where are you seeing fed`s more significant improvements, say, from last year?
is the return better? and also what about the backhand? or is he simply more confident?
Federer's BH was tearing down Nadal's FH. A novelty. His return was pretty good with his BH as well. At almost 31, Federer is still improving his BH. Federer's FH is still awesome.
Can't disagree too much here Mr. reery. I think the BH analysis is especially true when the ball hasn't been bouncing so high on him, as in the last 2 matches at Indian Wells where the unusually cool, windy and more humid weather helped keep the ball down. With the wind, it's more difficult for players to manage a big looping topspin.
Aside from that, here is where I think Mr. Federer has improved since the US Open:
On the whole, he has gotten much better at successfully fencing in his mental lapses, walkabouts, losses of focus, whatever you want to call them. Yes, he still has them, but for shorter periods than before, where he was going away for 1 or even 2 sets in a 5 set major. As he progressed during late 2011 through the WTF, he was dropping his level for perhaps two games or so at most. Of course this is still long enough to lose a close set, like he did to Tsonga at WTF. But what he has managed to do better and better, is toughen up and put an end to it to his drops in level, and I think it has mostly been his strength of serve that has helped him recover his mental focus.
Since the Davis Cup in Switzerland it has even been better, where his level might drop for a few points here and there, maybe a game, but again he recovers.
Another key is that his tiebreaker mentality
appears to have improved. Believe it or not, I think his decision in Rotterdam to play a 2 super tiebreaker exho mid tournament with the Dutchman Igor Sijsling after Youzhny withdrew, helped him toughen up mentally in tiebreakers thereafter. He is 4 out of 5 in tiebreakers since that day, beating Llodra and Del Potro in 2 of them, in Dubai, and Isner at Indian Wells, only losing to the huge serving Raonic early at Indian Wells.
Last, but not least, as he has been winning more and more, his confidence
has naturally steadily risen, which also helps him get over the tough spots.
His serve has been clutch, especially since after the Davis Cup in Switzerland. It's helped him get out of the situations where his aggressive groundstrokes that turn into unforced errors have put him behind. He is varying his serve, I think, as well as he has ever done. He can bring the heat when he needs it, but he is even better at placing it when he needs to do so.
Return of serve:
On his return of serve, his initial return has been clutch when he needs it. His blocking shot has never been better in my opinion. He is generally hitting the defensive floater less than he had been, which I think is good. Better to have a bit riskier shot to take time away from the server, then to just float a return back, unless the serve is just too good.
He seems to be better at judging when to take the ball early and go for a shot, vs. returning to keep the ball in play until he can work himself into a better strategic position. His short hop returns when he is standing on the baseline and a ball comes at him deep are really disheartening to the opponent as they come back almost as fast as they were hit. He seems to be more confident using his backhand topspin as long as the ball isn't coming at him too high. His forehand seems to be more explosive when he needs it to be, and I think he is only floating the ball back when he is absolutely has no choice.
There's probably more, but I'll leave that for someone else...