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post #53 of (permalink) Old 12-05-2011, 11:18 AM
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Re: What does federer need to work on before AO 2012 to maximize slam chance?

Originally Posted by guga2120 View Post
Hope that Rafa, Andy and especially Novak are not 100%. Only way he could win. If Novak gets rested and healthy on that court, Federer can do whatever he wants, it will not matter.
On the contrary, I believe Roger would love nothing better than to beat any of the trio above when they are at their best. If anything, playing players that are less than their best or not equal to the task appears to bore him and he often looks for ways to make matches more challenging, hence his apparent lapses in concentration when ahead, especially in the more recent past. However, when Roger is playing at his best, no one can beat him, and he is virtually unplayable.

To quote the great Rafael Nadal after his last match against Roger at the WTF:
'I accept he played at a very, very top level,' he said. 'Something very special only one player like Roger can arrive at. So I'll accept that and keep fighting.' '...In these conditions he can attack better than on other surfaces. But if he plays like this in the other surfaces he will still beat me. That is true.'

I've watched the full WTF 2011 Federer-Nadal match again twice to objectively (hopefully) glean two things. Which factors contributed the most to Roger's high level of play, and was Rafa's play really sub-par or not?

Starting with the second item first, I've concluded that Rafa did not appear to be sub-par. Physically, he said he "felt perfect". In some key statistics, he made a relatively high percentage of first serves (73% to Roger's 67%). He also made a total only 7 unforced errors (Roger had 8, 5 in the first set). Rafa was not beating himself. However, the most glaring statistic in my opinion was that Roger hit 28 winners to Rafa's 4. Roger's execution was phenomenal on this day and this more than anything else was the reason for the outcome. To the casual observer, it may have appeared that Rafa was sub-par, perhaps because several of his returns were rather short or he wasn't getting to the ball in time, but I think a more astute appraisal would be that Roger forced Rafa to hit shorter than usual due to the strength and placement of his attack, also making it difficult for Rafa to get to the ball and hit more aggressive shots. For Rafa, there were no excuses and he intimated as much as quoted above. He was simply outplayed on this day due to Roger's excellence in execution.

Now, as far as Roger goes, what were the key factors that contributed to his success on this day, and what can he use for that in the future?

1. It starts with his serve. Continuing to serve well gives him confidence and reassurance that whatever else may not be working well, he can rely on his service games to keep him in the match. Over 60% first serves will do, the closer it gets to 70%, obviously, the easier it gets for him.

2. Vary his shots and placement against the top players. Nole and Rafa thrive on pace, especially if it is unchanging. Against Rafa at WTF, Roger played varied shots, especially early in points, medium slice to Rafa's backhand and more severe slices to his forehand, intermixed with topspin returns at a medium pace, with strategic placement to set himself up for his more powerful topspin returns for winners. Now saying this is all well and good, but executing it match after match, or even set after set is another. For that, he also needs the next element.

3. He must maintain focus and go for the kill at first opportunity as he did against Rafa in their last match. He must not let up once gaining the advantage, even if it seems to him as if he can coast, giving the fans more tennis. After going ahead rather easily, does he perhaps subconsciously want a greater challenge and "goes on walkabout" for a few games?

Observe his own words after his championship victory at the WTF final with Tsonga:
"Could I have won it easier? I guess. I had it in my hands. I had a chance to go a double break in the second [set]. I had chances to serve it out. I had chances in the tie-breaker. Yeah, it wasn't meant to be. But if I would have served it [the second set] out, it would have been over in a hurry. I think I almost felt the spectators weren't quite ready for it to end quite yet. Although many would have been happy for me, they would have loved to see more tennis. I had to go through the third set, which was tough, but eventually I made it, which felt probably even better going through three sets. "

After the US open loss to Djokovic:

After losing a 2-0 set lead to go to the 5th set and being up a break, serving with two match points,
"Sure, it’s disappointing, but I have only myself to blame... It’s just one of those matches, you know. I mean, I set it all up perfect, but I couldn’t finish it."

Finally, Roger Federer is human. He can't be expected to have a super performance every time he steps on the court. But when he does have it, it is a wonder to watch, and I'm thankful for being able to see tennis played at this level. Also thankfully in this era, as in others, there are many other players with varying games able to lift their game to a high level as well, and we the fans get to enjoy it all.

Last edited by masterclass; 12-05-2011 at 03:18 PM.
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