The Many Styles of Roger Federer (Part 2)


2004 - 2009

The years from 2004 to 2009 could be considered the golden age of Federer for Federer. During this rather long time span, Federer was only not in a grand slam for three times (the 2004 French Open second round loss, and the Australian Open semifinal losses of 2005 and 2008). Driving such exceptional consistency of excellent performance, we argue, is his playing style during this time which is equally as golden. In fact, the playing style which propelled his revival in 2017 was a renaissance in imitation of his playing style from 2004-2009. This was the all courter period of Federer, with variety Federer-style at its best. Although, it may not seem like it, as Federer is typically seen playing from the baseline, that does not mean that Federer has a baseline playing style (which is typically associated with the likes of Djokovic and Murray, you get the point.) This time of almost complete (extra-Nadal) dominance by Federer was made possible by him being completely unpredictable and having no weaknesses (apart from Nadal), which is basically an all-court playing style in its most purest form. The all-courter by definition is a tennis player who by nature and/or volition refuses to limit his playing style into any category most comfortable to him, but has this mindset and motivation to make use of whatever the playing environment has to offer him.

As a result, there is nothing distinguishing about Federer's game except when style is concerned. Let's just put ourselves in the shoes of a player facing Roger Federer of that period on the other end of a court in a match. We hit to his backhand, what do we expect? Experience and perhaps some analysis of textbook reactions to such a shot of ours would tell us that such a ball would most definitely be returned to our backhand side, with the greatness of the angle of the shot dependent on how angled our shot was. As such, we would be able to position ourselves in that optimal spot on the baseline which gives us the highest probability of being able to return all the shots in their possible landings. However, this textbook rule does not apply even in the slightest bit (we cannot emphasize this more emphatically) to Roger Federer. True, it would be most easy and convenient for him to react in the textbook way as described above, but to Federer the ordinary is best be done with as much as possible. For instance, if our shot to Federer's backhand is very angled, he could either hit a very strong backhand return down the center into our body, down the line to our forehand side, or hit an even more angled ball straight back to our backhand. The probabilities of him hitting each shot are all equal because they so unknowable.

This has given virtually all those unfortunate enough to be pitted against him major troubles, for their playing styles are typically built on and meant for rallies in which probabilities are a huge factor in determining shot decisions. Thus, playing against Federer would not only disrupt your rhythm, but also the whole orientation of yourself within the game. That explains why no one has actually beat Federer at his very best in the moments when he performs best (this topic of Federer not faring as well in the smaller tournaments vis-a-vis the grand slams would be coming up in a later blog article) except for three men. The reasons why they beat Federer would be covered in a later blog article too, so ... stay tuned! And as always, feel free to chat us up on Facebook!

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