The Many Styles of Roger Federer (Part 3)


2010 - 2013: The Baseliner

These years are deemed by us to be the most tragic for the Federer fans or anyone who gains pleasure from watching Roger Federer. In fact it is arguably also a tragedy for Roger Federer himself, to play a game style that does not utilize his potential to somewhere even close to full. How did he go about 'wasting' such a potential? He did so by adopting a typical baseline game throughout his matches across this period. A disclaimer though - although the baseline game is typically used, there were notable exceptions in which Federer strayed from his orthodox style of that period, such as in the last two rounds of the 2011 French Open championships. It is perhaps no coincidence that 2010 was the first year in series of weak years for Roger Federer - his performance in 2010 being particularly alarming for the Federer fans then! His gameplay during that time is best looked at through his 2010 back-to-back quarterfinal losses to Soldering and Berdych in the French Open and Wimbledon championships respectively. It was more due to Federer incurring a deficit that made those two then very unlikely upsets happen, rather Soldering and Berdych playing more exceptional than usual. Sure, both players had an amazing run during those tournaments, but we believe that a huge propellant of such runs is the immense psychological boost from knowing that they had did what no one else has ever done - both of them ended Federer's 6-year grand slam semi-final streak, and more impressively for Berdych the 2010 Wimbledon championships was the first one for 7 years in which Federer would not play the final.

But first, let's have some word about the playing styles of Soderling and Berdych

Both players are distinguished their tall heights, which are yet not high enough such that their movements are hampered in any significant way. Players of such physique would leverage on his powerful penetrative groundstrokes (which are best played flat) and a powerful serve, in order to play his best tennis. Such players perform best in stabilized rallying situations, as their comfort zone lies within the centre zone of the baseline area. Rallying from and receiving shots from the centre of the court is not only ideal for them due to their relatively more clumsy movement (not too clumsy but their height still makes them less dexterous), but it allows them to play the highest percentage tennis as possible without incurring the risk of being exposed by the angles. In case that might be unclear, the highest percentage point playable would be a cross-court shot, but that also open up the court to his opponent (which would relatively more deadly for him given his relatively impaired movement.) Basically, the longer and more stable the rally, the better it is for these 'giants'. Tragically, during those two quarterfinals, this was precisely the game that Federer gave to them. By generally hogging the baseline throughout almost the entirety of both matches, Federer let himself be overpowered, and his movement dictated. A good strategy against these players would have been to be aggressive from the very start, angle the balls and try to end the rally as soon as possible without being too reckless - a strategy that Federer has been employing to tremendously successful results in the past two years - but for some reason Federer refused to be the adaptive all-courter that he was less than a year ago. His main movement was left-to-right, all at the baseline. He settled into the rallies and tried to outrally them, but got overwhelmed he could even try.

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