"You can't be taught to play like Federer"... Is it really so?

Discussion in 'General Pro Player Discussion' started by Sartorius, Oct 11, 2009.

  1. Sartorius

    Sartorius Professional

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    This is actually a response to christos_liaskos' post in the "Your favourite pro shot" thread.. But seeing how my response is actually way off topic and can be made a new topic of discussion, I decided to go with a new thread...

    Now I'm no tennis coach, and you say you are one, I must ask this: Do you genuinely believe that?..

    I always thought that this "genius and talent of Federer" talk has been mostly exaggerated.. Yes, he clearly has a lot of "talent" and is a genius at tennis, but isn't that, the way he plays the game right now, actually a result of hard work and lots of practice?.. People usually talk about Federer as if he had a racket on his hand when he was born, actually that's exactly the impression your entire post gives me, "it's pure genius and talent"?..

    Surely you must have heard how intensely Federer practices off-season and in-between tournaments (Long hours of practice sessions in Dubai?), and how his fitness trainer Pierre Paganini worked (/still works) wonders with his coordination, movement, and obviously fitness when Federer was young?.. Reminds me the title of an article on Federer, by Darren Cahill: Young Federer had nothing.

    People always say: You can't be trained to play like Federer, or how hard work and lots of practice won't get you there at all, you need talent (what really is talent anyway?).. Again, I'm no tennis coach but when I watch Federer, I don't see purely talent or genius, I also see a lot of hard work, but most of all...well ok maybe at least this is in some ways my personal area of expertise as I'm a student of psychology...: I see dedication.

    All that said, you probably do have a point when saying "the game 'Federer' cant be taught"... That's probably true. But with the fact that it is real, it is actually played by someone... I would say that the real right thing to teach a a young player is that the game 'Federer', through hard work and dedication, is possible?
     
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2009
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  2. Mick

    Mick Legend

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    i'd say it's very difficult because you're trying to copy the game of the best ever.

    if it was not so difficult, the other pros would copy it too and they too would become successful like federer.
     
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  3. Agassifan

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    You can try to imitate federer, but I guess you can't be taught the feel of his game. Federer is probably the most multi-dimensional player in the history of tennis (though I have to agree his S & V game has dropped off big time).

    But I am no coach.
     
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  4. SuperFly

    SuperFly Semi-Pro

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    You can learn how to play like him, sure, but actually playing like him is hard.
     
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  5. DarthFed

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    I don't really think you can teach kids to emulate Nadal either..but like everyone else is saying..I'm no coach.
     
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  6. World Beater

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    federer has a talent for tennis. But this talent is his ability to learn the game of tennis, improve etc.

    The OP is absolutely correct, federer didn't magically become this good. Everything about his game speaks to his hardwork - everything is so polished and refined. Very little is RAW.
     
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  7. Dave M

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    You can certainly teach his style of play, it's no harder than any other style. I'd always teach as many ways to play/styles as possible for a couple of reasons.THe first is to find the best fit for the pupil, second is that the player at whatever level they decide to goto has a "plan B".
    Weather or not you would ever get someone as hard working and naturally talented to be able to compete with this style again , who knows i believe it'll return to a convntional style as players look to sho opponents a different style as a match up.I believe we will one day see people who serve and volley more often.Some tech change will happen and a balance will b found again from all the sameness that is perceived.
     
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  8. akv89

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    I don't have any teaching experience in tennis but I imagine that it's hard to teach kids to play like any of the top players, that's why they're at the top of the game. But I don't see a reason why coaches can't stress certain aspects Federer's game upon their students. Trying to learn how to consistently hit flick backhands or glide across the court might be out of scope but there are other things to learn from Federer's game. His shot selection, positioning on the court, balance while executing a shot, service posture can be studied and stressed upon younger players.
     
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  9. World Beater

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    Federer is an absolutely phenomenal player. A GOAT. But to suggest that nobody should emulate or even aspire to hit the types of shots he plays, because he is so great, is ridiculous.
     
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  10. Dave M

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    Spot on, what you teach to a young child or beginner is the basics, how you take it to Fed levels is another matter!
     
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  11. christos_liaskos

    christos_liaskos Professional

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    So you've caught my attention :D.

    To start with, I dont know if you did this on purpose to pick a fight or if was a genuine mistake but... in my thread someone had said to forget coaching and just to stick a video in of Federer in action and the player will learn from his genius. The obvious problem with that would be that you are just showing the player the finished article, and one of the main things Federer is known for is how effortless he makes the game look. However much work Federer has put in behind the scenes (which obviously he has put a ridiculous amount of time in) for a player to see that effortlesness on court and none of the behind the scenes work will only have a negative effect.

    As for the work Federer has put in, yes it's well documented about his training camps in Dubai etc, but this is mostly fitness work. I think most people underestimate how important fitness is in tennis, but to say he is spending this time working on his ball striking skills most likely isn't true. He gets into the best shape he possibly can and then the 'playing' talent that he has is allowed to flow, not something that he spends hours working on. I shouldn't think Federer spends hours and hours pounding balls over the net. Atleast not anymore, in the past he will have done more than his fair share.

    Having said this, I am sure there is someone out there, throughout the history of our sport, who has worked even harder on the 'skills' side of the game yet obviously has not achieved the same heights. Surely the only answer is that Federer has more talent.

    I will also repeat something important that I posted in my other thread that you have left out, knowingly or not. A commentator recently said that the worst thing you could do with a young player would be to take him to see Federer warming up a few hours before a match. The effort being put in would be minimal and he really would be making it look effortless. This would be the worst message to send a young player.

    The thing you want to take from Federer's book is the work he has put in over his career, unitl his early 20's. Like all pros he put in a ridiculous amount of work. And he continues to do so with his fitness as i've already said. But the ball striking talent is there now, that no longer needs work.
     
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  12. ZhengJieisagoddess

    ZhengJieisagoddess Semi-Pro

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    Like Oscar Wegner says, one can definitely learn to play like the pros. That said, I do think that Federer, like Borg, is an amazingly gifted athlete.
    I think Fed's forehand can be taught, for example; but for any player to learn the stroke of another, there has to be some compatibility with their game. As much as I might love Chrissie's backhand, I can never hit two-handed because my mobility on the court is much more limited. I have to go with what I can do. So do we all.
     
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  13. JRstriker12

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    This could get interesting.......

    Honestly, how could you teach someone's Fed's game? It's kind of hard to describe: "Okay first hit a one-handed back-hand slice from an impossible position to the corner to set up you next shot, THEN hit a run-around forehand with incredible pace and spin and place it in a spot that 99% of the pros in in the ATP can't hit."

    Seriously, I think coaching any pro's game is pretty difficult, if not impossible. It would be tough to teach a game similar to Fed's and have a lot of success. He plays a pretty demanding, high risk style of tennis that most people just can't replicate. Same for Nadal's game, which is incredibly physically demanding and has some unique elements to it.

    But, what I think it comes down to is, if you are going to use someone as a template and give them the best chance to become a highly ranked pro, you would have a much better chance teaching from a Nadal-like template - ( consistent baseliner, two-handed backhand, run down everything) than Fed's - (one handed back hand, all-court game, razor's edge type shot-making).

    That's why you see a lot more guys who have a game more similar to Nadal (Nalbandian, Djokovic, Davydenko, Monfils, etc.) than Fed (Haas, Gasquet)......

    NOW before you jump on me, I know Nalby, Djoker, etc.... aren't Rafa clones, but I think their games share some similar characteristics - IMHO...
     
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  14. mikro112

    mikro112 Semi-Pro

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    I think the problem is that you can't be taught (can't teach) Federer's understanding of the game of tennis. Yes, you can teach his technique, you can teach his speed, agility, etc. but you can never teach how HE sees the ball in different situations and which shots he choses in certain situations. And actually, that is the most important thing about his game.
     
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  15. ZhengJieisagoddess

    ZhengJieisagoddess Semi-Pro

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    Great points, and this reminds me of something my coach told me just yesterday.
    He's using the Wegner Method, which I love. But Oscar teaches a very small backswing for groundstrokes, increasing the allowable margain for error. Sometimes I forget and take a big backswing. Why? Because I remember Borg...
    Many pros do have big backswings; and when I asked him about this, and how it clashes with what Oscar teaches, he said that the pros have hours per day to get their timing exactly right. We don't have that luxery. But we can still [this is me talking now] adopt the basic elements of the pro game: open stance, low to high, hitting with topspin and the windshield wiper follow-through.
     
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  16. christos_liaskos

    christos_liaskos Professional

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    OK, so as a few have pointed out, it depends on the player. This is the most important thing in coaching! Teaching the right technique and style suitable to the player.

    I suppose my original post which was in my other thread was because of the fact that Federer makes it look so effortless. As i've explained, this is not the idea you wanted to be handing on to young players. Nadal on the other hand is all there to see, from the high percentage technique in playing the shots to his mental approach, the way he moves on from the previous point. His mental toughness, grit and focus are all there to see. Federer's focus that he shows in his mental game can again come across as sometimes being effortless as if he isn't even thinking about what's going on in the match.

    BUT, as i said at the start, and many of you have said, whatever you coach has to suite the player!

    On a different note, Dave M, do i know you :D? where abouts in england are you?
     
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  17. Swissv2

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    There is a simple way to look at this. If its just about pure training and hard work, then we would have over a million clones that could play just as well as Federer. I challenge you to name any other player in the history of tennis that can do exactly what Federer does day in and day out.

    Think about it.

    Everyone in the world, including pro players themselves, would love to be able to do passing shots like Federer, move as well as him, anticipate as well as him, and make the game look easy like he does. Unfortunately, only a handful can actually do what Federer does now. Nadal is one of them (has awesome passing shots, and placement), but Nadal doesn't have quite the serve. Sampras is one of them, though Sampras is not able to do passing shots, and has even acknowledged this himself. Borg is one of them, but he doesn't quite have the power of Federer.

    There are so many players that train just as hard if not harder than Federer, but they cannot duplicate his success.

    Makes sense now?
     
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  18. Sartorius

    Sartorius Professional

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    Uhm, what the?.. That's pretty mean. "Pick a fight"?.. That was the last thing on my mind, I was merely trying to stir up a discussion... And I don't think in any part of my post I offended you, am I wrong?..

    I agree, but only partly, because...

    Exactly! That's more or less my point!.. Yes now he looks effortless, but was it always the case?.. I doubt it?.. He has reached that "effortless" state by exactly that, having "done more than his fair share."

    Stick a video of Federer in action and tell the kid: "You can't play like this right away, but if you work really, really hard... It's not impossible! Because see? He's doing it!"

    I can understand this too, well said... Though the optimistic in me says, maybe he could have worked the 'skills' side of the game in a more different way, or maybe he could have been "taught better"?.. (reclaimer: I'm no coach :D)

    I did not leave it knowingly, you really have a prejudiced approach, don't you?.. :D

    But my point isn't the "effortless" state Federer is in right now, as I said before in this post and in my first post, I'm trying to talk about the process that leads you that state, where Federer is...

    And having said that... *drums*

    YES! Precisely! And I'm talking about that specific period of "ridiculous amount of work", where the (effortless) ball striking is shaped. :D
     
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  19. Sartorius

    Sartorius Professional

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    This will sound silly... Very silly, but I'll bite.

    Yes, I can name one player who can play the game as Roger Federer does.

    Roger Federer!

    Reading your post, we may as well say Federer is "not human"?.. He has arms, legs, a head, a brain.. He breathes.. He wasn't taken to a tennis court from the hospital right after he was born?.. Yes?..

    Imagine this: Before Federer arrived, let's say somebody had made an animation movie where the lead character plays exactly like Federer does... People said: "No way! Nobody can play like that! It's not real anyway, only a movie..." Then Federer arrives.. But forget about that, the thing is...

    You're basically saying that an extraordinary level of skill a human has achieved can not be achieved by another human.

    That doesn't make sense to me. :)
     
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  20. Sartorius

    Sartorius Professional

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    Sorry this is my third post in a row, but out of all the responses, I liked this the most and give it two thumbs up.

    Maybe the thing is indeed "understanding of the game". Federer probably understands this game better than most, if not everyone else. And you can make a solid argument that every player will have his own understanding of the game, because every human probably have his own "understanding" of things.
     
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  21. christos_liaskos

    christos_liaskos Professional

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    YES! Precisely! And I'm talking about that specific period of "ridiculous amount of work", where the (effortless) ball striking is shaped. :D[/QUOTE]


    OK, I cant be bothered to split all your post up into different sections because basically i just dont have the patience to do it lol. But to your first paragraph, i meant you seemed to have taken some of my post out of context. Anyway, moving on...

    OK, so we agree there has been a ridiculous amount of hardwork going on beforehand in his early career, which is what you were pointing trying to point and it seems i confirmed in my previous post. However, when the poster in the other thread said just stick a tape in and let the young player learn, there was no mention about all the work behind the scenes. Which was why i gave the reply to him that i did.

    Lastly, as others have agreed in this thread and so did you (although the optimist in you wont let you accept it fully, and i applaud you for that because i myself am an optimist even though you might find that hard to believe :D) there are plenty of people out there who have put in as much work if not more than Federer and clearly do not have the skill to create the game he has done.

    Federer's game is not that high percentage, he is just so ridiculously good at it that it has worked for him for so many years. There are plenty of other players out there who have similar aggressive games but because they do not have the talent levels they do not execute it day in and day out making it look childs play.

    Over the years other players have tried to reach the same level, and on occasions they do play unbelievable shot making tennis. But eventually the percentages catch up with them, they start making more errors and they just have to reign in their whole game and end up back in the position where they were.
     
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  22. Swissv2

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    To directly answer your first part: Can another human being accomplish what Federer has? Of course! Definitely! But that person hasn't come onto the professional tennis scene yet. Records are meant to be broken, and Federer has already broken records of others before him.

    Here is what you cannot teach: Federer's ability to execute certain shots under certain circumstances. This ability requires a deep understanding of what one should or should not do as well as what Federer knows he can and cannot do in any situation.

    What should make sense to you, I HOPE, is in answering the question: Who else has achieved 15 GS?
     
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  23. christos_liaskos

    christos_liaskos Professional

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    I dont know if this is the answer to this whole debate and i'm tired and going to bed so I maybe havent thought this over properly but... who teaches Federer? Obviously he's had coaches in past but for a long time now it's been all him working out and deciding what he's going to do, it's already in him!

    Just a closing thought before i got to bed :D, like i said, not fully thought through :D
     
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  24. Darth_Timmaayyy!!

    Darth_Timmaayyy!! Banned

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    My old coach got sick of me changing all the time, so he sat me down, and said "who is your favourite player?" To which I replied Boris Becker.. This was the mid to late 80's..

    He then said. I want you to study him, watch him and imagine you are him.. So I did that for about a month, and we practiced like I was Boris Becker. Same forehand, same backhand, same service action..

    In all honesty, it was the best thing my coach ever did, because it was after that point that I actually stuck to something and started to get the wins for my troubles. My game improved because instead of changing technique all the time, I stuck with the same technique that gave me reason to improve..

    To this day, I have at times changed service actions, and have found that I always come back to the big Boris wind up, because it is programmed in me. And guess what. It works.. Same with my backhand.. Its all the same, and I still hit it like I was 16 again.. I just don't dive anymore...

    I always tell kids to try what their favourite player does, because it gives them a goal.. Anyone can play like Roger. But what makes Roger unique, is his consistency and control. That's the heard part to learn..
     
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  25. Swissv2

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    Federer was taught elements of the game that enabled him to know how to hit the ball and what to do in certain situations.

    What Federer was not taught was the ability to see the game in a certain way and execute his shots the way he does.
     
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  26. El Diablo

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    My wife, something of a tennis fan, said it well when she and I sat in Ashe this year and watched Federer play. She had never seen him in person. She was astounded and said "he's Nuryev, Baryshnikov, on a tennis court." This, I think, is what really can't be fully taught. His ability to move efficiently and with such ease is a gift and I don't know how one would really convey that to a student unless the student had exceptional innate gifts.
     
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  27. Mick

    Mick Legend

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    on second thought, you can play like federer if your opponent is a level lower than you are (e.g. 4.0 playing against 3.0) . you would be hitting all these amazing shots and all your opponent can do is looking at you with amazement.
     
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  28. Swissv2

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    Then they simply turn on the TV and your shots look average.
     
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  29. wangs78

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    Federer's physical grace can't be taught via traditional training methods (i.e., drills). Sure, you can teach someone to hit a 1HBH, to have deft volleys, to have exquisite footwork, but Fed's graceful movement? That's just who he is. It's his persona. It's something that he developed growing up, consciously or subconsciously. Just like no one can really be just like Fred Astaire, bc the way he moved was as much training as it was unique personality. Can you find someone who plays just like Pete Sampras? Same answer, no. So, the simple answer is that you can teach/train someone to potentially be as EFFECTIVE as Roger at playing tennis, but you can't teach someone to play exactly like Roger.
     
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  30. wangs78

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    Yeah, but chances are you still wouldn't look as good hitting those winners as Roger does. It's really quite incredible, having been a tennis fan for almost 2 decades now and having watched many videos of old matches, NO ONE in the history of the sport, IMO, matches the grace with which Roger hits a ball and moves around the court.
     
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  31. The_Steak

    The_Steak Rookie

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    Yes that would be right.

    Please tell me, can you name any human who is exactly like another human?


    Oh right.... You can't. stfu
     
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  32. tennis_hand

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    u can be taught to play like Federer.

    but u can't win like Federer.
     
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  33. BreakPoint

    BreakPoint Bionic Poster

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    Correction: Actually playing like him is IMPOSSIBLE!

    If you could, you'd also have 15 Grand Slams. :shock:
     
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  34. Darth_Timmaayyy!!

    Darth_Timmaayyy!! Banned

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    In my opinion, Roger is a right handed version of Rod Laver.

    Its all about footwork and execution.. Both players have/had the ability to put the ball anywhere.. Real tennis brains in both of them. And the fact that they never play/played within the limits of what is said to be possible..

    Both have good serves, but not the hardest or fastest. Both don"t overly hit the ball, but are able to change pace according to who they play. Both can, and did use different grips and execution of shots. And both can change tempo and tactics when needed to suit every position.
     
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  35. JeMar

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    This is a two part question.

    While there are certain elements of Federer's game that can benefit the average player, there are also things he does that are purely genetic. His anticipation, the fluidity of his strokes, his quickness on his feet are all things that cannot be taught.

    Since these elements cannot be taught, and they are essential to playing his style of game, I would argue that it is impossible to teach someone to play like Federer.

    Now, if you're asking me if a player can have a style that resembles Federer's, I would say that it is possible; however, this would be akin to buying crappy third-party video game controllers instead of the official ones. Sure, it'll work, but it won't feel like the real thing.
     
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  36. paulorenzo

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    after reading cahill's article, i understand your point fully.
    federer is talented, but talent in my opinion derives from hard work and dedication, talent isn't just given to someone when they are born - case in point: federer as a youth. countless hours of practice attest to how great federer's game is. i've heard he trains for weeks at a time concentrating solely footwork.
     
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  37. mandy01

    mandy01 G.O.A.T.

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    You cant copy Roger's talent..what you can try to learn is his technique..its incredibly interesting and helpful to see the way he hits the ball and his positioning...Of course you can't 'copy' Roger or a top player just like that because at the end of the day you have your own style,your own way of learning the game.
     
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  38. meltphace 6

    meltphace 6 Rookie

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    Exactly the way I see it.

    RF's game is pretty complex.
     
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  39. Jason Vorhees

    Jason Vorhees Banned

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    I think someone, maybe Namranger said that Federer is unique is his flexibilty,speed,endurance. If so, then there is just no point in teaching someone how to play like federer because you don't have his base characteristics.
     
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  40. pmerk34

    pmerk34 Legend

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    You could do everything he does exactly, same training same coaches same fitness everything and will not have the same results. What is talent? Who knows? It's hard to define. I've never had one tennis lesson in my life and have won a few 4.5 doubles matches. Is that talent? I don't know. Some kids in gym class when we would play tennis in HS would hit themsleves in face when they swung. There are physical traits you are born with - speed, strength, stature, quickness - or lack thereof.
     
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  41. Sartorius

    Sartorius Professional

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    I agree... But I wasn't specifically talking about teaching "Federer's ability" to a player. That obviously can't happen because as you say, it's "Federer's". I'm talking about the possibility of a "Player X's game" being similar to "Federer's game"...

    That's so irrelevant...

    Please tell me, can you show me where I was talking about "a human being exactly like another human"?..

    Oh right.... You can't. :)

    I always approached the notion "talent" with a lot of skepticism... But what you say is actually known to be true.


    @christos_liaskos: You make good points.

    -----

    I guess I should clear a thing here: If you look again at my first post in this thread, or any post in that matter, you will see that I am not talking about copying Federer. It's impossible, that's very obvious. What I am trying to discuss here is merely the statement in the title of this thread, and what JeMar some posts above says "a player having a style that resemble Federer's"; of course no one can play exactly the same as Federer, it's not just a player's set of skills, or talent, or whatever that shapes him and his game... You can say it's his unique persona too.

    Which takes me back to the post of mikro112: "You can't be taught (can't teach) Federer's understanding of the game of tennis." Maybe an argument can be made that Federer's style of tennis is more the product of his understanding of the game rather than the other (usual) elements that essentially forms a tennis player.

    Yes, there's obviously none other like Federer at the moment and maybe there won't be for a long time, or hell, maybe there won't be ever. But still, I just can not accept the idea that it's "impossible" for a tennis player to reach the level of skill Federer reached.

    I'll post the article which I mentioned in my first post and which also seems to have caught the attention of paulorenzo: Young Federer Had Nothing... In fact, I'll quote a certain part of it:

     
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2009
    #41
  42. raiden031

    raiden031 Legend

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    Federer's greatness is intangible. You can't just analyze each of Federer's strokes and say he is the best at all of them. What makes Federer great is that the summation of all possible components of a tennis game are better in him than everyone else. The difference between Federer and others is that Federer finds a way to play just a little bit better than his opponent (most of the time), no matter how good his opponent is playing. Federer can have a close match against a guy ranked 100 in the world, and then play Djokovic who has been on fire and wipe the floor with him. Its because he has that extra gear that is intangible. He raises his game to always outplay his opponent. I agree you cannot teach this. You can teach Federer's style but you can't teach his greatness.
     
    #42
  43. pmerk34

    pmerk34 Legend

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    Sorry, that's just silly. Fed routinely makes backhand passing shots with the ball behind and off his back foot. He routinely hits some of the heaviest spiniest forehands ever struck. His quickness was insane. All greats have intangibles but with the astonishing physical abilities he's be just another "smart" mid level player.
     
    #43
  44. raiden031

    raiden031 Legend

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    Federer this year is like top 15-20 in return game statistics. He goes through alot more competitive sets against inferior players than one would think he should considering how successful he is. So its not just his physical abilities that make him great.
     
    #44
  45. pmerk34

    pmerk34 Legend

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    He's also getting older and some of his skills have diminished and so he will struggle more than he used to. Like all great Fed knows how to win when an inferior player is playing great and Fed himself is not. That's why he hasn't been bounced prior to a GS semi in years.

    That is an intangible that I suppose few have becuase it is is born out of confidence I'm the greatest and you're not.

    I would say an example I've seen of this on a high level was his US Open final vs Djokovic. To me Novak "should" have won that match based on the tennis alone. Fed was a step slow and was getting outgunned. The difference is Novak "cracked" a bit. The problem is he was playing Fed who did not "crack" a bit back. Against probably in anyone else in 2007 Novak wins that title. It;s no accident he lost though.
     
    #45

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