2017: The Neo All-courter (Remix)
In the previous articles of this series we wrote about how Roger Federer's reversion to the playing style used during his most golden years drove his resurgence starting from 2014. This Renaissance did not just stop there, as most of us must have thought was the case back then, but was ramped up yet another level. In 2017, after a half-year absence from the game, Roger Federer stunned the world with his wins at the Australian Open and Wimbledon championships. What was stunning however is his victory over Nadal in every single match they encountered. Nadal has clearly not deteriorated in standards - his winning of the French and US opens are proof of that - so what changed in Federer? Let's find out!
The change in Federer did not come in the form of a different style, but utilizing to a greater level the style that has been in place since 2014
More of those angled shots
In deference to his approach all along since 2014, Federer is trying to cut the rallies shorter as usual albeit to a more intense degree. In 2017, it seems as though Federer was trying to finish the point literally from the very start, and although this involves a lot more deep hard-hitting than usual, angled shots played a role as significant. In 2014, this ideal was aimed at but only executed in full-blown fashion. Normal rally-shots were still the norm, and you would see Federer often just willingly sink into a stable rally. The contrast will no doubt be best felt when comparing Federer's performances in the 2014 and 2017 Australian Open semi-final matches against Rafael Nadal.
Federer is also hitting closer to the lines from 2017, one aspect of the ramp-up of his overall level of aggression. Often times when you watch a Federer match during that time or now, you would see it hit so close to the baseline an opponent just a short distance away simply could be bothered. Ironically, this is a trait characteristic of the more amateurish players who cannot find the right balance between what is too far or wide, or are naturally intoxicated by the notion that power is everything. To be fair that it does feel easy to be consistent with one's ability to hit balls that land very close to the baseline without going out. However from my experience, such easiness is very much dependent on a non-competitive environment. Pressure does strange things, and for some reason I cannot replicate such 'performance' in competitive matches. Federer's ability to do so is a function of a either a super-human hand-eye coordination, or a level of inner confidence so strong the natural human inclination to be affected by pressure gets thrown out of the window.
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