Federer made a mistake...what am I missing?

Tennis_Hands

Bionic Poster
People are claiming that his fh is fundamentally worse and that it's all about the racquet (as if nothing else changed between 2006 and now). You can listen to what Federer himself says about RF97 and particularly about the slice with it:

Federer played with a 90 si racquet. He could've gone for 93 or 95 (like Djokovic) but he has gone for 97. Think about it for a minute.
I don't know what from what I said is not clear to you.

:cool:
 

dr325i

G.O.A.T.
Fed's biggest mistake was calling Djokovic "a joke" and predicting Gasquet will have a better career than Djokovic
Wagging that finger at the FO 2011. Everything went down the hill since then.
9:19 since that match
1:8 in Slams...
 

NoleIsBoat

Hall of Fame
He is clearly juxtaposing the pros of his old racquet and the associated with them executions with those of the new racquet. It is quite simple to understand and pretty straightforward.

:cool:
I hope that that video makes what I said clearer to you. If not, it is of no use.

:cool:
That’s just what you imply. Not what Federer himself thinks.

In 2015 he confirmed he hits his FH as good as ever.
 

swordtennis

G.O.A.T.
I agree. We need to hear it from the man himself. Let’s see what the man has to say now, shall we?

Around 01:40 mark Fed is clearly stating that his FH and Slice were “unbelievable” with the previous racket and he essentially traded two of his most potent weapons during his prime for a better backhand, which did help his matchup with Rafa. But it’s a fact that his racket switch fundamentally altered Federer’s game. He was not as explosive as he once was on his FH side. And he lost his trademark Slice. That’s huge!
He definitely became more stable and consistent on his BH side. But you his claiming that the racket switch largely helped Federer is not true. It helped Federer solve Nadal. That is all.
Fed needed to do what he needed to do to stay relevant win and compete as the sport became more physical with longer rallies.
He has talked about this.
As he stated "Novak is the ultimate challenge".
It was not just for Nadal.
 

Pheasant

Hall of Fame
The switch to the bigger stick was mandatory for Fed. He started losing far more often to lesser players with that vastly-outdated racket. In 2011, Brad Gilbert said that he owned a pro tennis shop and he didn't even carry Federer's racket, because it was far too tough to hit a ball accurately. He said, "with that racket, you need to hit that ball flush, and I mean flush."

I would have loved to see peak speed-burner Federer with the modern stick. But that's a hypothetical woulda coulda shoulda that's all speculation.

Anyway, kudos to Fed for making the change.
 

Novichok

Rookie
His rf97 is a great racquet and turned his career around, but he should have went with a 16 mains 20 crosses string pattern or just a little tighter crosses with the conventional 16 by 19. The current one is too open imho and not precise enough. Whenever he is not playing at his best, he just starts making errors like crazy.
 

Harry_Wild

G.O.A.T.
To me Federer played his best with his smaller Wilson rackets. (K-factor and so forth). There was a switch I think to a larger racket at one stage which immediately seemed like a mistake. His shots seemed loopier and less powerful with more unforced errors. He was spraying it.

Did anyone perceive this? What am I missing? Am I the only one to believe he played better with smaller frames than the larger ones? Yes, even on his backhand. Perhaps someone can clarify with his racket history and his thinking behind it. Did he not complain about the changes etc?
Federer could not handle Rafa's kicking ground strokes to his backhand well with his 90 size racquet. Plus, the 97 size gave him much more power too!
 

mxmx

Hall of Fame
You think you know better than Federer and his team. I don't follow.
And you're thinking everything he says is truth. The players often just say things for the sake of saying something. Would Federer admit he needed to change his tactics against Nadal regarding his backhand? No. He's too proud.

I don't care what he says. There was a time his form really suffered because of going to larger frames.

Can someone please edit this:

- Year:
- racket model:
- racket weight:
- racket size:


- Year:
- racket model:
- racket weight:
- racket size:
 

mxmx

Hall of Fame
Maybe.
I think over the last couple of years he’s lost a little bit of footspeed so finds it harder to get into ideal position, or defend to the FH side.

As a pure shot, in 2019 looked as good as ever.
To be honest. I'm not sure the larger frames helped his backhand in the beginning either, except for maybe the return. Eventually it helped but I still think his passing shot and control was better with smaller frames except for the topspin serve return...
 

PrinceMoron

Legend
Federer was too successful to have time to get used to another frame. Injury allowed the time needed to switch.

You would imagine that what he ended up using was the best fit, but I really hated the RF97A and found it clunky and stiff, not what I would have expected.

RF plays with it just how you would expect given its characteristics. It soaks up the pressure until you are in position to rip one
 

mxmx

Hall of Fame
That’s just what you imply. Not what Federer himself thinks.

In 2015 he confirmed he hits his FH as good as ever.
He had to say that. Do you think he wanted to admit to Nadal and Djokovic that his forehand was weaker and that they should have gained confidence against him?
 

Tennis_Hands

Bionic Poster
If we only had that to go off then I might draw conclusions from it.

However we already know that Federer implicitly stated in 2015 that he hit his FH as good as before, up to that date.

:cool:
I am discussing the video that was brought to my attention regarding his new vs his old racquet, and his opinion in that video is as clear as it gets. Your speculations regarding other topics are of no interest to me.

:cool:
 

NoleIsBoat

Hall of Fame
I am discussing the video that was brought to my attention regarding his new vs his old racquet, and his opinion in that video is as clear as it gets. Your speculations regarding other topics are of no interest to me.

:cool:
Not speculation, Federer’s own self assessment :whistle:
 
How can it be a mistake. Did you not watch that 5th set of the AO 17 final? Did you see all those neo BH bombs blasting past a shell-shocked and flummoxed Rafael Nadal ? Have you ever seen that happen before the racket switch?
Indeed. Actually what happened is mid-tour in 2014-16, Fed couldn't groove with the racquet and hence struggled to adapt to the larger frame. Struggle is also relative here because he served really well in 2014-15. But from 2017, he had a game working on all fronts. Only, that the clock was beginning to tick now. So if anything, switching at an earlier opportunity would have worked better for him.

And as for the suggestion made in the thread that Fed switched prematurely, well, you must have not watched his 2013 season. He was starting to look done at the time. So even with the new racquet affecting his forehand, he still got more competitive in 2014-15 and made three GS finals.
 

Blahovic

Rookie
I think people go a bit overboard on the importance of the racquet switch. It's only a racquet. Federer is Federer. It's only so important. He probably could've competed to a very similar level with the old racquet.

But I do think a larger racquet provided some support to his backhand which he needed and benefitted from.
 

Tennis_Hands

Bionic Poster
Not speculation, Federer’s own self assessment :whistle:
It has nothing to do with the discussed video, and in it it was also "Federer's own self assessment", so apparently Federer is changing his opinion OR you misunderstand and you are bringing in an example that is not relevant to the discussed.

Either one works.

:whistle:
 

NoleIsBoat

Hall of Fame
It has nothing to do with the discussed video, and in it it was also "Federer's own self assessment", so apparently Federer is changing his opinion OR you misunderstand and you are bringing in an example that is not relevant to the discussed.

Either one works.

:whistle:
No
 

StanAO14

Rookie
His rf97 is a great racquet and turned his career around, but he should have went with a 16 mains 20 crosses string pattern or just a little tighter crosses with the conventional 16 by 19. The current one is too open imho and not precise enough. Whenever he is not playing at his best, he just starts making errors like crazy.
Agree. Really curious whether Fed would have had better results with an 18/20 or something similar. I can imagine that with his technical skills and magical hands he can still give all sorts of nasty spin with an 18/20 while at the same time have more control/ precision. On the other hand I would have not bring this up when he would have beaten djoko at wimby in ‘19...
 

uscwang

Hall of Fame
How awful of the OP to express an opinion about a player's decision. Where does he think he is? On a tennis message forum??
The word I have in mind is not "awful".
It is not just "a player". It is Federer, whose decision about tennis gear, as well as Nadal's and Djokovic's I don't question. I only doubt those ATP players' choice of racquet who haven't won Career GS.
 
I think people go a bit overboard on the importance of the racquet switch. It's only a racquet. Federer is Federer. It's only so important. He probably could've competed to a very similar level with the old racquet.

But I do think a larger racquet provided some support to his backhand which he needed and benefitted from.
No, he said handling heavy topspin on his backhand side was getting harder and harder with the old one. The larger frame not only gave him more margin for error on the backhand wing, it was also more powerful. So he just started hitting a flatter backhand and took it early. With the old racquet, his backhand was more whippy. Could be electric on its day but could also frequently drop short. We never saw the young Fed ever hit jumping/mule kick backhands for a reason.
 

Jason Swerve

Semi-Pro
The word I have in mind is not "awful".
It is not just "a player". It is Federer, whose decision about tennis gear, as well as Nadal's and Djokovic's I don't question. I only doubt those ATP players' choice of racquet who haven't won Career GS.
Sir. They aren't gods. People need to stop with this star-struckness. Results are results. Patterns are patterns.
 

Harry_Wild

G.O.A.T.
RF help designed his current racquet and because of that, he does not break his racquets like he use to with his 90s. I think he knows that he is to blame when he screws up, not his racquet now because he designed it!
 

Mischko

New User
Hm. It seems to me that not many people here actually compare the two racquets, except acknowledging 90 sq in vs 97 sq in. Maybe many people can't, or haven't played with them enough, or lack the skill to play with them properly and compare. But that is exactly what you should do, because most of text seems just guessing. Sorry about that. Roger was and is same old Roger. It's the racquet that's changed, not the player. Many will already know the whole racquet story of course.

Old one was forgiving, belonging to older generation frames, to the 90's really. Fabulous for pancaking the ball with full swings, and that's how that kind of thin beam frames were intentionally made then. Hit the ball as hard as you can. Frames were softer and their weight absorbed shock as well, no stiffness so you can swing like a maniac, soft gut strings too. Pancaking with full speed and not only when you have the time to set up the shot properly but kind of always, and it was fairly nimble for its static weight. It is obvious why any ATP level player would play attacking tennis with it like Roger did, and not a defending or grinding kind of game. Comparable to Becker's frame, to Prestige 600, and also kinda to Andy's and Novak's frame as well (not the string pattern, lead and balance part, just carbon frame itself). That's a short explainer for the younger readers. That combined with small head size is ideal for forehand, serving, volleys. If you drop string tension - backhand as well, as long as you are attacking.

New one was made when Wilson - like other racquet manufacturers - wanted to make stiffer frames that are more stable, give much more rotation, and power - energy goes back to the ball instead of flex. 21st century carbon technology, very different from the old frame. Now in 2021 we can clearly see that most pro players remained with older frames that flex, and that generally few wanted to go with new stiffer frames. Even Babolat, whose retail Aeros are very stiff, is making a softer one for Rafa, just like his coach Moyá played with Soft Drives painted and "sold" as a very stiff Pure Drive. Many retail racquets were very stiff for a good number of years until ~2019 and now many retail racquets try to blend stability with some flex and forgiveness. Finally.

So new RF97A was engineered when Wilson's best engineers proudly made a very stiff racquet for their man, simple as that. Roger being Roger, being the most aware and charming image and marketing person on the planet and beyond, will have said anything to best present the new frame. He has almost the same crazy talent for that as he has for tennis I think. However, if you gave those same engineers the same task today, they would arguably make a slightly more forgiving, softer and nimble racquet. Maybe not by a lot but enough. Were Roger younger I'd hope for a RF97A v2.0 but with him being 40 there's no way.

Besides a larger head size, he also clearly asked for 1. more power (basically meaning less flex) and 2. much more rotation, but both go together with larger head size. More rotation = less ball speed. More open string pattern and rotation compensate not only for control with more power, but also compensate for stiffness as the the stiff frame isn't polite to the tendons if you don't hit the sweet spot on flat shots. And in fast play you really can't always hit the sweet spot. That power+spin combo also doesn't kill the ball speed when you spin it a lot, a problem he had with the old frame, but now you're stuck with rotation and you have to spin it.

And so Roger got exactly all of that, but it carries the penalties of being a less forgiving stiffer heavier frame that needs rotation. Mass in the throat and shoulders makes it super stable but unwieldy and less adapted to slower play, unless you're the one directing the point. You can't just whip it around, you need more preparation and energy if the incoming ball has low speed. But if the incoming ball has speed - like grass or fast hard courts - and you're on time - you win, as you will punch through any opponent. Also you can't really flatten the shot and pancake the ball in competition with it, only rarely when you have an ideal ball, but not as you please, because you'll launch it..somewhere. You need rotation to keep it in.

Racquet has visibly more power and penetration on attacks, again, not only as a combination of stiffness and (swing)weight but also rotation, bend and dip. Ultra stable for blocking fast serves and volleys, very linear response from the stringbed. Very difficult to grind and play long points with it, you have to invest so much power for that, you can't just hop around the court light as feather, no way, not even for Federer (ger. Feder = feather). So it basically forces you to think of ways how to be constantly on the attack. If you follow Roger you'll have noticed his difficulties against many grinders, Millman, Sandgren, Ćorić etc.
 

Mischko

New User
As for his more recent wins against Nadal I contribute that to a change of tactics and awareness, not so much on the racquet change, although that helps too. Those changes came with Ljubičić, and Federer is now just punching through Nadal, rushing him and not giving him angles, as he should have done years ago. Just like Sampras, Becker, Ivanišević and others did in the 90's to all clay courters. 6:1 6:2 6:2. All points shorter than 4-5 exchanges, deconstruction of point isn't allowed. Full stop. Except on clay of course, players like Rafa and clay court specialists can't compete in that kind of game, and they are fully aware of it, so it breaks their spirit too, as they can't adapt in any way. Rafa is of course immensely talented and smart, but his game revolves around some things that evaporate in that type of tennis.

Personally I even stopped watching tennis for many years back then, I hated that Wimbledon finals became a mud pit. Immature, I know, I was younger. Federer's coaches were incredibly incompetent for not being able to have him do that, after just watching Sampras play like that for a decade, and Roger being so fast and strong, and playing the PS90. It was so obvious, and not that difficult to try either. Such a shame that we had to wait for 2017 to finally see that done. I also think that Roger closed a chapter of his life with that achievement, to finally close that loop.
 

devil_ball

New User
It seemed like his switch was premature and took years for him to adapt to the larger rackets. I could be wrong.

Can someone please list his racket history and size? Perhaps we will learn that the rackets did or did not influence his decline much.
as i rmb, he used PS85 in the beginning of his career, then change to PS90 in 2002, winning winning winning..... finally changed to PS RF97 in 14
let me know if i am wrong
 
As for his more recent wins against Nadal I contribute that to a change of tactics and awareness, not so much on the racquet change, although that helps too. Those changes came with Ljubičić, and Federer is now just punching through Nadal, rushing him and not giving him angles, as he should have done years ago. Just like Sampras, Becker, Ivanišević and others did in the 90's to all clay courters. 6:1 6:2 6:2. All points shorter than 4-5 exchanges, deconstruction of point isn't allowed. Full stop. Except on clay of course, players like Rafa and clay court specialists can't compete in that kind of game, and they are fully aware of it, so it breaks their spirit too, as they can't adapt in any way. Rafa is of course immensely talented and smart, but his game revolves around some things that evaporate in that type of tennis.

Personally I even stopped watching tennis for many years back then, I hated that Wimbledon finals became a mud pit. Immature, I know, I was younger. Federer's coaches were incredibly incompetent for not being able to have him do that, after just watching Sampras play like that for a decade, and Roger being so fast and strong, and playing the PS90. It was so obvious, and not that difficult to try either. Such a shame that we had to wait for 2017 to finally see that done. I also think that Roger closed a chapter of his life with that achievement, to finally close that loop.
Well, but to play that first strike variety of tennis, he needed the big racquet. You never saw Sampras whack winner after winner with the backhand the way Fed did in 2017. Sampras and the others you mentioned relied on serve volley plus chip charge. Fed's first strike aggressive ball striking was more like Agassi if anything. And Agassi always used a BIG racquet head. The only difference is Fed throws in all the variety with volleys, slices, drops and is less dependent on pure baseline rallying than Agassi. But he basically followed the Agassi playbook. Or indeed what Connors used to do for that matter. Fed's greatest strength has always been how early he could take the ball, how sweet his timing was and in those respects he resembled Agassi and Connors. He idolized Sampras and Edberg but his netgame never rose to those heights. I say he should have switched to a 95 back in 04. Remember he had already moved from an 85 to a 90 in 2002. At that age, he could have adapted more quickly to a bigger racquet head and started being more aggressive on the backhand side.
 

Mischko

New User
Yes, I also always thought, since the beginning really, that Federer followed Agassi, and that Agassi's fabulous style influenced tennis as a whole much more than Sampras' style. It was really great to see Andre play for those "extra" years, kind of reminds me of these Roger's "extra" years. But both Roger and Andre placed the ball and constructed the point, on any surface really, and that is also what made them excellent on clay.

However, that is not first strike tennis as you mentioned, not at all. That point building style is what delivered Roger as piecemeal to Rafa's point deconstruction and obstruction, and made him an easy target for war of attrition, each and every time they met. Roger continuously wanted to build any point, on his serve or not, and Rafa first deconstructed it, and then wore him down. Point by point, game by game, set by set. Seen so many times. Agassi would have adapted better and faster to that, he would've shortened the points in any way possible. Roger just played along instead.

Sampras, Becker, Ivanišević didn't place the ball to build the point, they hit a winner, or at least finished the point with max one extra shot. It's an entirely different game for the defending player when you know it, just watch how helpless most opponents were against Sampras, as they knew he is going for it every but every single time, end of discussion.

A very large racquet head like Agassi's wasn't for easier attacking but for easier blocking, returning, and reactive play. Surfaces and balls were faster then, serves became a huge weapon with taller players and better racquets after 17yo Boris "Bum Bum" Becker won Wimbledon in 1985 and then again in 1986 and Sampras later perfecting that style. Small racquet heads they used, and Federer later, is what is always associated with attacking tennis, they are way more precise for serving and attacking, especially in the old days of heavy flexy racquets and gut strings. Agassi knew already as a youngster that he doesn't have that kind of serve so he decided go turn that tactic upside down and have the best return, good move. And yes, I also thought back then that Wilson should've given Roger a ~95 to more easily handle high jumpy balls and more modern tennis. Also, I'm not sure but I think that old PS85 was really an 88, so the transition to a 90 was super easy. I played with a 2007 K88 made for Sampras for several years, it was 345g but easier to swing than 340g RF97A.

Tennis then evolved towards slower balls and surfaces, lighter stiffer larger frames, more spin, faster movement on court and that is where Roger had to eventually adapt towards a larger frame. For a good single hander you need a racquet that doesn't twist, that's why Stan has lead at 3 and 9, and why new Roger's racquet has high twistweight. So a narrower head helps for example, maybe a larger grip size etc. While a larger head helps with modern faster spinnier play as the sheer surface and sweet spot are larger. But every racquet I tried larger than 98 was too wide, too much twist on the backhand, so I don't think that larger than a 98 is just better for a single hander, no way. A 95 to 98 is ideal for a single hander I'd say.

But to get back to Rafa, the only way to deal with that intentional slowing down is to punch through and consciously not allow any point deconstruction. Many of us do it against weaker or defensive opponents, it really isn't some special philosophy. Best recent example is Čilić - Musetti in Miami last week. Čilić did everything right, and wiped the floor with Musetti, who is still young, but who very clearly couldn't deal with intentionally shortened points by Čilić, who totally rushed him and was fully aware of the success while doing so. Rarely do I say "well done" after watching Marin, but there you have an ideal example. Rafa is a better player than Musetti of course, but it was obvious that Rafa clearly knew what was going on already in IW and Miami 2017 and later in Shanghai 2017 and Wimbledon 2019. It was clear to him that he has to play a match where all points last 3 exchanges, more only if Roger is in the driving seat. He knew he was losing already at 1:1 in the first set.

How Roger hits the backhand is part of that awareness, Ljubičić clearly explained to him that he is working against himself if he is slowing down the game with slice backhands all the time, and obviously convinced him that he has to force topspin backhands practically at all times just to rush the opponent, to speed up the point, since that almost always goes to his favour. That particularly applies to opponents who like to slow down the point, like Evans recently, or Rafa of course. He should only use the slice when he's the one needing time and being rushed, and that is not that often.

New 97 sq in racquet isn't always ideal for one handed backhand, especially flatter ones, it is a bit too stiff for the smaller tendons on the back of the shoulder, and it is heavy to move. So to play topspin backhand with it Roger really has to be conscious that he is the one forcing it and rushing his opponent, and not allowing opponents to slow down the point. He has to invest a lot of energy into it, as it is much easier to block it with a slice backhand. That is why over the years Roger became lazy about it, slicing a lot, again. When you see him continuously hit topspin backhands you can clearly tell that he is not playing around, and that he is taking his tactics very seriously.
 
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HBK4life

Professional
Agree. Really curious whether Fed would have had better results with an 18/20 or something similar. I can imagine that with his technical skills and magical hands he can still give all sorts of nasty spin with an 18/20 while at the same time have more control/ precision. On the other hand I would have not bring this up when he would have beaten djoko at wimby in ‘19...
I have wondered that as well but maybe he has hit with a tighter pattern and didn’t like it. Friend of mine plays with radicals but when he is getting them strung plays with 18 x 20 prestige and I can tell he doesn’t have as much feel. Like he can’t manipulate the ball like he wants.
 

Sunny014

Hall of Fame
Maybe 1/4 step slower, but more than compensated for with his technical improvements.

I don’t think Fed really slowed down until around 2018.
Fed didn't slow down until 37 ?
Do you watch Tennis ??
Do you understand biology ?
Do you understand how historically athletes have slowed down in their late 20s onwards and then even more in their 30s ?
Do you think Federer is not a human?
 
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socallefty

Hall of Fame
Federer is able to hang around in the top 5 almost at the age of 40 because his bigger racquet has helped him to over-achieve in his late thirties in spite of his movement being slowed down by the passage of time. It has helped him to consistently beat Nadal outside of clay in the last four years which was something he struggled to do even in his prime once Nadal reached his prime.

He has won three Slams with the new racquet and would have likely won five more if Djokovic had not stopped him in finals at 2014W, 2015W, 2015USO, 2019W and the semifinal of 2016AO. He looked great in those tournaments and would have won against anyone else. If he had won eight Slams in his mid-late thirties with his current racquet, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. So, the only area where the RF97 racquet has come up short is helping him to beat Djokovic in Slams and many other big tournaments - but, it is hard for me to imagine that he would have done so with his smaller racquets from the past either. Djokovic has no weaknesses that Federer or anyone else can exploit when he is playing well and that has been a problem for the entire tour during the last decade. Let’s not blame the RF97 for that especially since Federer can’t move well enough anymore to hit inside-out FHs (instead of BHs) all the time like he used to do in his younger prime.
 

Sunny014

Hall of Fame
Federer is able to hang around in the top 5 almost at the age of 40 because his bigger racquet has helped him to over-achieve in his late thirties in spite of his movement being slowed down by the passage of time. It has helped him to consistently beat Nadal outside of clay in the last four years which was something he struggled to do even in his prime once Nadal reached his prime.

He has won three Slams with the new racquet and would have likely won five more if Djokovic had not stopped him in finals at 2014W, 2015W, 2015USO, 2019W and the semifinal of 2016AO. He looked great in those tournaments and would have won against anyone else. If he had won eight Slams in his mid-late thirties with his current racquet, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. So, the only area where the RF97 racquet has come up short is helping him to beat Djokovic in Slams and many other big tournaments - but, it is hard for me to imagine that he would have done so with his smaller racquets from the past either. Djokovic has no weaknesses that Federer or anyone else can exploit when he is playing well and that has been a problem for the entire tour during the last decade. Let’s not blame the RF97 for that especially since Federer can’t move well enough anymore to hit inside-out FHs (instead of BHs) all the time like he used to do in his younger prime.
Federer would still have beaten Novak with that extra footspeed and some extra power on his return.
Age related issues..... Sadly nothing can be done, on HCs beating Djokovic this way has become very very tough..... maybe Fed cannot do that.
 

blablavla

Legend
let me try to give you some answers on the behalf of the other poster

Fed didn't slow down until 37 ?
just preparing to enter physical prime

Do you watch Tennis ??
most likely no

Do you understand biology ?
is it required to post anonymously on internet?

Do you understand how historically athletes have slowed down in their late 20s onwards and then even more in their 30s ?
not necessary for a person heavily invested emotionally into 1 athlete

Do you think Federer is a not a human?
yeah, more like a bird, or to be precise, a vulture, if we look at the posts of the Wonderland brigade
 

blablavla

Legend
Federer is able to hang around in the top 5 almost at the age of 40 because his bigger racquet has helped him to over-achieve in his late thirties in spite of his movement being slowed down by the passage of time. It has helped him to consistently beat Nadal outside of clay in the last four years which was something he struggled to do even in his prime once Nadal reached his prime.

He has won three Slams with the new racquet and would have likely won five more if Djokovic had not stopped him in finals at 2014W, 2015W, 2015USO, 2019W and the semifinal of 2016AO. He looked great in those tournaments and would have won against anyone else. If he had won eight Slams in his mid-late thirties with his current racquet, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. So, the only area where the RF97 racquet has come up short is helping him to beat Djokovic in Slams and many other big tournaments - but, it is hard for me to imagine that he would have done so with his smaller racquets from the past either. Djokovic has no weaknesses that Federer or anyone else can exploit when he is playing well and that has been a problem for the entire tour during the last decade. Let’s not blame the RF97 for that especially since Federer can’t move well enough anymore to hit inside-out FHs (instead of BHs) all the time like he used to do in his younger prime.
the W2019 loss has pretty much nothing to do with racket.
if he got to 2 matchpoints on his serve in the 5th set, it means that the racket was good till that point in time
 

beltsman

Legend
Yes, I also always thought, since the beginning really, that Federer followed Agassi, and that Agassi's fabulous style influenced tennis as a whole much more than Sampras' style. It was really great to see Andre play for those "extra" years, kind of reminds me of these Roger's "extra" years. But both Roger and Andre placed the ball and constructed the point, on any surface really, and that is also what made them excellent on clay.

However, that is not first strike tennis as you mentioned, not at all. That point building style is what delivered Roger as piecemeal to Rafa's point deconstruction and obstruction, and made him an easy target for war of attrition, each and every time they met. Roger continuously wanted to build any point, on his serve or not, and Rafa first deconstructed it, and then wore him down. Point by point, game by game, set by set. Seen so many times. Agassi would have adapted better and faster to that, he would've shortened the points in any way possible. Roger just played along instead.

Sampras, Becker, Ivanišević didn't place the ball to build the point, they hit a winner, or at least finished the point with max one extra shot. It's an entirely different game for the defending player when you know it, just watch how helpless most opponents were against Sampras, as they knew he is going for it every but every single time, end of discussion.

A very large racquet head like Agassi's wasn't for easier attacking but for easier blocking, returning, and reactive play. Surfaces and balls were faster then, serves became a huge weapon with taller players and better racquets after 17yo Boris "Bum Bum" Becker won Wimbledon in 1985 and then again in 1986 and Sampras later perfecting that style. Small racquet heads they used, and Federer later, is what is always associated with attacking tennis, they are way more precise for serving and attacking, especially in the old days of heavy flexy racquets and gut strings. Agassi knew already as a youngster that he doesn't have that kind of serve so he decided go turn that tactic upside down and have the best return, good move. And yes, I also thought back then that Wilson should've given Roger a ~95 to more easily handle high jumpy balls and more modern tennis. Also, I'm not sure but I think that old PS85 was really an 88, so the transition to a 90 was super easy. I played with a 2007 K88 made for Sampras for several years, it was 345g but easier to swing than 340g RF97A.

Tennis then evolved towards slower balls and surfaces, lighter stiffer larger frames, more spin, faster movement on court and that is where Roger had to eventually adapt towards a larger frame. For a good single hander you need a racquet that doesn't twist, that's why Stan has lead at 3 and 9, and why new Roger's racquet has high twistweight. So a narrower head helps for example, maybe a larger grip size etc. While a larger head helps with modern faster spinnier play as the sheer surface and sweet spot are larger. But every racquet I tried larger than 98 was too wide, too much twist on the backhand, so I don't think that larger than a 98 is just better for a single hander, no way. A 95 to 98 is ideal for a single hander I'd say.

But to get back to Rafa, the only way to deal with that intentional slowing down is to punch through and consciously not allow any point deconstruction. Many of us do it against weaker or defensive opponents, it really isn't some special philosophy. Best recent example is Čilić - Musetti in Miami last week. Čilić did everything right, and wiped the floor with Musetti, who is still young, but who very clearly couldn't deal with intentionally shortened points by Čilić, who totally rushed him and was fully aware of the success while doing so. Rarely do I say "well done" after watching Marin, but there you have an ideal example. Rafa is a better player than Musetti of course, but it was obvious that Rafa clearly knew what was going on already in IW and Miami 2017 and later in Shanghai 2017 and Wimbledon 2019. It was clear to him that he has to play a match where all points last 3 exchanges, more only if Roger is in the driving seat. He knew he was losing already at 1:1 in the first set.

How Roger hits the backhand is part of that awareness, Ljubičić clearly explained to him that he is working against himself if he is slowing down the game with slice backhands all the time, and obviously convinced him that he has to force topspin backhands practically at all times just to rush the opponent, to speed up the point, since that almost always goes to his favour. That particularly applies to opponents who like to slow down the point, like Evans recently, or Rafa of course. He should only use the slice when he's the one needing time and being rushed, and that is not that often.

New 97 sq in racquet isn't always ideal for one handed backhand, especially flatter ones, it is a bit too stiff for the smaller tendons on the back of the shoulder, and it is heavy to move. So to play topspin backhand with it Roger really has to be conscious that he is the one forcing it and rushing his opponent, and not allowing opponents to slow down the point. He has to invest a lot of energy into it, as it is much easier to block it with a slice backhand. That is why over the years Roger became lazy about it, slicing a lot, again. When you see him continuously hit topspin backhands you can clearly tell that he is not playing around, and that he is taking his tactics very seriously.
Great post
 

Novichok

Rookie
Last edited:

Alexh22

Professional
I have 85 and many different 6.1 tour 90s. But I totally enjoyed the RF97. Because the best part is How forgiving it is
 
Yes, I also always thought, since the beginning really, that Federer followed Agassi, and that Agassi's fabulous style influenced tennis as a whole much more than Sampras' style. It was really great to see Andre play for those "extra" years, kind of reminds me of these Roger's "extra" years. But both Roger and Andre placed the ball and constructed the point, on any surface really, and that is also what made them excellent on clay.

However, that is not first strike tennis as you mentioned, not at all. That point building style is what delivered Roger as piecemeal to Rafa's point deconstruction and obstruction, and made him an easy target for war of attrition, each and every time they met. Roger continuously wanted to build any point, on his serve or not, and Rafa first deconstructed it, and then wore him down. Point by point, game by game, set by set. Seen so many times. Agassi would have adapted better and faster to that, he would've shortened the points in any way possible. Roger just played along instead.

Sampras, Becker, Ivanišević didn't place the ball to build the point, they hit a winner, or at least finished the point with max one extra shot. It's an entirely different game for the defending player when you know it, just watch how helpless most opponents were against Sampras, as they knew he is going for it every but every single time, end of discussion.

A very large racquet head like Agassi's wasn't for easier attacking but for easier blocking, returning, and reactive play. Surfaces and balls were faster then, serves became a huge weapon with taller players and better racquets after 17yo Boris "Bum Bum" Becker won Wimbledon in 1985 and then again in 1986 and Sampras later perfecting that style. Small racquet heads they used, and Federer later, is what is always associated with attacking tennis, they are way more precise for serving and attacking, especially in the old days of heavy flexy racquets and gut strings. Agassi knew already as a youngster that he doesn't have that kind of serve so he decided go turn that tactic upside down and have the best return, good move. And yes, I also thought back then that Wilson should've given Roger a ~95 to more easily handle high jumpy balls and more modern tennis. Also, I'm not sure but I think that old PS85 was really an 88, so the transition to a 90 was super easy. I played with a 2007 K88 made for Sampras for several years, it was 345g but easier to swing than 340g RF97A.

Tennis then evolved towards slower balls and surfaces, lighter stiffer larger frames, more spin, faster movement on court and that is where Roger had to eventually adapt towards a larger frame. For a good single hander you need a racquet that doesn't twist, that's why Stan has lead at 3 and 9, and why new Roger's racquet has high twistweight. So a narrower head helps for example, maybe a larger grip size etc. While a larger head helps with modern faster spinnier play as the sheer surface and sweet spot are larger. But every racquet I tried larger than 98 was too wide, too much twist on the backhand, so I don't think that larger than a 98 is just better for a single hander, no way. A 95 to 98 is ideal for a single hander I'd say.

But to get back to Rafa, the only way to deal with that intentional slowing down is to punch through and consciously not allow any point deconstruction. Many of us do it against weaker or defensive opponents, it really isn't some special philosophy. Best recent example is Čilić - Musetti in Miami last week. Čilić did everything right, and wiped the floor with Musetti, who is still young, but who very clearly couldn't deal with intentionally shortened points by Čilić, who totally rushed him and was fully aware of the success while doing so. Rarely do I say "well done" after watching Marin, but there you have an ideal example. Rafa is a better player than Musetti of course, but it was obvious that Rafa clearly knew what was going on already in IW and Miami 2017 and later in Shanghai 2017 and Wimbledon 2019. It was clear to him that he has to play a match where all points last 3 exchanges, more only if Roger is in the driving seat. He knew he was losing already at 1:1 in the first set.

How Roger hits the backhand is part of that awareness, Ljubičić clearly explained to him that he is working against himself if he is slowing down the game with slice backhands all the time, and obviously convinced him that he has to force topspin backhands practically at all times just to rush the opponent, to speed up the point, since that almost always goes to his favour. That particularly applies to opponents who like to slow down the point, like Evans recently, or Rafa of course. He should only use the slice when he's the one needing time and being rushed, and that is not that often.

New 97 sq in racquet isn't always ideal for one handed backhand, especially flatter ones, it is a bit too stiff for the smaller tendons on the back of the shoulder, and it is heavy to move. So to play topspin backhand with it Roger really has to be conscious that he is the one forcing it and rushing his opponent, and not allowing opponents to slow down the point. He has to invest a lot of energy into it, as it is much easier to block it with a slice backhand. That is why over the years Roger became lazy about it, slicing a lot, again. When you see him continuously hit topspin backhands you can clearly tell that he is not playing around, and that he is taking his tactics very seriously.
Lots that I don't agree with here.

I will break it down into points:

1) No, I don't think Agassi was using the big racquet to just block. He WAS using it for first strike tennis and where you see that happen most is on the return which, needless to say, was far better than Sampras, Becker or Ivanisevic. But when you are playing from the baseline, you CAN'T attack the second rally ball every time. That would be kamikaze. The idea of first strike baseline tennis is to keep rallies in the 5-10 shot range and no longer for the most part. And both Fed and Agassi have the ability to play out long rallies when they have to. But Fed belatedly understood he wasn't going to beat Nadal at his own game every time and instead needed to be more aggressive.

2) Further, to define first strike tennis as what Sampras, Becker or Ivanisevic were doing would be revisionist. In descending order, this was how frequently they used a groundstroke to end the point.
Sampras >Becker> Ivanisevic.
No, if you're looking to get to net to end the point, you are playing an all court strategy. Which is legit in and of itself; I am simply differentiating it from a baseline first strike approach. So the idea isn't to compare an aggressive baseliner like Agassi with Sampras and conclude that Agassi blocks and defends. The idea is to contrast him with Muster or Corretja and see how much earlier he takes the ball and how much quicker he ends the point.


3) Lastly, no, I don't think you could necessarily say it is cumbersome to hit a OBH with a bigger frame. Yes, if you have always been using smaller frames, it may not be an easy adjustment to make right away but that goes without saying. But I mean, is Wawrinka finding it tough to hit his OBH, seriously? Wawrinka could hit back backhands all day if he had to. No, the tour moved on and Fed didn't and by 2013, he was starting to pay a heavy price for that. That's why he had no option then but to switch. For the first couple of years, he didn't seem to know quite what to do with it. But Ljubicic modified both his technique and tactics, encouraging him to go flatter but harder. And the reason for that is NOT because Fed is struggling to hit the backhand but because Ljubicic understood that Fed being aggressive on the backhand side would make him very hard to deal with for opponents given how good his forehand already is. And it worked like a dream in 2017. It was not a one off thing as you seem to try to suggest. It started with AO 2017, reached its zenith at IW and again found a second wind in Shanghai. And while he wasn't going all neo backhand at Wimbledon, he was hitting some amazing half volley backhands and even hit one on the volley from the baseline. The problem was nothing to do with the racquet or the backhand but that Fed got greedy to grab a chance to get no.1 again and needlessly wasted energy on Rotterdam. And when he did get no.1, he began putting pressure on himself again. He stopped playing like an underdog which had been the key to his 2017 success. That first strike style only works when you are fearless to attack and take really big cuts over and over. That Fed was able to do so without leaking errors was putting a lot of pressure on his opponents. In 2018, he started second guessing himself and getting timid again and from thereon he lost his momentum and never got back to 2017 form again. And in his defence, he was getting old. Coming back fresh after an injury in 2017 helped him play with a lot of energy that year. He couldn't keep that up in 2018 and onwards for understandable reasons.
 

Tennis_Hands

Bionic Poster
3) Lastly, no, I don't think you could necessarily say it is cumbersome to hit a OBH with a bigger frame. Yes, if you have always been using smaller frames, it may not be an easy adjustment to make right away but that goes without saying. But I mean, is Wawrinka finding it tough to hit his OBH, seriously? Wawrinka could hit back backhands all day if he had to.
Just a quick remark: Wawrinka is using a relatively small for modern standards racquet head. He is also unusually strong/massive (for a tennis player anyway) in the arm and torso.

:cool:
 
Just a quick remark: Wawrinka is using a relatively small for modern standards racquet head. He is also unusually strong/massive (for a tennis player anyway) in the arm and torso.

:cool:
Well, we can't go back to comparing Wawrinka's racquet head to Nadal's when it's convenient, can we? Wawrinka's isn't that small compared to Djokovic or Murray. They all - along with Fed since switching over - have racquets roughly in the 95 sq inch band. It's Nadal who has a 100 sq inch one which he always did.
 

Tennis_Hands

Bionic Poster
Well, we can't go back to comparing Wawrinka's racquet head to Nadal's when it's convenient, can we? Wawrinka's isn't that small compared to Djokovic or Murray. They all - along with Fed since switching over - have racquets roughly in the 95 sq inch band. It's Nadal who has a 100 sq inch one which he always did.
I thought that Wawa is using a 95 sq in racquet?

:cool:
 
Djokovic's is also small for a modern racquet.

:cool:
Then that's a complete non sequitur. I am not comparing any of these players to what the younger generation is using. For this discussion, small racquet head = 90 sq inch or smaller. 95-98 is the norm. And 100 above is large. Refer above, the other poster describes Fed's racquet head as large (compared to his previous racquet). It is in that context that I mentioned Wawrinka. Between 95 and 97 there isn't much difference, they both play about the same (that is, assuming other things equal like balance, stiffness, etc).
 

Tennis_Hands

Bionic Poster
Then that's a complete non sequitur. I am not comparing any of these players to what the younger generation is using. For this discussion, small racquet head = 90 sq inch or smaller. 95-98 is the norm. And 100 above is large. Refer above, the other poster describes Fed's racquet head as large (compared to his previous racquet). It is in that context that I mentioned Wawrinka. Between 95 and 97 there isn't much difference, they both play about the same (that is, assuming other things equal like balance, stiffness, etc).
The point about the OHBH and ever increasing head size is a sound one, and doesn't depend on whether you were comparing Fed to the younger generations or not. It is a matter of fact that the bigger the frame head size, the more difficult it it to yield it for a one hander. I don't see how you decide to set the limits for this discussion, just because you mentioned some players that played with racquet head sizes in the range you mention for "small". After all, you are talking about Federer and how his game changed after he switched to his current racquet.

See your statement here:

"Lastly, no, I don't think you could necessarily say it is cumbersome to hit a OBH with a bigger frame."

Yes, it definitely is. Moreso if a player is coming from a vastly different head size that he used almost all of his career: the technical and physical changes from one to the other are certainly significant. Wawa has certain attributes that Federer doesn't have, and he is still below Fed's head size, so I am not sure that I agree that they are exactly comparable examples in the easiness of playing their respective frames.

:cool:
 
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