouts, although he would suffer if he didn't workout. in another life, i think he could probably be nurayev or baryshnikov (sp? on both those names) . you said his footwork is very good. i'd say it's mesmerizing how light he is on his feet ............ tennis magazine (tennis.com) had roger federer workout about six months ago, very good and stuff i think we all can do. search feature is good there.

    not sure about the footwork, but.....

    was asking an amazing tennis player (5.0-5.5 formerly 6.0, played huge NCAA school) in my office about serve and 2HB and he got into all this footwork stuff i knew nothing about AND IT ALL MADE PERFECT SENSE ... so alot of thought goes into the footwork. my tennis pro hasn't shown me any of this???

    federer is the perfect combination of footwork, hand eye and healthy ego (just takes care of business).
     
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  3. tom-selleck

    tom-selleck Professional

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  4. eggnog

    eggnog New User

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    I believe what sets him apart from others, moreso than his footwork, is his ability to anticipate where/when to move first. Especially during return of serve, he makes it look effortless.
     
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  5. Bungalo Bill

    Bungalo Bill G.O.A.T.

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    1. No wasted steps (if it only takes three steps to cover ground, you wont see five steps)

    2. Uses his focusing skills to get a jump on the ball

    3. He is light on his feet and they are almost always moving.

    4. Precise memorization of excellent footwork patterns which puts his body in an ideal position to make clean contact with the ball in his strike zone.

    5. Very little sideways momentum.

    6. Arcs very well around the baseline.
     
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  6. Marius_Hancu

    Marius_Hancu G.O.A.T.

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    His footwork IS special:

    He inserts, between the main footwork steps, smaller intermediate adjustments steps, which seem to the unaware extraneous but aren't, like his feet quiver/jump up in contact with the ground on the first landing, say from a split-step. It's like the ground burns when touching his feet and he can't bear it:)

    While similar footwork has been used by Donald Budge in the 30s on his famous backhand, Federer seems to generalize it while entering most of his shots. The advantage is he's much less glued to the ground as other players, and he's turning easier and more accurately, in one direction or another, and with less stress on his ankles.

    Check his footwork at:
    http://www.tennisplayer.net
    or
    http://www.atptennis.com/en/mercedesbenz/default.asp
    (at the latter you can download a famous rally between him and Hewitt).

    Donald Budge's footwork can be seen at:
    http://www.tenniscruz.com/login.asp
    (free registration)
     
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  7. FiveO

    FiveO Hall of Fame

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    Aside from the above observations by BB and MH,

    One of the things that is immediately noticeable when watching Federer in person, just as with Sampras, there are none of the sneaker "chirps" commonly heard from other very good movers, coming from his side of the court. NONE. Quiet, light, balanced.

    -I am convinced that Federer consciously limits over-run and recovery steps. One of the efficient moves to watch for is when Federer is forced to hit a fh on the full run going wide. After making contact and if both feet have left the court, when he lands, Federer 'sits' into a squat to absorb the momentum of his body weight in his thighs, like a shock absorber, instead of taking one the extra step or hop 'going' away from center the other fastest players take, and the then requisite one extra step recovering. That's two steps of distance and the time required to take them, 'saved'.

    -And while his sense of balance is superior, I believe that he consciously prioritizes BALANCE over everything else he does on court. While he is extremely quick, he never moves faster than his balance can be maintained. This means he hits everything with a solid foundation, which especially is evident on his one handed bh where he rarely crosses over but steps forward into almost every stroke.

    -Watch Federer's eyes as he tracks down the ball. His eyes remain incredibly level as he moves. Like a big cat chasing down prey. There appears to be no jarring of his head or vision, as he runs. And while moving between shots he maintains an athletic height about a foot lower than his standing height. This smooths his movement and allows making balance the priority over all else. Smooth and level beats ballistic and jarring every time.
     
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  8. dozu

    dozu Banned

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    Marius you hit the nail ON THE HEAD !!

    The small intermediate steps are exactly what makes Fed's footwork different from other players... what these small steps do is actually preparing for the upcoming events of stepping into the shot AND the recovery after the shot.

    Most players use big steps to move closer to the ball and smaller steps to adjust to the right striking position, but somehow dynamically this is not as ideal as what Federer does.

    In another thread I meantioned that I run a tape of Federer's matches between TV commercials (or there is nothing else to watch)... I did this for 1.5 years and subconciously these intermediate small steps are engraved into my actual play on court... the guys I regularly hit with are all amazed on how much I have improved in the past year or 2... I'd give most of the credit to the improved footwork borrowed from Fed.
     
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  9. Bungalo Bill

    Bungalo Bill G.O.A.T.

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    Ummmm...this is not true!!!! I liked your post right up until you said the above.

    Because I thought I was losing my mind and once again heading down a path of myths, I drudged up footage on Federers movement. In almost every clip I had (unless the ball was close to him), it is clear as a bell he uses big steps, then smaller steps to adjust. This is extremely clear! The little steps your talking about are called adjustment steps.

    Federer does take larger steps during the first few strides, especially if he has to cover court and then uses his adjustments steps to perform the stroke.

    What is also clear is his ability to explode from his first step, rarely if ever crosses over on the first step and he has excellent anticipation skills. His conditioning and his ability to stay LIGHT on his toes are icing on the cake for his movement.
     
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  10. erik-the-red

    erik-the-red Semi-Pro

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    I concur

    I agree; it is Federer's anticipation. He's always there!
     
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  11. Pirc Defense

    Pirc Defense New User

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    Great responses and links. Thanks all. I guess the next question, and the one we all want to know, is how do you learn to move like Federer? As was suggested, a lot of his ability is genetic, but how does one go about maximizing that component that can be improved? I did follow the links provided, but want more info!
     
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  12. Bungalo Bill

    Bungalo Bill G.O.A.T.

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    You have to marry your mind to your feet.

    The several things you must do to become like Federer:

    1. Get in great shape (sprints, weights, etc)

    2. Learn to split step and move with the foot closest to the ball all the time. This must be an explosive first step.

    3. Keep your mind mentally focused on the ball (every point) and be one-minded on what you are doing out there. That means you can't watch your ball too long and forget to recover quickly. Grab the old sayings like "watch your opponents strings and decide which side the ball is going as soon as it leaves the strings of your opponents racquet."

    4. Stay on your toes and in an athletic position duirng the point. Bend the knees and stay light and airy on the toes.
     
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  13. Pirc Defense

    Pirc Defense New User

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    Couble of questions, Bungalo.

    Why should I move my foot closest to the ball, versus using a cross-over step? Is this because I'm saving more time?

    Also, if I'm watching the ball, how do I pick up clues from my opponent as to where he's going with the ball? Should I be able to subconsciously pick this info up, while focusing on the ball?

    Thanks.
     
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  14. Bungalo Bill

    Bungalo Bill G.O.A.T.

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    1. Cover the same amount of court with less steps.

    2. Easier to move forward or arc forward and transistion into your adjustments steps for your stroke.

    3. Less chance of you putting your momentum going towards the side fence too much which makes it hard to get your weight to recover the other way.

    4. It is faster then crossing over and engages the lead foot to control the stroke. This of course is to a point. There will be times you have to sprint for a wide ball. In this case, the crossover is recommneded.

    5. It works well with the split step and shuffle steps.

    I wouldnt try and pickup "clues" about where your opponent is going to hit the ball unless it obvious. For instance, I played this guy and he was puzzled that I knew almost everytime where he was going. While I competed against him I never told him. Then he was moving and I thought I am never going to see this guy again so I will help him out. I told him that I knew where he was hitting because he looked there! I mean his eyes gave it away.

    Not all your opponents will be this easy so why not focus on just training yourself to say as quickly as you can "backhand" or "forehand" or "short ball, go". You may never be able to read the ball off the strings of the other players racquet (which is extremely hard to do) but you will get a good jump on the ball before it comes over the net!

    Part of focusing is using your mind to gather information. Lets say I am lazy. I usually start to move when the ball is on my side of the net. It is about to bounce and all I can do is lung for it and lob it back.

    Lets say the reason why is I am just not mentally there. I am preoccupied with other things. Bad day at work, financial pressures, homework, got in a fight with my girlfriend/wife, etc.

    how much better would I play if I could see the ball "as it came over the net" and then move? How much better would I play if I could move when the ball is midway on my opponents side of the net? You know the next one, "how much better could I play if I could pick up the ball just after my opponent hit the ball?

    After you get this down, then you can start picking up subtle clues from your opponent. Like body movements, the eyes, how they have their feet, their shoulders, etc...

    Focus on improving your "pick up time" then as you go, the brain will get faster and it will automatically bring you the information you need as you get better.
     
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  15. tom-selleck

    tom-selleck Professional

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    i'm only an improving intermediate but when i really focus on what my opponents racquet and moving with the absolute first indication of where the ball is going it works... but somehow i love that thought or i get fixated on watching that and then don't react.... i think concentration is a great inherited trait. people always mention strength, speed or intelligence as great inherited traits, but i also think concentration should be considered the same... although you can certainly improve them alot relative to your generic levels.
     
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  16. Pirc Defense

    Pirc Defense New User

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    Thanks for the replies Bungalo and Tom.
     
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  17. Chanchai

    Chanchai Semi-Pro

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    Both of my VCRs are broken :( so I can't rewatch some of my Fed collection. And I wasn't able to catch the Fed-Ancic match...

    BB, is it true that Fed consistently keeps himself in recovery positions that lean towards his backhand side? I believe I read it in one of the interviews recently, I think it was Ljubicic?

    Anyhow, the player basically said that with how good Federer's forehand (including his running forehand) is, he will usually recover to a position so that if his backhand gets attacked (which it almost always is anyways), his chances of nailing a better backhand are better. And it also allows him to be on top of inside-forehand opportunities.

    Naturally... Federer is able to do this after having extremely good footwork (among the best as far as I can tell), and well... the full list of his plusses (just about everything).

    -Chanchai
     
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  18. Bungalo Bill

    Bungalo Bill G.O.A.T.

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    Have to study the film again. I can tell you this that Federer (along with many pros) begin preparation during his recovery steps. The first thing that he prepares well before the next hit - is his mind. This happens well before the grip change and the shoulder turn. I happens even before the first step toward the direction the ball is in. He along with many pros are very disciplined mentally in this area.

    They are watching the player/ball to pick up any clues as where the next ball is going. Many times ball direction is known without too much visual clues. Such as if a pro keeps to hitting the high percentage shot.

    But mainly preparation begins in the mind, then the legs and movement, the grip change and shoulder turn, etc..
     
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  19. FederErizeD

    FederErizeD Professional

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    This thread is awesome.
     
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  20. Aretium

    Aretium Professional

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    1. The speed of his mind, to recognise the ball and what is happening with it.
    2. Always balanced to move
    3. Split step is wide.
    4. Efficiency, he actually takes larger steps than most and saves energy.
    5. He plays closer to the baseline so reactions are more important than speed.
    6. His footwork is beautiful.
    7. Of course he is an amazing athlete so speed and power are important.
     
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  21. Slothsicle

    Slothsicle Rookie

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    Federer grew up doing ballet which helped him develop such great balance on the court.
     
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