Understanding Federer: The Myths and realities(2000-2004)

Discussion in 'General Pro Player Discussion' started by Raining hopes, Feb 13, 2018.

  1. Raining hopes

    Raining hopes Professional

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    Hi!This forum has been one of the only links I have had to the tennis world over the past year or so.Therefore before I contribute I would like to thank you all especially for the live match threads.I have posted this on another forum and thought I should do it here as well.


    I'm not as good an expert at analysing the sport as many people here are, but this is my attempt at understanding the game of one of the greatest greatest who has played it.

    Long post ahead!!!
    I Understand that all my views are not facts and I respect if people chose to disagree


    Roger Federer through the years:


    Gamewise,when it comes to big 3,I have always considered him first among equals and not head and shoulders above the others.

    During his best years ,beginning in 2004 ,Federer began to do things that nobody had imagined.However as time passed people began to overrate him and consider him better than he actually was.When Nadal and Djokovic reached his level people were in denial first .Maybe because they could not accept that the peerless Federer actually had two rivals. Now as years progressed from the early 2010 Djokovic and Nadal showed the world that they were quite exceptional as well.

    This lead to a COUNTER PROCESS in which the player(Federer) I thought was the most overrated started to become UNDERRATED by most.

    Federer is one of my favourite players.However the perception about him and his game has been an interesting showcase of how nostalgia and recency bias actually affect our view about the past.

    Therefore it is interesting to look back at his Origins and how he became what he is today.This is part 1 of planned 3.



    General overview: The Federer game has had a lot of changes over the years,since his career has been so long it's easy to forget that over the years there have been several marked transitions in his overall approach.


    Early 2000s


    On court analysis:If we break down his game between between 1998 to 2002,His play shows a mixture of the 90s serve and volley approach and the modern baseline approach.His movement was quite good for his age,with good defense and his forehand though not as potent as it would become later, was still more than a competent shot, in fact it was very good during strecthes.It was flatter and though he did have variety on it he lacked the confidence.He was quite an effective forecourt player with exceptional backhand volley, his reaction time was exceptional and his net coverage was decent( relative to the Giants of the 90s). However his back hand was a weakness or at least not as improved as it would become. It was just an average shot (but with a wicked slice.) However what was interesting that in some matches he did try to hit it flatter and hence there was a hint of 2017 backhand even then.

    He was quick, tennis intelligent,athletic but mentally lacking in a big way.Generally his game was more flashy than power based but he had the ability to blow people off the court on the days he was in the zone with his forehand for example the final of Hamburg open 2002.
    This all sounds like a making of a true Grand Slam champion. so why didn't he actually Set the World on fire during those years? Because I mentioned only the good pieces of his game,and yes they were just that,only pieces.
    Fragmented segments of what was supposed to be an integrated whole and yet no matter how hard he tried it wouldn't come together. There were gaping holes in his game as well which people like Nal bandian and Hewitt exposed frequently.He was mentally weak and lacked consistency and wasn't capable of dealing with the pressure and expectations. In key moments his strokes sometimes deserted him. The potential to be decent top player was visible but had not been proven on paper accept the hamburg title which he followed by a loss in Wimbledon.


    But the fragments did come together, the crowning of a champion did happen at Wimbledon 2003.

    From here onwards there was change in his game.His forehand had come into its own,It was a shot to be afraid of, if previous hints were not enough,the semi final against Roddick proved that.His game became more power based, the fore court prominence decreased and his shot making skills finally found expression in meaningful baseline exploits,he became more stable mentally and was more prepared for longer battles,slowly he was realising how good he could be.



    The birth of the myth :Federer starts his climb


    On court analysis:

    Late 2003 and 2004:

    The forehand became more stable and as his confidence grew,more brutal.
    He became a player with too many options to hurt the opposition with.He was a decent defender,quite capable of mixing up pace and introducing variety,could also bully his opponents with his forehand and now with improved fitness could even go the distance and grind his opponent. The backhand had improved in stability and the movement had become more precise and efficient. There was a marked improvement in his hard Court movement.However his net play became sidelined somewhat and he still hadn't figured out how to play on clay.
    From the early days he had developed a tendency of trying to blow people off the court on clay. It had it's rewards,it had resulted in good wins like safin in 2002 and Hewitt and Coria in 2004 Hamburg. But during the clay Slam it backfired a little bit.


    The years spanning from the late 2003 to 2005,in my opinion are the most misunderstood years of Federer. People forget one of the most important aspect of his approach was athleticism and power .He was not only capable but also willing to use pure power to get past his opponents and this was one of the most important dimension of his play. People are so caught up in the post 2006 flashy and elegant Federer that they forget that the Federer forehand was a weapon of BOTH power and Precision.Federer during the late 2003 started to use both sides quite well.

    Well that is part 1 of 3 .





    Edited the para as it was distracting the discussion.



    Edit: I might have said I am not a FRAUD fan to appear too objective but I am a FRAUD fan first, maybe even greater than Djokovic
     
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2018 at 9:27 PM
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  2. JackGates

    JackGates Hall of Fame

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    Fed wasn't overrated. I think Rafa and Djokovic were underrated a bit, but even when they came, Fed broke Pete's record and won the French, so he wasn't overrated.

    Yes, Fed today is as good as in 2006. Not on clay, so you have a point, Fed's physical decline can't be compensated on clay. Because, playing close to the baseline and the serve can't help you that much on clay, you still need the legs.

    But, on other courts, you can compensate for slight physical decline with playing more aggressive. Plus, Fed now has larger frame, so he doesn't need to be as good as in 2006, to maintain his 2006 level, even if he doesn't hit the sweet spot every time, he still won't shank.

    So, yeah, Fed isn't as good as in 2006, but his level is the same, because he compensated with the racket, tactics, backhand, serve and playing closer to the baseline for his physical decline.

    Plus, his physical decline is greatly exaggerated, he easily played 3 five setters back to back, without dropping a sweat. Didn't even effect his Indian Wells form lol.
     
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  3. Sudacafan

    Sudacafan Hall of Fame

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    Good write up. Keep them coming.
     
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  4. TearTheRoofOff

    TearTheRoofOff Hall of Fame

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    Roger isn't as good, but his level is the same? Them's some semantic somersaults there.

    I generally agree with your tone that his decline is often exaggerated, though. It's real, but exaggerated, and he HAS worked to combat it.
     
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  5. JackGates

    JackGates Hall of Fame

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    Yes, in some areas of the game, Fed is worse than in 2006, but in some areas, he is better. So, yeah at the same time you can be worse and better, no contradictions.

    So, his overall level is the same or even better. Look, I can be old and take a gun and still beat top MMA fighters with a gun. Even when my skills as a fighter decline, my level can still remain the same if I use different tools.

    So, Fed declined physically, but with different tools he can still maintain his level. The gun analogy is exaggerated for an effect, but it's just to make strong illustration of my main argument.
     
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  6. TearTheRoofOff

    TearTheRoofOff Hall of Fame

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    Indeed, with those qualifiers there is no contradiction. But when expressed as an aggregate it stinks.

    The semantics I refer to are towards your use of things like 'good', 'skill', 'level' etc. They seem to be arbitrarily used as synonyms or otherwise.

    I understand your point now, however. Fed lost athletic abilities but has retooled his game to become overall a better player. I'm inclined to disagree but I geddit.
     
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  7. the green god

    the green god Professional

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    Cliff notes, please.
     
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  8. Raining hopes

    Raining hopes Professional

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    Jack gates,I do get the sentiment but I do not agree with the conclusion.
    Since my English is bad I am going to use two terms that will help me explain what I am trying to say.
    The way I see it tennis level of play should be divided into two different categories ,one is the Effectiveness and second is the Ability.

    Effectiveness would mean the extent to which the player's game can hurt his the opponent
    Ability in my eyes would be the number of approaches towards the match that the player can employe to hurt his opponent.
    Ability is the extent of availability of methods that he can use to either take the offence to the opponent or gather himself and win the match


    In simple matches effectiveness effectiveness is the key, 2015 Federer was very effective against his opponents however his approach was limited,quite sucidal and superficial.He could be exposed by a player who was good that good himself. Don't get me wrong Federer of 2015 in my eyes is a solid top 2 player in any era and a solid number to 2 in the era he was playing.He would be multiple Grand Slam champion even if you remove the name Federer from him and assume him to be a new player.

    2015 Federer was effective but 2005 Federer was much more effective. Moreover his ability in 2005 cannot be compared to what he was doing into 2015. He was very good in those years so good that the outstanding 2015 version would be outclassed in several key aspects.
    I will go into this later when I will focus on the years from 2005 to 2007 hopefully I get the chance to write it in the next 2 days I would like to hear your views on it.
     
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  9. Sysyphus

    Sysyphus G.O.A.T.

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    "Don't you think, I mean, I would've improved after all these years? The game has changed, again, you know. We all hit bigger, you have to take time away from the opponent."
    — Feder, January 2018


     
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  10. JackGates

    JackGates Hall of Fame

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    Well, we have to assume that the field evolves and tennis players are better than in 2007, don't we?

    So, if Fed wins 3 majors in 2017, surely his level should be higher.
     
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  11. Raining hopes

    Raining hopes Professional

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    @thegreengod cliff notes,would be like this:

    1998-2002:Federer was employing a blend of 90s forecourt game with modern baseline ideas.
    Good forehand which was still in progress,decent but not unique backhand except the volleys.Brilliant movement but all these good aspects fragmented and mental and strategic inability stopping his progress.

    2003-2004
    Everything starts to come together the forehand becomes a more consistent menace to his opponent,backhand more stable.He develops better fitness and too many options to hurt opponent.Game is quite power based which people have forgotten.
     
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  12. Steve0904

    Steve0904 Talk Tennis Guru

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    Federer still plays at a slam winning level today. It's an extremely high level obviously, but he's lost that spring in his step from his prime years. When people said it looked like he floated above the court in his prime that's because that's exactly what it looked like (even though it clearly wasn't literally true). He often looked like he had all the time in the world. Like everything was in slow motion for him. Today he just looks like a guy that runs fast and hits hard. He takes more time away from his opponent than perhaps ever before, but he doesn't move anywhere close to what he used to for obvious reasons.
     
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  13. Raining hopes

    Raining hopes Professional

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    This would be my line of thinking too.Except I would contend as high as Federer's level was Djokovic and Nasal came very close to it and whether they surpassed it or not depends on individual view point.
     
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  14. JackGates

    JackGates Hall of Fame

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    How do you measure effectiveness? Isn't winning points what being effective means?

    Winning points means higher level, no matter what you say.

    And Fed wins more points vs entire field, his win % is practically the same as in 2005, so it's not it's just Djokovic missing or something silly like that.

    But if winning points doesn't determine level of play, then what the hell does?
     
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  15. JackGates

    JackGates Hall of Fame

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    Steve, but my point is, that his decline doesn't interfere with winning of points.

    So, if he wins points with the same rate, you can't say he didn't compensate for his decline and his level is lower.

    No, in the end winning of points, especially big points determines the level of play, doesn't it?
     
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  16. Steve0904

    Steve0904 Talk Tennis Guru

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    I don't think you can say they surpassed Federer's highest level. Maybe in certain years like Djokovic in 2011 and/or 2015 or on certain surfaces like Nadal on clay, but not for a sustained period of time across all surfaces like Federer from 2004-2007. Nadal and Djokovic don't come near that.
     
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  17. Hydrocella

    Hydrocella Hall of Fame

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    Haha - how old are you? Grew up in the 80’s/90’s?
     
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  18. Steve0904

    Steve0904 Talk Tennis Guru

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    He's compensated for his decline, but his level is most certainly lower overall. The only way your argument holds any water is if he wins 3 slams this year. Plus the WTF and finishing the year as #1. All of which he done in his prime more than once.
     
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  19. JackGates

    JackGates Hall of Fame

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    Fed hasn't won 3 slams in 2005. Plus, I'm not arguing about consistency, just his peak level is the same as in 2005, because Fed did win 3 majors in last year, not calendar year, but still it's the same.

    Injuries were mostly the reason why Fed didn't win USO or at least make the final or why he can't play clay. But when healthy Fed is as good as in his peak.
     
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  20. mike danny

    mike danny Talk Tennis Guru

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    Except I don't think tennis players are better than in 2007.
     
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  21. Raining hopes

    Raining hopes Professional

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    I can see your argument but I think I would slightly disagree with that. I would not go into the topic of who had the better level of play. let's leave it at that.

    What do you think his best performances were doing these years,2000-2004,
    His match against Agassi at the year end championships is a popular choice, so is his match against hugs and safin in 2002 Hamburg.I think I mentioned the roddick Semifinal and of course his match against Sampras.
    But all of them would be the more known ones,do you remember any which people forget?
     
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  22. chjtennis

    chjtennis Legend

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    Where would RF97A's place in all these speculations? Just curious on OP's view on that.
     
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  23. mike danny

    mike danny Talk Tennis Guru

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    He did not win 3 slams in 2005 because he was beaten by a red-hot Safin. Nobody today is playing as well as Safin did in that AO.

    I'm sorry to say this, but 2017-2018 Fed wouldn't hzve beaten 2005 Safin.
     
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  24. fedfan39

    fedfan39 Rookie

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    1. The modern day court conditions have created Nadal and Djokovic. It is very naive and simplistic to say that Federer was mentally lacking. Why don't you say the same thing about Nadal who was whipped by Federer 4 times in a row last year? Why not say the same thing about Djokovic who finds it very hard to even make slam QFs?

    2. There is also a thing called matchups, and there is a thing called *reinforced beliefs*. The reality of Federer and Nadal is a mixture of the following:

    - 2A: In the days of 2004-07, Federer used to feel invincible.
    - 2B: Nadal was beating Federer on clay and occasionally on hard courts. However, because Federer was racking up slams everywhere else, he didn't bother to put in much effort in the Nadal matchup. By contrast, Nadal was always gunning for Federer (and he still is, all these years later!).
    - 2C: Because of his repeated losses on clay, Federer eventually got frustrated and a belief was reinforced that *Nadal was generally better than Federer*. Unfortunately, that was never true, but that reinforced belief was able to assert itself enough to cause massive damage to Federer in 2008 W and 2009 AO. The 2008 W was hyped and in the making (I vividly remember it). I remember Bjorn Borg coming out and proclaiming Nadal to be a favorite.
    - 2D: Ultimately, Federer simply got older. he never got a chance to face Nadal at the USO during 2004-2010. He would wait until 2017 to reverse the *reinforced belief* on his terms.

    3. Defense generally wins over offense, but again going back to point 1, this is very much a function of the court conditions. There was absolutely no reason for Federer not to keep racking up W and USO if their traditional speeds had held up. Just see what happened in Australia when it became *slightly faster* - 35 and 36 year old Fed is a B2B champion.

    4. Federer's problem always has been his consistency. That's his strength and the same thing is also his kryptonite. *BECAUSE* Federer was always in slam semis and finals, he was more often than not a sitting duck for a rejuvenated Nadal and sometimes Djokovic. What if Federer took time off from the tour once in a while like Nadal did repeatedly? Wait a second, actually, Federer *FINALLY* did it in 2016, and the results speak for themselves! You just have no idea how a difference in slight physical conditioning can lead to a different result in tennis. Fresh legs versus tired legs can turn the whole match around. A lot of 5 set matches have been lost because Fed was just gassed out (USO 2011 and W 2014 are most notable).

    4A. And you can already see who else had Federer like superhuman consistency and just Federer like bad losses in slams? OF COURSE DJOKOVIC! Djokovic was just as good as Federer was in his peak. Not only he lost to the likes of Murray, Wawrinka and Nadal at the USO (LOL!!), but he is so much burnt out that he cannot even beat top 20 players anymore.

    5. In the end, Federer will still end up with a very thick edge in slam count over Nadal (you heard it), but because he had the misfortune of meeting Nadal in the unfortunate circumstances on Nadal's terms, the blasted H2H can never be in his favor. If Sampras had met Agassi repeatedly at venues like AO, Miami and on clay courts (and if Agassi was good and not wasted early in his career), what do you think would have happened to their H2H? So is Sampras better because he just sucked on clay and lost to random players instead of losing consistently to good players?

    6. Absolutely final: His 2017 and 2018 have vindicated him beyond measures and completely shut off any arguments about his resolve. After what he did in 2017, you simply cannot put Federer down as having a weak mind...LMAO at that! Federer proved beyond a shadow of doubt he is mentally strong, and can still rack up slams at the age of 36 and 37. Enjoy it while it lasts; it will never happen in our lifetime.
     
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  25. Sysyphus

    Sysyphus G.O.A.T.

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    Did you build a time machine and test it, seeing as you sound fairly certain of what would otherwise be pure conjecture?
     
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  26. Raining hopes

    Raining hopes Professional

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    Are you talking about the racket? then I would say it would probably be more problematic decision than a good choice, it takes away his forehand and restrains his variety.
    Federer's variety is one of the main reasons his game was this good and he already had enough power on the forehand side and a decent serving ability,I think the main reason for his success was his forehand and more backhand stability would be welcome but not at the expense of his forehand .However.I haven't watched his 2017 version after miami.

    Post 2010 though? no doubt about it. He should have changed it then.
     
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  27. TearTheRoofOff

    TearTheRoofOff Hall of Fame

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    No.
     
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  28. JackGates

    JackGates Hall of Fame

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    Well, how do you know how Zverev would do vs Roddick, you can't know, so making blind assertions like that is crazy.
     
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  29. Steve0904

    Steve0904 Talk Tennis Guru

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    I can't say I remember any that most people forget. His Hamburg run in 2004 was pretty impressive. That said, there's a reason most people remember the matches you mentioned among others. The most remembered matches are always going to be his best matches at the slams because they were at the slams in important moments. As such, his best performance during that 2000-2004 period is automatically something from Wimbledon 2003 or any of his winning slams in 2004. He has a few. I'd put his 2004 USO F at #1, but the Wimby 2003 SF and F, and his AO 2004 SF against Ferrero are also good picks.
     
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  30. mike danny

    mike danny Talk Tennis Guru

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    There's no way of finding out, but I believe 2005 Safin would overpower 2017-2018 Federer.

    It also depends on which surface they play. If they play on the slower Rebound Ace or slower Plexicushion, Safin beats 2017-2018 Fed in 4. If they play on the faster Plexicushion of the last 2 years, it might go 5, but I still pick Safin.
     
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  31. mike danny

    mike danny Talk Tennis Guru

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    You're also assuming players today are better than in 2007, which is also just an assertion with no proof.
     
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  32. JackGates

    JackGates Hall of Fame

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    Was Fed's match a good performance vs Pete? He barely won and Pete was past his peak.

    Also, USO 2004 vs Hewitt is the obvious one.
     
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  33. Sysyphus

    Sysyphus G.O.A.T.

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    So you acknowledge that it's pure untestable conjecture, and therefore as good as anyone's claim?

    I'm sure there are many who feel equally as certain as you do that the recent version of Fed would handily outmaneuver the Safin of 13 years ago. None would have a bigger claim on truth than the other. Conjecture against conjecture.
     
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  34. Raining hopes

    Raining hopes Professional

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    I think if I remember correctly he played quite brilliantly against Hewitt in Hamburg 2004. Wasn't the final against Coria?Among others, maybe not as special,his 2004 year end masters against Safin( Or was it 2003,)when his former coach was guiding safin.
     
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  35. mike danny

    mike danny Talk Tennis Guru

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    Fully agreed. But hypothetical situations in life still exist. And it is sometimes fun to discuss them. Even if there's no way to prove them.

    What is your stand on the matter, since you already know mine?
     
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  36. Raining hopes

    Raining hopes Professional

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    The logic is sound however it is against decisiveness which I don't approve of. Wouldn't it be wrong to not argue for a stance when there are enough indication,even if subject to perception, for the sake of decisiveness? Especially where decisiveness appears tobe possible?
     
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2018
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  37. chjtennis

    chjtennis Legend

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    I think there are 2 polar different views on RF97A's influence on Federer's game and your view is on one side and mine is on the opposite side. We will never find out, of course, but I think RF97A would've enhanced his domination even more in 2003-2009.

    Federer's problem when facing Nadal was the backhand and getting rid of that problem would've changed a lot of the dynamics between the two. Also, It's not like RF97A is making Fed's FH much worse than before. To be honest, I think his forehand is just as good. Also, he hardly shanks from both wings nowadays.

    I think Federer still maintains the variety so well, and I don't see much loss in that department from his game. Having personally used both his old and current versions, I think the current stick actually enables players to try a lot more different things with bigger sweet spot that gives more margin for error with the timing. I don't think maneuverability has been compromised that much with the new racquet either, and I find my net play has actually improved slightly. Imagine how that would help the players at the top level, where even fraction of improvements manifest into significant differences.

    I don't think Federer is doing anything new now compared to 2003-2009, His new racquet is just making everything easier for him and extract every single potential he had everywhere in his game. I mean, at 36, I don't think anyone learns anything new, especially in sport. Even his BH, I think all the technique and timing has been there all the times, but the new racquet enables him to come over that side and drive topspin BH more than before, with even tougher shots coming from the other side of the net. That's the biggest single reason, I think, Nadal is struggling so much with Federer now. If Federer was given that racquet in his early 20s, I think he would've had better BH(not that his BH was bad but it was exploited by Nadal), which would've taken a major weapon out of Nadal's hands in their encounters. That would've completely changed the dynamics between the two, especially on non-clay surfaces, and could have yielded even better achievements by Federer. Just my opinion.
     
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2018
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  38. mike danny

    mike danny Talk Tennis Guru

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    Did you want to say something?
     
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  39. the green god

    the green god Professional

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    Old enough to know yo momma;)
     
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  40. JackGates

    JackGates Hall of Fame

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    Well surely Wawrinka learned some new skills in last 10 years, wouldn't you say so? Why would he be worse?
     
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  41. Sysyphus

    Sysyphus G.O.A.T.

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    Fair enough. I agree that it can be fun to speculate anyways — I'm just confused by the apparent certainty of some opinions on either side about hypotheticals across several years (someone else described it as 'most certainly' true that Fed was better 12–14 years ago).

    To me personally, it's a totally open question whether he played better in 2005 than in 2017 or not. He was more dominant versus his peers then, but I also agree with Federer himself that the game has changed a bit since then as well.
     
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  42. Raining hopes

    Raining hopes Professional

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    yes I did I mistakenly posted without any words I have edited my post.
     
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    #42
  43. mike danny

    mike danny Talk Tennis Guru

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    I'm talking about the new players more than the veterans.

    Wawrinka is a special case anyway. It's easy to say these last few years represent his best tennis since he has never played at this level before. So we know that Wawrinka can't play much better than in the last few years.
     
    #43
  44. mike danny

    mike danny Talk Tennis Guru

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    The game has changed, but I don't believe the new players are better than the ones in 2005.
     
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2018
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    #44
  45. Hydrocella

    Hydrocella Hall of Fame

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    Ha! Perfectly used too.

    Very slick indeed.
     
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    #45
  46. nikdom

    nikdom Guest

    'Overrated' and 'underrated' are the most nebulous and abused words used to describe athletes.
     
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    #46
  47. Hydrocella

    Hydrocella Hall of Fame

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    I'm inclined to agree.

    How can someone who has 20 grand slams be underrated? Or overrated? Both????? Neither???????

    This is one of those mind bending twisty things isn't it?
     
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    #47
  48. Hydrocella

    Hydrocella Hall of Fame

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    I'll say this much for the RF97. I can't play with the damn thing. I love the PS90, but hate the RF97.

    I have absolutely no idea how Federer made the transition.
     
    #48
  49. JackGates

    JackGates Hall of Fame

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    Well, all I know is that 17 Fed would be a terrible matchup for entire field in 2006, so even with his lower level, he still beats them, maybe not because he is better, but he matches up better vs them.
     
    #49
  50. JackGates

    JackGates Hall of Fame

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    It usually just means expectations. If players match them or not.
     
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