Archive for the ‘Federror’ Category

25 Jan 2014

Roger Federer Australian Open Nadal

Tennis hasn’t always been played this way.

The history of the sport of tennis is typically divided into two eras with the dawn of “The Open Era”, a sort of Anno Domini that began when Roland Garros became the first tournament to open its doors to professionals in 1968. However, the game that was played in 1968 hardly resembles the game that is played today.

We all know that the change from wooden racquets to modern technology in the 1980s had an incredible impact on the sport – perhaps an impact leading to the most significant change of any widely played modern sport. It wasn’t until the early 2000s that the ancient method of serving and volleying, a tactic that had brought so many so much success, was beginning to be viewed as an outdated strategy to win matches at the highest level of the sport.

This wasn’t just down to the new racquet technology. Yes, players were getting better at dismantling and expecting serving and volleying when returning, such as Marat Safin’s rout of Pete Sampras in the 2000 US Open final. But they were also starting to find more success by staying at the back of the court when serving. This has little to do with a purposeful tactical shift and everything to do with the increased strength, speed and stamina of players in the modern sporting age. Simply put, tennis players weren’t just great tennis players anymore – they were also elite athletes.

Perhaps the best example comes from Andre Agassi’s book “Open”, where he recounts his wild drop in ranking and success. Agassi wasn’t playing well, but above all else, wasn’t fit enough. His rise from the embers of the Challenger circuit were widely down to the success of his trainer Gil Reyes who had Agassi completing vigourous workouts specifically designed for tennis players, eating properly, and hydrating properly on court with something that Agassi affectionately called “Gil Juice”.

Today, the practices that Reyes employed are a given for all players (and still employed with the Adidas team). However, at the time, they were seen as progressive and even revolutionary. That was less than 20 years ago.

Today there can be no doubt that the top tennis players are among the upper tiers of the world’s best athletes.

In 2013, Roger Federer had his worst year since 2002. Was it the back? Was it the racquet? Could he find a way to play more aggressively? Could he improve his serve? People wanted answers. After his defeat of Andy Murray at this year’s 2014 Australian Open, the narrative was simple – the aggressive play we come to expect from Federer was back. Federer was back to his old self. Before his semifinal match against Nadal, commentator Nick Lester, while also stating Nadal’s blister and perceived lack of freshness, went as far to say “the way Federer has played here… I think he has a real shot here. If I was putting my money down, I’d be looking at Federer in 3 of 4 sets.” Federer was then dismissed with ease as Nadal won in straight sets.

We know that sports science has pushed the athletic heights of tennis into the stratosphere. Despite all of this, there has been little talk about perhaps the most obvious and least sexy topics when it comes to Federer: he’s getting older. So what can we learn from other major sports when it comes to aging and decline?
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26 Oct 2013

Federer Basel

The Bakery is your one stop shop for quick match reports. Including tactical analysis, key points, and poorly executed quips. It is part of a new series of posts which will fully debut in 2014, and you can read about them all here.

Roger Federer (SUI) d. Vasek Pospisil (CAN) 6-3, 6-7(3), 7-5, 2:40

The word “aggressive” may be the most over used word in tennis. It is assumed to be a positive word, and something players should strive to do tactically, but what a sensible aggressive approach looks like can be very different for different players.

Vasek Pospisil certainly knows what aggressive tennis needs to look like. He has a big serve and sometimes kicks his second serve to great effect. The key is his ability and confidence to follow up his big first serves, and not just with finishing off short returns. He loves to run around his forehand, and unlike his compatriot Milos Raonic, puts a big more spin on the forehand which gives him a bit more margin for error.

Despite that it didn’t always work, I liked seeing a rather methodical approach from Pospisil in the first set. He likes to hit his forehand from a close stance cross court while on the ad side (his left) of the court – both in rallies and when given a ball to attack. This was a regular pattern, and as he learned that Federer was defending quite well on the backhand wing, he tried to go down the line with the shot more, particularly in the third set.

Ultimately a tough loss for the Canadian, but he had an excellent showing. His forehand is topspin heavy and gains incredible pace on fast surfaces. His movement and court awareness is great and his net game is above average, which allows him to finish off points much more quickly when he gains the upper hand in a rally off of a big forehand.

For Federer, it was a match of mixed signals – as can be expected from now on. At times he struggled with returning Pospisil’s kick second serve. On several occasions he recognized it, took several steps back, and then shanked the backhand or just simply missed. His cross court chip returns were eventually found out as well, and Pospisil was able to punish them as he grew to expect the short responses.

All of that said, Federer looked to be moving incredibly well, and was hitting some classic shoestring Fed winners in the first set. There were some lovely ping pong backhand block passing shots and some deceptively spinning, cross court forehands that dragged the Canadian well out of position or went for winners.

Federer will play Del Potro in the final, a repeat of last year’s Basel tournament in which Delpo took the title. Del Potro will offer up similarly punishing forehands, but won’t defend quite as well as Pospisil on such a fast surface, despite being an underrated defender. Another serious test for Federer’s game, and I think he might struggle. Regardless, it should be a great match.

15 Nov 2012

Novak Djokovic wasn’t always this good. Much has been made about his switch to his gluten-free diet, which in return has seemingly helped all physical parts of his game; endurance, breathing, agility and power. In turn it has boosted his confidence and concentration as well as his self belief, turning him into a super being in 2011 and finding continued success in 2012.

While all of these things are true, they have also helped boost his shot making. His backhand has turned into the best in the game. In turn, this has set up certain patterns of play that Djokovic likes to use to get ahead in points. Here is a short breakdown of a strategy that Djokovic consistently uses against Federer. It was on full display in their match at the London World Tour Finals.

It is no secret that Federer’s backhand side is a vulnerable wing. Djokovic targeted this wing heavily, and has in many other matches in the past. However, simply hitting to Federer’s backhand is not enoug to defeat him, and the following style and pattern of play is how Djokovic often takes advantage of Federer and other opponents’ backhands.

As seen, let’s first assume that Djokovic and Federer are caught in a cross court, backhand to backhand rally. This might not necessarily be from the beginning of the rally (though it often was with Djokovic serving), but at any point. Djokovic’s cross court backhand may be his best shot, he makes few errors off of it and consistently hits it deep, pinning his opponent into the corner of the court.

If Djokovic hits a decently well placed cross court backhand, Federer essentially has one of three options. He can a) run around the forehand and try to hit it down the line b) hit a cross court backhand (or forehand) back to Djokovic,, or c) hit a backhand down the line.

Choice a) is a rarity, as Djokovic tends to do well to pin the ball into the corner, and doesn’t serve the purpose of this exercise, so we’ll forget about that for now. If Fed hits a backhand cross court to Djokovic, presumably the first image will continue on. In this match, and in many matches against Federer, Djokovic is incredibly patient. He simply rips the ball back at Federer’s backhand, hoping it will break down and force an error, or a weak response.

However, at the same time, Djokovic is simply daring Federer to hit his backhand down the line, or into a more central area. Fed’s backhand isn’t quite what it used to be, and he’s not exactly closing the shoulder and ripping Wawrinka or Haasesque backhand winners down the line with tons of pace. Regardless, Federer often realized that he was trapped on the backhand wing in a style of rally seen above, and instead of hitting it to Djokovic’s backhand repeatedly, knew he was going to have to try to hit it down the line and make something happen in the stalemate (as seen below).

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2. Roger Federer

Posted by Brodie under: Federror, SW19

21 Jun 2011

Weapons: Serve is looking strong once again, simply one of the greatest grass players ever
Weaknesses: Backhand beginning to break down

Considering his results from Roland Garros, and how he has been playing of late, Fed would likely be my first seed if Rafa wasn’t hot off another RG win AND the defending Wimby champ. The serve has returned, as has the confidence. He’s doing what he needs to do to conserve energy early in the tournament so he can push it up a notch in the business end. He has a favourable draw too, and should be well on his way to another semifinal appearance, if not another Wimbledon title.

Men’s Final Preview

Posted by Brodie under: Federror, Rafa, Roland Garros

4 Jun 2011

It’s been a long time coming. Hit me.

What It Means For Rafa

Only one man has won more Roland Garros titles than Rafa: Bjorn Borg. Even though Rafa could retire today and be considered the greatest clay player of all time, it’s a record very much worth drawing even with. Not only will it bump him to double digits in the slams category, it will cement the fact that even though he played during the time of the GOAT, he was indestructible at his major in Paris.

What It Means For Fed

Clay has long been Roger’s worst surface, and has only ever managed 2 wins over Rafa on the dirt. He faced him 4 straight years from 2005-08 and managed to take 3 sets total, and only 4 games in the final in 2008.

Outside of the most weeks at number 1, defeating the King of Clay on his clay major has really been the only notable thing Fed hasn’t done. A win would not only give Fed that precious Roland Garros final win over Rafa, it would give him a legitimate shot at number 1 going into the end of the year, and ultimately show that even late in his career, is not a force to be underestimated.

Keys To The Match For Rafa

Rafa’s best opponent this fortnight has not been John Isner, but in fact himself. Mentally he’s looked unstable, the forehand hasn’t always been on, and he’s had some extremely slow starts to matches. That being said, he played the best he has all tournament against Cap’n Crunch in the semifinal, and looked more like the Rafa we know.

In other words, Rafa doesn’t need to “try” to do much of anything spectacular. He knows how to play Fed, and he sure knows how to play Fed on clay. Exploiting the backhand in forehand-backhand rallies, going down the line with the forehand, serving out wide to the Fed backhand, the list goes on. Mentally, however, he’s going to be as solid as he’s ever been. Fed is going to come at him with everything he’s got, and he needs to be prepared for a grind. Which I fully expect him to be.

Otherwise, he needs his backhand to be solid. It doesn’t need to be amazing, but good enough. It’s been a weak point at times this week, either slow, or on the back foot, and it’s ended points too early for him.

Keys To The Match For Fed

Simply put, Fed is going to have to do everything he did against Nole and then some. Not difficult, right? Fed’s backhand, both this tournament and this year, has been pretty average. Against Nole, it looked a lot more like a typical Fed shot. However, Nole really tried to exploit it, but his backhand wasn’t up to snuff. This meant that Fed actually got the advantage in backhand to backhand rallies because the ball wasn’t coming in too deep, or too quickly.

Now that backhand has to hold up to Rafa’s forehand. Fed needs to continue his great footwork, try to run around to the forehand, and stay aggressive. Along with the backhand, his serve was fantastic against Nole, and he’s going to need that for some free(r) points on serve.

Mentally, he looks ready and aggressive. The Fed we’re used to seeing. He’s going to need every ounce of that, and worry about things on his side of the net for the first set, and not let Rafa get in his head. He also needs to convert break points, and hold in games after wasted ones. But you don’t need me to tell you that.

If Rafa shows up, I really think he should be ok, but I think we’re in for a much closer ride than the last time these two met in this tournament.

6 May 2011

For the third year straight, Rafa and Fed will tee off in Madrid. The difference this year is that it will be in the semis, not the final.

It’s been a long, tough path for Fed who barely survived Feli and had his hands much more full with Sod than the scoreline would suggest. To be honest, I’m having a tricky time figuring out if Fed’s level of play is down, or more that it’s clay, and he’s running into good opponents. I think it’s definitely true that Fed isn’t trying to be super creative out there and is sticking too his strengths (particularly the forehand and even the serve) and I think that’s the right move.

Rafa is obviously the favourite tomorrow, but I’d hesitate to count Fed out so quickly. The courts are playing incredibly quickly, and Fed has found ways to end points quickly as well as stick in longer rallies. I’m also not entirely convinced by Rafa just yet. He had the odd bump in Monte Carlo and has had a rather straight forward draw this week.

The real question, however, will be whether or not Rafa or Fed can challenge Nole in the final, assuming Novak wins. I’ll preview the final tomorrow night, which should be fantastic. Happy semis watching!

9 Jan 2011

Roger Federer Doha

While Rafa spent the final 3/4 of 2010 conquering slams and taking on new followers, Fed was silently planning his coup back to power.

No, he didn’t beat Rafa (this year). But Fed is confident and more importantly, playing insanely well. Maybe it’s the hunger, maybe it’s the looming title defense (and 2000 points), and more than likely it’s the coach. Regardless, Fed is back with solid, attacking tennis and is feeling good. He’s got his mojo back.

Rafa will be getting a ton of attention in a week’s time, and I get the sense that that’s ok by Fed’s term. Saddle up people.

15 Aug 2010

Muzz Toronto

“This is one of the best weeks of my life”. I bet it is, Muzz.

As you all know it hasn’t been the easiest season for Andy. After the AO final he seemed to have lost his confidence and results didn’t come as expected. He had an awful clay season and once again failed to reach the final in Wimbledon. So, it’s actually nice to have him back. And smiling.

I wasn’t expecting much from him considering the draw (Rafa’s half, Sod’s quarter and Nalby somewhere in the middle of that mess), but I’m glad to have been proven wrong. He played some amazing tennis during this week.

Muzz won his first ATP title of the year and is the first player to win back-to-back Canadian titles since Agassi in 1994-95.

It wasn’t an amazing and exciting final. Weather didn’t help and the match was suspended due to rain a couple of times. There were five service breaks and a lot of unforced errors in the 1st set, but Muzz eventually prevailed. He blew another break lead in the 2nd set but broke Federer at 5-all closing out the match on his first chance.

He defends his title and ranking by beating Federer and Nadal along the way (first time he did it) without dropping a set! Many of you might say Roger is not at his best or Rafa’s not as good on hard courts, but you have to give him credit. Did I mention he also beat Nalby? Yep, dude just got back from an injury but was also playing some high quality tennis. This is huge and I’m sure Andy is facing Cincinnati and most importantly US Open with renewed confidence. Even though you might not be a fan, this is great for the sport.

Cincinnati has already started and as the 4th seed he gets a 1st round bye. I’m really curious to see how he’ll handle things after winning Rogers Cup. The ranking is at stake with Soderling really close to the #4 spot and depending on results from both, USO seeding might change.

13 Aug 2010

I’m not a Fed fan, and I’m not a Berd KAD. But let’s write a post from the view points of both, shall we?

It’s been a tough year to be a FedKAD. His Majesty Of The Golden Stroke won the Australian Open, but has struggled since then. He lost to Bags in Indian Wells and Berd in Miami… after having match points in both. At the French, he lost to Sod, who he beat in the final the previous year (he also lost his slam semi streak) and then fell again to big hitter Berd in the quarters of Wimbledon. Devastating.

The match tonight?

One of huge importance. He’d tee off against Thunderdome, a guy who had beaten him three times before, and in the two previous meetings. Under the lights in Toronto with a packed house? A pretty big deal.

That’s why such a huge mental victory over such a tough opponent is a huge deal heading into the US Open. Fed has his break chance in the second set to close out the match easily, and couldn’t. He shanked on set point and was forced into a third. And even against the wall at 3-5, he managed to break, stay alive, and eventually win the match in a tiebreak with the weight of an enthusiastic, pro-Federer crowd. One he will likely receive in Flushing Meadows. Will this match finally give him the confidence to beat tall, big hitters like Del Potro and Berdych? Only time will tell.

…Right. Berd?

It’s been a pretty kickass year for Tomas Berdych. Beating Federer in Miami, making the semis of the French, and then beating Federer again in the quarters of Wimbledon and making the final? I like.

Berdych hit the court tonight against Federer tonight, and while he eventually lost in Toronto, there are a lot of positives to take out of this match.

Firstly, his mental strength. A huge improvement this year, it’s been fantastic all week. Down 0-30, Berd hit back to back huge serves, both followed by a relaxing, self-massage shrug. He’s clearly comfortable and encouraged by his coach, and confident in his game and plan.

Secondly, his forehand. T-Berd possesses wicked racquet head speed, and with his “whip” approach to the ball, he kept Fed guessing, whether it was on out wide forehands or low slices, he was off balance. Even better, it was working. Berd was nailing winners he should have hit, and creating angles and other winners many players would never bother with.

Thirdly, he’s beaten Fed before and can play with the big boys. Slams are five sets, y’all. If Toronto was a slam, they would still be on court, and there would be a lot more to be said. Berd knows how to throw down.

So while a blown chance at another victory over Fed may come as a stinging blow to camp Berdych, not all is so evil in the long run. Watch out for Thunderbird in the USO, there’s a lot to still be done.

Um… so there you go. Debate in the comments? I dunno. Big win for Fed, a lot of positives for Berd. Gonna be a crazy USO. Can these guys be in the same half in New York?

23 Jun 2010

Q. John and Mahut are in an incredible marathon. You had your marathon last year. What happens when you get deep into a fifth set and it just goes on and on? Do you go to a different place? Is it harder to focus?

ANDY RODDICK: I played a couple. Obviously last year, Davis Cup with Tursunov, the El Aynaoui match way back when.
It’s so important to stay there mentally, especially on grass. You know, you got to harp on those first points of every service game, try to get that. Love‑15, 15‑30, that starts becoming dicey. So they’re doing a pretty good job of putting themselves in good position as far as serving with a lead.
Beyond that, you know, you always kind of try to convince yourself it’s only going to be another 10 or 15 minutes, even if you might not believe it at the time.

Q. What’s given you that better attitude on grass than you had earlier?
KIM CLIJSTERS: I don’t know. I think probably the biggest difference that I can think of is in the past, uhm, obviously I was probably playing the French Open, you know, about two weeks before or a week before I was starting on grass. And I think the adjustment was something that took me a little bit longer. By the time that I felt that I was, you know, feeling comfortable on clay, you know, we were moving on to different surface, grass. I think maybe it took me a little bit longer.
I think now, not being in Paris, was frustrating, but I think maybe it’s helped me to adjust a little bit faster on grass.

Q. Having that in mind, do you think it does make some sense to have a fifth set tiebreak like the US Open?
ROGER FEDERER: I think it’s perfect the way it is. It’s unfortunate these guys are going to be a little bit tired tomorrow and the next day and the next week and the next month. I’ve been following this as closely as I could. I walked on court at about 11 All in the fifth. They’re still going. This is absolutely amazing, yeah.
I mean, in a way, I wish I was them, in some ways I wish I wasn’t them. So this is a very special match. I hope somehow this is going to end. I don’t know. They’ll be fresh again tomorrow, I guess. If they have to come back, it’s unbelievable. I don’t know what to say.

Q. Kim says she likes being at Wimbledon because you can set up a family home and go around.
JUSTINE HENIN: Yeah. Yeah, I love. But I see this differently than in the past. I don’t know. It’s like I really open my eyes now. In the past, after the French, usually I’ve played well at the French, and emotionally I was coming here with a lot of pressure. I was No. 1 also at that time.
Now I see really things differently. I mean, I’ve played on Court No. 2. I thought it’s beautiful court and a lot of things have changed. But the atmosphere is just fantastic. You really feel the passion of the game.
It’s true, being at home, that gives something different. At the middle of the season, that’s what you need because it’s already a few tournaments behind you. It’s good that you feel, yeah, with my family also. My sister arrived today, so it’s a nice feeling.

Mind The Racket Podcast:

Episode 7 – US Open Week 2 Wrap-Up