Risk and Reward: Federer & tennis today

Discussion in 'General Pro Player Discussion' started by War Safin!, Mar 2, 2012.

  1. War Safin!

    War Safin! Professional

    Aug 15, 2005
    Apologies if anyone's posted this (I didnt find it in a Search), and apologies if anyone's bored silly about court-surfaces, baseline-grinders, etc, but i thought this piece from yesterday was a great read:

    by Pete Bodo / Tennis.com

    Roger Federer is approaching 31 years of age, by which time the reflexes and explosiveness of the typical pro are, along with some other qualities, in decline. It ought to be especially true on fast hard courts, but it's a testament to the all-time Grand Slam champion that the quick surface is the one on which he is still at his most dazzling.

    Watching the current world No. 3 in Dubai this week, I repeatedly got the feeling that nobody—including Federer—understands just how heavy a price he's paid for having to play on courts that, even in his time, were getting slower and slower. He ought to sue the ATP and ITF for loss of employment opportunity. But he's won 16 Grand Slam titles!, you say. Well, there is that. . .

    Still. The way Federer has been playing in Dubai (and at other locations for months on end now) is nothing less than eye-popping. On fast hard courts, those most basic talents—quickness, accuracy, reactions, timing—assume an importance they lack on slow courts, especially clay. On fast hard courts, Federer looks like Prometheus Unbound. And that's something that, frankly, I've never taken note of before.

    I'm not sure why I haven't picked up on some of this stuff before now; can Dubai's hard courts really be that different? All I know is that above and beyond anything pertinent to his own situation, Federer also gives us an exclusive view of what tennis can be like when played in a certain way on a hard court.

    Thus, these speculations are just as much about style and surface properties as they are about Federer per se.

    Here's my beef with slow courts: As agreeable as it can be to see a gifted player hit 18 or 19 different shots in a rally, time and time again, the payoff for bold, aggressive play is inadequate. Actually, it's poor. As a result, stamina, prudent shotmaking, and defensive skill assume paramount importance, and we've just defined your typical tough out on clay—your David Ferrer. It can be fun watching a Ferrer at work, but a little of it goes a long way for me.

    The low premium on bold play and the diminished role of the serve on slow courts change the way the game is played, greatly reducing the variety of shots we see. That's another point Federer has driven home, although not many other players well-suited to fast courts can do it so effectively.

    It's no coincidence that the evolution of the two-handed backhand as the shot of choice went hand in hand with a decline in the use of slice and the slowing of the courts. For the record, I like the two-hander as a weapon, but I'll be the first to admit that it's a one-dimensional tool. As Rafael Nadal learned in the Australian Open final, the use of slice these days on most courts is an invitation to surrender the impetus in a point.

    By contrast, if you've watched Federer this week, you've seen some stuff that looks like it belongs in a sepia-tinted photo or clattering newsreel. The sliced backhand has myriad manifestations, most of them neglected these days by the vast majority of players, from the chop to the well-timed block (call it a groundstroke volley) to the approach shot.

    Approach shot? Who knew there's still such a thing in this era!

    I don't know about you, but I get more pleasure out of watching a gifted player like Federer smack two or three balls off either wing to get a point over with than I do seeing those asp-ish shots tracked down and lofted back, as if his opponent is saying, "Try again. Three for a dollar." The higher incidence of errors, unforced and otherwise, and the greater number of shanks and Yeee-Haw! mishits that fast-court tennis coughs up bothers me not one bit. I prefer a blazing shootout to witnessing two men bludgeon each other to death.

    On slower surfaces, any number of factors—including sheer luck—can have a far greater impact on the hold game than on fast surfaces. That's because of the premium on the serve, the single most important shot in the game, and the one on which the entire sensibility of the scoring system is based. As we gravitate more and more toward a rally-based game, it becomes that much harder to find clear turning points or even simple tactical or strategic explanations for what happened in any given match.

    Generally speaking, a high-level match on a fast court between competent servers has two or three key moments per set. On a slow court, a high-level match often has a bewildering number of important moments. But you know how it goes: The more critical moments you have, the less critical each of those moments really is—until the very end. And this obfuscation in the plot of a match happens most often when the dividend for serving well is diminished. Rallying contests ultimately become pointless, except that someone will win because someone must.

    I don't think anyone would argue that a player can reach into a much deeper bag of tricks on a fast court than on a slow one, which is one reason why clay never became the global surface of choice. But at the same time, the typical fast-court match usually produces a more streamlined, simple narrative (it has to be that way, when serving well all but guarantees a hold).

    Slow-court tennis is like an automobile race in which every car is fitted with a governor that keeps it from going faster than any of the other vehicles. Someone will still win and everyone else will lose, but I prefer to see what happens when risk is rewarded.

  2. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

    Oct 1, 2005
    Reading this, you would think that Peter Bozo does not know that Nadal defeated Federer at Wimbledon.
  3. sportsfan1

    sportsfan1 Hall of Fame

    Sep 7, 2011
    I liked this article, I thought the point were put across very well.
  4. big mik

    big mik New User

    Mar 1, 2012
    Interesting article thanks for sharing.
  5. Polaris

    Polaris Hall of Fame

    Mar 28, 2005
    It is a confirmation of Bodo's staggering incompetence as a tennis writer when something that is patently obvious to a recreational tennis player escaped him for so long.

    To his credit, he is being honest about his lack of tennis insight, at least this once. I ought to be liking this article: it says just the right things that I agree with. Instead, it depresses me.
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2012
  6. mattennis

    mattennis Hall of Fame

    Jul 26, 2011
    I mean, we are saying this things since many years ago.

    Is this the first time he realize what is happening in tennis since at least 10 years ago?
  7. fps

    fps Legend

    Jun 30, 2007
    Brighton, England
    This paragraph, specifically the end of it, really summed up how I felt about a lot of the Nadal-Djokovic AO final.
  8. Agassifan

    Agassifan Hall of Fame

    Jun 7, 2009
    What do you mean? It is quite well recognized that wimby has slowed down considerably the past 6 years or so.
  9. jackson vile

    jackson vile Legend

    Apr 19, 2005
    Try the past 11 years or so.
  10. PollyBallGirl

    PollyBallGirl Banned

    Jul 30, 2011
    Did federer serve-volley in any of his wimbledon titles?
  11. FlashFlare11

    FlashFlare11 Hall of Fame

    Jun 6, 2011
    Philadelphia, United States
    I think he did in 2003. He also beat Sampras in 2001 by serve-and-volleying as well.
  12. PollyBallGirl

    PollyBallGirl Banned

    Jul 30, 2011
    Yep knew about the 2001 but just wasnt sure if he did when he won it ever. But 2003 ok yep.
  13. celoft

    celoft Guest

    Speed up the courts.
  14. zagor

    zagor Talk Tennis Guru

    Sep 13, 2007
    Weak era
    No doubt, one of the better articles from Bozo.

    In 2003 Wimbledon he serve and volleyed on the majority of his 1st serves.
  15. snowpuppy

    snowpuppy Semi-Pro

    Aug 5, 2004
    Fast surface: WRC
    Slow surface: Nascar
  16. corners

    corners Legend

    Jul 31, 2008
    Bodo's best post in some time. Actually he's getting his groove back lately.
  17. Bobby Jr

    Bobby Jr Legend

    Jul 5, 2010
    This ^ basically. I want to say 'good work' but since it comes from someone with such a history of verbal diarrhoea when it comes to tennis writing it's a little hypocritical to say it just because, for once, he makes some sense.

    If Bodo wrote his items more in the style of opinion pieces it'd be easier to view them as that. But he tries to write them more as informational insights when he's often pretty clueless in what says about the finer points of tennis.
  18. mandy01

    mandy01 G.O.A.T.

    Nov 25, 2008
    This is less about Bodo's insight (which he never had to begin with and which is the case with a good deal of 'professional' tennis writers out there) and more about the fact that when Roger WAS playing at his best or was somewhere closer to his prime, the media, including Bodo himself were busy talking up Nadal and later Djokovic and Murray as "true challengers", messiahs of a "stronger era" etc. This is why, the clear slowing down of surfaces was completely ignored by them. I doubt, Bodo isn't aware of the lament that surrounds the lack of quick surfaces on the tour. It's impossible given the traffic on his site and given the number of press-conferences he's been too where Roger himself has pointed out this fact. But it didn't fit the story at the time which was about these three young Spartans on Roger's tail. The media was absolutely delighted when Roger began his descent in 2008. It was a story that would sell them several papers and garner tons of web-page views. But that story has gotten old and so has Roger who will never go back to what he once was. So there is a desire for a new story along with a slight sense of loss because if there was any sense of being a tennis fan in any of these writers they have now started realizing what they've lost out on. I've seen Roger get a lot of 'love' lately from the likes of Bodo and other Brit/American writers who regularly run tennis-related stuff on the web. A stark contrast to their own stand back in 08/09, I must say.
  19. Paul Murphy

    Paul Murphy Hall of Fame

    Dec 30, 2008
    Yeah, thanks for posting. A good piece - would be nice if tournament directors read it too - no chance of that.
    And now we're approaching Indian Well and Miami and a diet of baseline hugging, grinding, slow court tennis awaits.
    What a shame.
  20. TTMR

    TTMR Hall of Fame

    Jul 24, 2009
    Yes, Federer has done so well at fast court Dubai that untalented slow court-loving hack Novak Djokovic won it the previous three years in a row.
  21. SLD76

    SLD76 G.O.A.T.

    Aug 31, 2009
    Minneapolis, North of the Wall

    I believe dubai played faster this year than in recent years.

    but please, dont let that stop your trolling.
  22. purge

    purge Hall of Fame

    Sep 22, 2011
    watch michael llodra furiously storm into the miami final with devastating S&V tennis +g+

    man that would be so awesome it might even happen lmao
  23. abmk

    abmk Talk Tennis Guru

    Dec 9, 2008
    This ..... basically ...
  24. abmk

    abmk Talk Tennis Guru

    Dec 9, 2008
    indeed ..... And yes, there is the tiny little matter of federer himself winning dubai five times .....
  25. celoft

    celoft Guest

  26. Dark Victory

    Dark Victory Rookie

    Sep 8, 2006
    I am not a fan of Bodo's writing. But I must say, he articulated his points and ideas quite well in that article, especially the comparison of surface-to-style and strategy "dynamics" of today and yesterday's game.

    But unfortunately also, most fans today practically have little-to-no memory of how the game was played, much less the subtleties involved, even just a little over a decade ago. Or even shorter than that.

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