Unsung aspects of Federer’s genius
Fans have many reasons to love Roger Federer. Here are some of the more under-rated aspects of his game.
1–Feel. Hands. Federer’s rare ability to flick back balls deep allows him to hug the baseline, transition from defense to offense, prowl for short balls and dictate points. He also has incredible touch around the net, making difficult volleys die in the Wimbledon grass.
2–Angles. Geometry. His opponents have no safe place to go. “If I hit down the middle, Roger can hit a sharp angle either side, or drive deep. I’m never out of danger against Roger.”
3–Disguise of serve. You can’t tell where Roger is aiming or spinning. He has the same look, stance, toss and backswing. This negates the skill of returners, such as Djokovic, who study a server’s patterns and technique.
4–Second serve. Milos Raonic, John Isner and many others serve faster than Federer with more spectacular ace totals. But Federer ranks among Pete Sampras in terms of hitting his spots under pressure. Moreover, his second serve is almost as good as his first. He routinely paints the lines with 104mph second serves, immediately taking control of the point and setting up a winner for his first volley or groundstroke. If I had a choice, I would take Federer’s second serve over the first serve of any other player. (Then I could swing freely on my first.)
5–Slice return. You hit a big serve and you’re pumped to go on the attack. But Roger’s chipped return dies at your feet, or often short in the middle of the court. Now you have to stoop low or rush forward and stretch to hit your second shot from a bad position. You’re liable to over-swing and hit it into the net or long.
6–Superior mentality. Asked at Wimbledon why the Big Four is better than the rest, Federer cited their superior mind, fitness and tenacity. “It’s hard to crack us consistently down. If you beat one of us, you might not beat the next guy.”
7–Love of tennis. While Bernard Tomic speaks about boredom, and media speculate about Djokovic or Murray going through the “burn-out phases” of their careers, Federer seems to love playing tennis as much as ever. Federer says his time off the past year has given him “big distance” and time to relax. This gives him energy for creativity, and his mind is clear. He says he’s “into” tennis before and during his match, but afterward he emphasizes his other roles as father, husband, friend and fan of tennis.
8–Composure. Federer lost the first 7 points of his second round match versus Dusan Lajovic. At the other end of that first set, he won the last 7, in a tie-breaker. His job description is basically: “win tie-breakers”. Losing points, or games before that doesn’t seem to bother him that much. He knows how to win, and does his job.
(words and images copyright Christopher Johnson Globalite Media all rights reserved)