Federer Into Quarter Finals at Hamburg

Hi there. As I told you I would be working until today and I was too tired to make a post yesterday. Roger played against Brands in the first round and won 3-6, 6-3, 6-2. Dropping a set was expected I guess after losing in the second round of Wimbledon and playing with a new racquet. It is the same thing we have been seeing for some time now; Roger struggling with confidence. Aside from the Australian Open, Roger has been struggling with confidence all year. Yet I still believe he is on the brink of something good. Today Roger played against Hajek who upset Gulbis. It seems Roger has some pretty good luck with draws these days. He won’t be facing a seed in the next round either, with Mayer coming through in his section of the draw. And on top of that the recent Wimbledon semi-finalist Janowicz retired against Verdasco today.

So things are working out pretty well for Roger. Today Roger won 6-3, 6-4 against a player I haven’t seen before. It was nice to see Roger not dropping a set this time, which would suggest that he is feeling more comfortable. I watched the highlights and for the first time I could really get an idea of what he plays like with the new racquet. First of all it is not the Blade 98 like I thought. It is a racquet Wilson has developed specifically for Roger’s needs. Pretty cool huh? Roger spoke about the new racquet in a video I will post below, and he is being pretty secretive about it. All we basically know is that it’s a black Wilson with a 98 sq in head and a 16 x 19 string pattern. We don’t need to know much more than that anyway. I just love the fact that it is something Wilson have worked on specifically for Roger. It’s like a secret weapon.

Of course it will take some time for Roger to adapt to it because there is such a big difference in head size from his previous racquet. But I love that he is willing to experiment as much as he is. I read somewhere that Sampras experimented with different racquets after he lost in the second round of Wimbledon in 2002, and after having no success with it he switched back to his old racquet and won the US Open. I’m not sure if that is true. As far as I know Sampras was very stubborn and particular about his equipment, and I think one of you said that he regretted not changing racquets. Whatever the case may be, Roger is like a new and better version of Sampras. That is the way I always saw it, even before he came close to surpassing Sampras. He was always a more complete and talented player. Compared to him Sampras was one-dimensional.

Roger is therefore also more adaptable, and I think he is overall just smarter. He manages his career better and he loves the sport more. That is why I think the second round loss at Wimbledon won’t affect him as much as it did Sampras. Sampras retired soon after that happened, whereas I can see Roger playing for several more years. Roger has now entered that phase of his career where he has maybe one slam left in him, but he recently reached a new low and it is once again time for a big change. It is time to reinvent himself again. This time he is looking at his equipment to give him the boost he needs. Right now the general feeling is that Roger is declining pretty fast and that he is becoming irrelevant. In the eyes of the critics anyway. Just today I saw a thread on a forum called ‘Is Federer just another veteran now?’

Should we call it the Black Mamba?

That is not a bad thing though. It still amazes me how people write Roger off, after all the times he has made them eat their words. But I suppose I have done the same thing to Nadal. This is just another opportunity for Roger to prove the critics wrong. But he needs to become relevant again and I think changing racquets have been just the right thing. It makes people take notice and get them talking again. Not that people stopped talking about Roger. For as long as he plays he will be under the spotlight, but he just needs a little boost right now which I think the racquet change is giving it to him. I also think playing the clay events was very smart. The rallies are longer and it gives him more time to adapt to the change. Clay is also the best surface to play on when you lack confidence. There is a lot of footwork involved and it is kind of like doing drills.

And the one thing that Roger is lacking right now is confidence. He has said that in a presser already. So definitely playing on clay again was a deliberate move to help his confidence and adapting to the new racquet. In hindsight it was a great move. As always Roger’s decisions are spot on. Having watched the highlights today it was clear to me that the new racquet will help Roger’s baseline play. It will give him more power and consistency on his ground strokes. With Annacone Roger has worked a lot on becoming a better offensive and net player, but I guess he figured if you can’t beat them it’s best to join them. In this era of tennis power and consistency from the baseline are crucial assets to have. Djokovic, Murray, and Nadal all have great power and consistency from the baseline. Roger was starting to struggle in that area.

Not only against the top 4 but against the likes of Berdych, Tsonga, and Del Potro as well. So this decision is making more and more sense the more I think about it. The things that hurt Roger was the shanks on his backhand and a lack of power, and those are the exact issues which a bigger racquet head will address. Roger may pay for it in less feel, especially on the volleys, but it will be marginal and well worth the trade off. So I am very excited about all of it. Roger plays Mayer next like I said and he leads the head-to-head 4-0, having never dropped a set to Mayer. So another opponent for Roger that shouldn’t be too hard to deal with and against whom he can get used to his racquet some more and build confidence. Making a big change like this is a risk that is not guaranteed to pay off but it’s a necessary one and if anyone can make it work for him it is Roger.

I’m looking forward to watch the match tomorrow!

Highlights: 

Presserhttp://bet-at-home-open.com/presse/pressekonferenzen/

Federer discusses his new racket from Jan-Willem de Lange on Vimeo.

Posted in Uncategorized.

16 Comments

  1. Hi,

    I hope Roger gets enough practice and is able to trust his racquet more at the end of these 2 tournaments. He will need that trust to go ahead and play with abandon with the big boys…

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  2. From the highlights, the groundstrokes seem to have more pop, even compared to his prime. The backhands appears to improve a lot, it even seems to become a weapon. But from what I read somewhere, he had lots of FH shanks (not shown in the video). His netplay seems OK, not hurt by this change. He had some gorgeous dropshots which signified not much decline in control is conceded.

    If indeed after complete adjustment the backhand becomes more of a weapon a la Gasquet and the FH can become as deadly as before, we are looking at a quite attractive dividends of the change. But all this is still too early to tell. Who knows, maybe there’s not just 1 slam left in him (fingers crossed).

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  3. For me, his game still looked like a project in the making. He is still assessing it. The effect of his new stick was definitely on as some of the shots which looked a bit off curled back into the court with ease. In the first few games he was missing many of his shots, particularly in the forehand front; but later on he adjusted well. His slice had more bite than usual and overall his returns had more lengths than before. I hope with more time spent on the court, this is going to be a real weapon. BEWARE, BIG 4! One of you are definitely going to be dethroned soon.

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    Katyani Reply:

    Hey Jiten, hey brother from India, don’t forget your second sis in Holland !!! Wow, nice and true comment.
    Seriously, what must Rafa, Novak and Andy be thinking right now?? Yes, we almost got rid of him by beeing better than him and defeating him everywhere and now he has the same weapon as we do???? Poor top 4, I think they also follow some of his matches !!!
    And not to be mean or anything, but Ferrer (really a nice and honest guy and player) is top 3 and Roger not??? Really???

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    Jiten Reply:

    How can I forget my little sister from Holland, the country of those beautiful Tulip where the GOAT Fed fan lives! I hope you are reflecting exactly the same vibe of the top three. We will have to just wait and see. All our hero needs is some confidence back and everything will fall in place. I am sure once he works out what his new stick can do (and what it cannot), no stopping FEDERER!

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    Veronica Reply:

    Thanks Ru-an, Jason, Jiten for your wonderful input! Still haven’t been able to watch (but I will be able to tonight) so your “reports” are really appreciated. Yeah, watch out big 4! The Real no.1 has got a new stick and ……….. “What you can do, He can do better”!!! Allez!!

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  4. Hey Ru-an, don’t know if I am more impressed by Roger over all or your article???
    Again, a very nice and honest article.
    Thank you for writing it beautifully.
    Hope he beats Mayer in straights….

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  5. It takes some courage to change rackets when you have won 17 Grand Slams, but Roger Federer has the strength of character to take a leap into the unknown even after so much success.

    So far his timing hasn’t quite been there, but that’s to be expected since it’s early days yet. It’s much easier for him to hit through the court and force his opponent into defensive positions and as Jiten said he can put more stick on his slices. He hit some crazy overhead smashes while falling backwards, away from the ball, which I think might not have been possible with the smaller racket.

    His feel seems to be mostly unaffected, and with time I am sure he will be able to fine-tune his touch shots to compensate. It’s smarter to put the burden on his hand-eye coordination and manual dexterity, which are still just as good as ever, rather than on his footspeed, which has diminished a bit with age. If he works hard, I’m sure he can make up for the slight deficiency in control.

    It’s really serve and forehand that seem adversely affected. He’s holding back a bit because he can generate more pace more easily. I’m sure with time he will get used to this and be able to hit through the ball with confidence.

    Hopefully he will soon master his new instrument and regain his surgical striking. He’s the most adaptable player in the game and so I’m very optimistic.

    I like your comparison with Sampras. Sampras was a traditionalist for tradition’s sake. Federer is not so rigid. If he senses that a thoughtless habit is holding him back, he’s open to trying new things.

    Also he’s much more happily constituted. I think Sampras was the winning machine type who derived his enjoyment primarily from dominating opponents. When that got harder it was harder for him to stay motivated. He managed to eke out one more Grand Slam and then it was too mentally taxing for him to continue.

    Federer enjoys all aspects of the game more than Sampras, the grind of the tour doesn’t wear on him quite the same way and he bounces back more readily from tough losses. He’s integrated his family life and his tennis career, whereas Sampras waited to start a family until he retired (presumably thought it would be too difficult to juggle both at the same time).

    So I think he can keep going for quite a while. The new racket is a new challenge for him to master and that always gets him engaged and gives him energy. C’mon Roger!

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    Katyani Reply:

    Steve…. comment +1 !!!

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  6. Brilliant assessment as always, Steve.

    From what I could see in the highlights, I couldn’t see the adverse effect in the serve (well, neither could I the forehand). Quite a few aces were served, and it seemed to have more pop than usual.

    But perhaps when you watch the full match it’s different. I noticed the very low 1st serve % from the post-match stats and ‘relatively’ low 1st serve points won at just 70%. Normally it’s at least in the high 70s against low ranked players. That may be some of the adverse effects you’re talking about.

    The backhand though…it does look encouraging. I’m hoping he can upgrade it to something Gasquet-esque. And yes, the overall groundstrokes have more penetration. This is crucial to tackle the top grinders of the tour, which happens also to be the current top players. Now the money question is…will he be fully adjusted before the USO? Interesting times, indeed

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  7. What a final set !!! I am so happy now !
    By the way, did you see the last Delbonis match?
    He played really well vs. Verdasco (and I hope that he is not a new Del Potro :))

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  8. Didn’t realise there were so many desi posters on this blog! Salaam to all. Just finished watching the Fed-Mayer match live (the benefits of being a professor on summer vacation!), and have to agree with most of Steve’s astute observations. Pros: Fed is definitely hitting his backhand with more authority; playing more aggressively, and coming to the net with intention. Cons: He’s still lacking in confidence and has too many lapses in concentraion–today he had the momentum and should have put the match away in 2 sets, but let Mayer in, and then went on to lose his lead in the 3rd as well. Peter Bodo made an interesting point in his post on tennis.com that Fed’s biggest challenge may now be his lapses in concentration which means he plays great for periods and then poorly for just as many. I think this has less to do with the new stick and more to do with finding the mental edge to stay focused. That’s why it was great to see Fed gut it out against a pesky opponent today. He hit some beautiful drop shots as well. I’m hoping for a Fognini/Fed final. Then we will have histrionics, Italian flare and Fed brilliance all in one match!

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    Katyani Reply:

    Hey Sakhi…. Desi girls all the way !!!

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  9. New racquet means more time on the half volley, before he would have to be more precise on the timing because of smaller sweet spot so less time on the shot

    Roger looked confident and hungry last few games against Mayer

    Racquet looks like prototype; I hope Wilson keep the matt black finish as it currently is when they announce which model it is

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