The Decline of Federer's Backhand

David L

Hall of Fame
is it a coincidence that federer's decline comes the year he starts nearing pete's record? or that fed talks about the "monster (of expectations) he's created" when losing in australia? and that confidence is a direct factor in how consistent your shots are and fed has been making unforced errors like crazy compared to before? and that nadal has applied pressure on him by chasing after him all these years then finally losing to nadal at french so badly and at his home turf of wimbledon isnt adding pressure on fed?

what do you want, an anvil to fall out of the sky and drop on your head? of course you can say you never know a 100 percent anything but id say youd have to be blind to say that you cannot deduce that fed is feeling pressure from all corners - nadal, pete's 6 year no. 1 ranking record, his 14 slam record, other players like blake, roddick, heck even simon, karlovic and stepanek - and how he's losing - errors on forehands and volleys - shows to me he's playing more tentative due to the added pressure.
Federer has had to deal with pressure ever since he turned pro. Part of the reason he has done so well is because he deals well with pressure. Pressure did not stop him winning his 1st Slam, or beating Sampras or winning his 10th, 11th or 12th Slam, the last 3 of which are already close to Sampras' 14 mark. He has said he enjoys the talk about possibly breaking Sampras' record, ever since he got so close to it. It makes no sense that pressure would arbitrarily affect him on his 13th Slam. I think this theory would have more wings if we were talking about his 15th and he were choking away huge leads, never to make number 15. It would also have better support if he wasn't losing to the Fishes, Roddicks, Stephanks, Karlovics, Simons and Blakes in tournaments which have nothing to do with him chasing the 14 Slam record. Also, the 'monster' comment he made in Australia was a throw away remark he made, referring to the big deal the media makes about his losses because of his success, when it's really only a loss, which are part of every athletes career from time to time. He was not referring to personal pressure being the monster.


It's all really quite simple. Federer got sick with mono in December, missed out on important practice and training. Got sick again a week before the Aussie Open in January, skipped Kooyong to help his recovery, lost weight and missed out on more important practice and training. Got sick again after the Aussie Open in February, missed a month of important practice and training. Recovered his health enough to start playing again at the end of February and has been paying for his illness ever since. Here's a translated interview his fitness trainer gave only days before the US Open.

"Roger needs time“

Fitness coach Pierre Paganini about Federers season so far and consequences of mono

By Rene Stauffer

Mr. Paganini, as a long-term coach and consultant of roger federer: whats your opinion concerning his fitness before the US Open?

Regarding the athleticism, he´s at 99 or 100 % of his potential. Maybe he lacks a little bit stamina in some situations, e.g. when a rally takes too long, so that he misses some explosiveness. But a tennis player is like a puzzle. A lot of factors are involved, such as athleticism, the tennis itself and last but not least the self-confidence. His self-confidence isn´t the same like it´s been in the previous years. That becomes evident when you look at his match statistics.

How does that affect his game?

It´s a mixture of hesitating – often just a hundred of a second – and a little less harmony in the movement. You play like you move, and you move and play like you feel. It´s a triangle-relation. If you lack only a half percent in athleticism, mentally, and in your game, it´s in the addition 1,5 %. And that´s the explanation for being a little uncertain sometimes. In former times roger fought to convert his tennis, now he fights to express it. That´s a different fight, that´s why it looks a little different.

Does that mean he doesn’t suffer from the glandular fever anymore, which has often been speculated? He himself said that he misses about 20 days of training.

To answer that question I have to draw back somewhat. In 2007 we said: For the 2008 season we will do two important training blocks, the first in December 2007, the second one in February 08. We would have liked to do a third one in july, but that wasn’t possible because of the Olympic Games. The Main Block was the one in February. That one should have helped him to be in good shape till after the Olympics. At first everything went as planned: Roger was fit as ever, in every way his state of fitness was impressive. No doubt about that.

But then the problems began.

At first he had this stomach-virus in Australia, that made him sick for about 10, 11 days. He was 24 hours in hospital, had fever, took antibiotics, lost three Kilos of weight. If you are ill or injured, it takes three times as long to reach the status quo (of fitness). That means, the first fitness block from December was more or less worthless.

Despite this fact, he reached the Semis of the AO.

Right. And when we came back home, we discovered in February, that he suffered since December of glandular fever. From the medical point of view it was finished on 23rd of February – just one week before Dubai (where roger lost to andy murray). That means, we could'nt even start the second main block in February. So roger was out of form and had lost a lot of stamina. Therefore we had 2 possibilities: Taking a break for 3 month without playing any tournament and giving everything out of the hand without a fight, or to make new 3-day training blocks between the tournaments to regain at least a bit of the stamina.

You chose the 2nd possibility.

I´ve never seen roger so courageous like this year. He had to deal with a complete different rhythm of tournaments, hard work and recovery. He was tired when he wasn’t in the past, and you had to be careful not to train too much. It was really tough, and it impressed me a lot how he handled everything. In the past everyone said: Federer runs automatically, he always wins, he is a nice guy without a lot of internal power. But now you see what it takes to achieve things like he did. This year we saw the real roger, 2008 he was more the human than the machine. He had to deal with emotions, losses and disappointments.

The results remained below the expectations.

A lot of people are talking of a down – but i´d like to have such a down in my life! Of course he remained below the expectations and the standards that he set himself the last couple of years. But he still had great results. He was runner up in 2 GS finals and is nr. 3 in the champions race. Of course you can say I´m not objective because I work with him. But what I just told you are facts that no one can deny. Apart from that it´s not about defending roger. It´s about seeing the situation just like it is and how roger has experienced it.

Federer said it might have been a mistake to play Toronto and Cinncy before the Olympics. What´s your opinion on that?

Afterwards you always know more. That´s the exciting thing, that a player has to decide before the tournaments if he plays. But there where not enough reasons to withdraw. He won Halle and showed some super-tennis in Wimbledon. From the medical side everything was fine, what a blood-test proved after Wimby. If he had won the last 9:7 in the final, people would talk differently.

Do you think he can regain his old form that made him a 12-times GS-Champion?

I am convinced of that, for 100 %. You don’t lose your potential from one day to another. If someone is able to speak 7 languages and has a headache, he doesn't forget how to speak the languages. There were a lot of situations where he showed his enormous potential, even this year. He just couldn’t do it on a consistent basis like in the past years. And already some say: He´s done. That’s real madness and shows, how high he has set the standards. He cant fail without being buried.


In your opinion, how does he deal with the criticism nowadays? It seems like he tries not to make too much drama out of it.

You never know how it looks inside a person. It´s Roger's job to protect his inner feelings, because it´s private business. At the same time he is a Ambassador of Tennis and takes a lot of time for his duties. I think he´s one of the mentally strongest players on tour, otherwise he couldn’t have achieved these incredible results that he did.

Could the gold-medal from the Olympics help him to regain his old strength?

I don´t know. I just think Roger needs time. Maybe more time than you might think at the moment. Roger is a virtuoso, who is ready to fight. But he is no one who can win just with pure fight, without virtuosity. He has to feel comfortable out on the court again, then he can also fight unbelievably, like he has already proven several times in the past. He needs to work on basic things, in tennis as well as in stamina. And even more, he needs success experiences. Others need 2 wins, and they gain confidence. With roger its different. He´s used to win big tournaments and thus needs more success experiences.

There were speculations in Beijing, he could finish the season earlier then expected.

At the moment the focus is on the US Open. After this tournament we will discuss how we move on. For roger a new chapter begins. You have to define your philosophy new, what´s important for you and what you want to change. That will lead to nice discussions, that we will have with our team.

http://www.sonntagszeitung.ch/sport/artikel-detailseite/?newsid=38900
 
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lordmanji

Guest
Federer has had to deal with pressure ever since he turned pro. Part of the reason he has done so well is because he deals well with pressure. Pressure did not stop him winning his 1st Slam, or beating Sampras or winning his 10th, 11th or 12th Slam, the last 3 of which are already close to Sampras' 14 mark. He has said he enjoys the talk about possibly breaking Sampras' record, ever since he got so close to it. It makes no sense that pressure would arbitrarily affect him on his 13th Slam. I think this theory would have more wings if we were talking about his 15th and he were choking away huge leads, never to make number 15. It would also have better support if he wasn't losing to the Fishes, Roddicks, Stephanks, Karlovics, Simons and Blakes in tournaments which have nothing to do with him chasing the 14 Slam record. Also, the 'monster' comment he made in Australia was a throw away remark he made, referring to the big deal the media makes about his losses because of his success, when it's really only a loss, which are part of every athletes career from time to time. He was not referring to personal pressure being the monster.


It's all really quite simple. Federer got sick with mono in December, missed out on important practice and training. Got sick again a week before the Aussie Open in January, skipped Kooyong to help his recovery, lost weight and missed out on more important practice and training. Got sick again after the Aussie Open in February, missed a month or important practice and training. Recovered his health enough to start playing again at the end of February and has been paying for his illness ever since. Here's a translated interview his fitness trainer gave only days before the US Open.
if you believe that last bit about the mono and missing the training for his performance the ENTIRE year, you really are gullible and i got a house in manhattan i want to sell you. mono is the crutch that he's now using to excuse himself from dealing with the pressure. he himself has said he's recovered from the mono back during the clay season. so you'll choose not to believe what fed himself said about getting over the mono but believe the other bit about missing a week of practice which throws him off the whole year. talk about believing what you want to believe.

him losing to a regular stable of atp players like stepanek, fish, simon, and karlovic IS significant and related to his chase for the slams because it shows that that pressure is not just limited to the slams but has spread to non-slam tournaments as well. think of it like this: you lose in a slam, it shakes your confidence so you start losing at regular tournaments. a loss is a loss. as navratilova said, the only thing you learn from losing is how to lose.

to make matters worse, hes now losing to guys he used to regularly put the beatdown on such as djokovic, blake, roddick, and nadal on grass. except for nadal, and their own improvement, a reason for this is his confidence has been shaken and so his game's off. so let's connect the dots again shall we? roger feels pressured to beat pete's record so he loses. he loses which shakes his confidence. lost confidence causes him to lose matches he wouldve won the year before.

the difference between hitting 13 and hitting 12 are significant. sampras in his book said that tying emerson's record of 12 grand slams was a cause of major anxiety. if sampras can feel the pressure, so can fed. and ill say straight out that i think fed is already thinking ahead of himself that 13 = 14. its like when youre closing out a semifinal match and become nervous because youve never made it into a final.

and i didnt read the article you posted. you should be able to make your own arguments not have someone spoonfeed it to you and then regurgitate it.
 

David L

Hall of Fame
if you believe that last bit about the mono and missing the training for his performance the ENTIRE year, you really are gullible and i got a house in manhattan i want to sell you. mono is the crutch that he's now using to excuse himself from dealing with the pressure. he himself has said he's recovered from the mono back during the clay season. so you'll choose not to believe what fed himself said about getting over the mono but believe the other bit about missing a week of practice which throws him off the whole year. talk about believing what you want to believe.

him losing to a regular stable of atp players like stepanek, fish, simon, and karlovic IS significant and related to his chase for the slams because it shows that that pressure is not just limited to the slams but has spread to non-slam tournaments as well. think of it like this: you lose in a slam, it shakes your confidence so you start losing at regular tournaments. a loss is a loss. as navratilova said, the only thing you learn from losing is how to lose.

to make matters worse, hes now losing to guys he used to regularly put the beatdown on such as djokovic, blake, roddick, and nadal on grass. except for nadal, and their own improvement, a reason for this is his confidence has been shaken and so his game's off. so let's connect the dots again shall we? roger feels pressured to beat pete's record so he loses. he loses which shakes his confidence. lost confidence causes him to lose matches he wouldve won the year before.

the difference between hitting 13 and hitting 12 are significant. sampras in his book said that tying emerson's record of 12 grand slams was a cause of major anxiety. if sampras can feel the pressure, so can fed. and ill say straight out that i think fed is already thinking ahead of himself that 13 = 14. its like when youre closing out a semifinal match and become nervous because youve never made it into a final.

and i didnt read the article you posted. you should be able to make your own arguments not have someone spoonfeed it to you and then regurgitate it.
Okay, you think he's lying, fine. I don't. Let's leave it at that. I'll leave others to make up their own minds.
 
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I think Federer's backhand is outstanding. I don't accept at all that it is not top drawer. Ancic believes it is the best on tour. I don't know if I would entirely agree with that, given the number of great backhands out there, but it is certainly amongst the best. It has everything, power, spin, consistency, variety. I think Federer has the best offensive and defensive slice on tour. I think there are others who can drive the ball slightly better, but Federer is no slouch here either. He also has his variety of flicks, bunts and dips he can pull out of the hat. Each player has their own unique set of abilities with their backhand. No player can do everything the next player can do, but I would say Federer has the most well rounded backhand on tour, if not definitively the best. People always go on about Haas' one-handed backhand, but I think Federer's is much better. I really like Nalbandian's double-hander as well.

Also, every player's backhand is worse than Nadal's forehand, so the fact that Federer's backhand may struggle at times in cross court rallies with Nadal, is not unique to him.
Well put.

I've been blown away by his backhand. He's put on absolute clinics with the backhand at the Australian (for some reason I remember his backhand here more than other places).

Nalbandian's backhand was really weak today. Keep in mind a backhand is only as good as the confidence behind it, and Federer's is low by his standards.
 
If your recall at Wimbledon, it was a running backhand down the line pass that saved match point.

It was a forehand into the net that gave Nadal the title.
 
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lordmanji

Guest
Well put.

I've been blown away by his backhand. He's put on absolute clinics with the backhand at the Australian (for some reason I remember his backhand here more than other places).

Nalbandian's backhand was really weak today. Keep in mind a backhand is only as good as the confidence behind it, and Federer's is low by his standards.
ill agree that at the height of fed's powers, his backhand was pretty damn good and imo surpassed his forehand for a stretch (it was more consistent). now both wings are about the same in consistency which shows how worse both strokes have gotten esp forehand but the nod goes to the forehand since he can do more damage.

yeah, that backhand was a beauty to watch last year. the flick passes on the run, or when hed draw opponents into net and backhand pass them.

but now its a liability again. so is his forehand. the only thing thats still tip-top is his serve. ironic that hes becoming more and more like sampras in relying on his serve while chasing sampras' record.
 
I just remember the forehand being so much better. He could bully guys with it. His feet helped him do this obviously. He put himself in positions where he always seemed to be teeing off, even on the run.

It was obvious to me he had far and away the best forehand on the planet. Now I think it's Nadal. Things change quickly.
 

Gaudio2004

Semi-Pro
I think Federer's backhand is outstanding. I don't accept at all that it is not top drawer. Ancic believes it is the best on tour. I don't know if I would entirely agree with that, given the number of great backhands out there, but it is certainly amongst the best. It has everything, power, spin, consistency, variety. I think Federer has the best offensive and defensive slice on tour. I think there are others who can drive the ball slightly better, but Federer is no slouch here either. He also has his variety of flicks, bunts and dips he can pull out of the hat. Each player has their own unique set of abilities with their backhand. No player can do everything the next player can do, but I would say Federer has the most well rounded backhand on tour, if not definitively the best. People always go on about Haas' one-handed backhand, but I think Federer's is much better. I really like Nalbandian's double-hander as well.

Also, every player's backhand is worse than Nadal's forehand, so the fact that Federer's backhand may struggle at times in cross court rallies with Nadal, is not unique to him.
Funny, I never see Gasquet's backhand struggling against Nadal. Neither does his forehand. Just his head.
 

David L

Hall of Fame
Funny, I never see Gasquet's backhand struggling against Nadal. Neither does his forehand. Just his head.
Really? You should watch their matches more often then. Gasquet's backhand struggles just as much, more even, but his forehand struggles even more than that, so Nadal prefers to target this wing. You cannot always blame the head for someone's game. Sometimes it's just the game.
 

Gaudio2004

Semi-Pro
Really? You should watch their matches more often then. Gasquet's backhand struggles just as much, more even, but his forehand struggles even more than that, so Nadal prefers to target this wing. You cannot always blame the head for someone's game. Sometimes it's just the game.
Gasquet has a better backhand than Federer (not a better slice, but a better backhand).
 

David L

Hall of Fame
Gasquet has a better backhand than Federer (not a better slice, but a better backhand).
I beg to differ. I think Gasquet's drive is a little more stable, but I think Federer hits with more consistent power, has more variety, much better slice and can simply do more things with his backhand. On balance, I would take Federer's backhand over Gasquet's. You cannot separate the slice from the backhand. It is part of the backhand. When they've played, Gasquet's backhand has had nothing on Federer's.
 

David L

Hall of Fame
Well put.

I've been blown away by his backhand. He's put on absolute clinics with the backhand at the Australian (for some reason I remember his backhand here more than other places).

Nalbandian's backhand was really weak today. Keep in mind a backhand is only as good as the confidence behind it, and Federer's is low by his standards.
Glad someone agrees with me.
 

Gaudio2004

Semi-Pro
I beg to differ. I think Gasquet's drive is a little more stable, but I think Federer hits with more consistent power, has more variety, much better slice and can simply do more things with his backhand. On balance, I would take Federer's backhand over Gasquet's. You cannot separate the slice from the backhand. It is part of the backhand. When they've played, Gasquet's backhand has had nothing on Federer's.
Federer certainly has more variety but consistency? It all depends on Federer's form, his backhand at Toronto/Cincy was awful but at Beijing and US Open it's allright, Gasquet's backhand is always awesome, he will always make about 10+ winners in a match rather than Federer who prefers to run around his backhand and never really hit that much winners except for his great volley skills. Yeah, when they have played Federer has destroyed Gasquet's backhand but you must not forget in 2005 Monte Carlo what Gasquet did to Federer. I think Federer dominating Gasquet is due to Federer's excellent serve in recent years and Gasquet's mental issues.
 

ninman

Hall of Fame
There are two reason's for Fed's "decline" this year.

1. His movement has been slowed.

2. A guy named Nadal.
In some ways I agree with you, but in others I don't. Nadal was always there, or there abouts, but this year Federer choked away 3/4 of the matches he played against him. Imagine if Federer didn't choke during Monte Carlo, Hamburg and Wimbledon, would Nadal be number 1 right now. I think that is highly unlikely, given that Federer would have found his confidence, and more than likely won 2/3 of Toronto, Cincy and Olympics.

I think we can blame Federer's decline on 2 things:

1. Glandular Fever.

2. Choking and lack of confidence (mostly against Nadal).
 

David L

Hall of Fame
Federer certainly has more variety but consistency? It all depends on Federer's form, his backhand at Toronto/Cincy was awful but at Beijing and US Open it's allright, Gasquet's backhand is always awesome, he will always make about 10+ winners in a match rather than Federer who prefers to run around his backhand and never really hit that much winners except for his great volley skills. Yeah, when they have played Federer has destroyed Gasquet's backhand but you must not forget in 2005 Monte Carlo what Gasquet did to Federer. I think Federer dominating Gasquet is due to Federer's excellent serve in recent years and Gasquet's mental issues.
Tennis is not a competition to see how many winners you can hit. It's about winning points and Federer's backhand helps him win a lot of points, whether it means hitting winners, drawing errors, setting up the point or keeping him in a point to capitalize later. I'm sure Gulbis hit a lot of winners against Roddick, but he lost. I don't watch Gasquet every time he plays, but I'm sure his backhand has its off days, just like all players have worse days than others. Federer runs around his backhand, like Nadal and many other players, because his forehand is such a huge weapon and allows him to control the point more, not because there is a problem with his backhand. Federer also has better results than Gasquet, because he does a lot of things better than him. He moves better, has a much better forehand, better 1st and 2nd serve, is a better tactician, better mentally, better volleys, has better hands and an at least par backhand. They call Gasquet baby Federer, but Federer is an all round better player. What did Gasquet do to Federer in Monte Carlo? I know he played very well and beat him, but so what? Many players have beaten Federer. It's not like he destroyed him. Federer even had match points in a match where Gasquet played the match of his life. I imagine many other players could find themselves in the same position if they were to play the match of their life, but who can play the match of their life every time they step on a court and what happens if they play the match of their life the same day Federer plays the match of his life? Players are not in full control of the level they bring to a match. It's the average level that's important. Both players met again a couple of weeks later in the final of Hamburg, so Gasquet must have been playing well and with confidence, yet he lost in straights in a best out of 5 match.
 
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