In a previous article we wrote about the reasons we believe played the highest roles in making Djokovic go to where he is today. Today, in similar fashion, we do the same for the Swiss maestro. We understand that the title of this article is a massive understatement, but we don't want to upset the Djokovic fans out there who might be reading this!
Federer has this uncanny ability to predict where the ball is going to go to, unmatched and incomparable by the standards of even the likes of Djokovic or Nadal. Often in Federer matches, you would see him moving towards the where the ball would be directed towards, even before its being contacted by the opponent's racket (and thus any tangible hint at how the shot would be directed). My personal variant of this is his serve predictions, in which he would predict where the serve would go (with seemingly eagle-sharp accuracy), get into position way before the serve to hit a smashing runaround return, exposing himself to an extremely dangerous level and yet getting it right. I might not have seen enough tennis matches, but I can definitely make the claim that I have never seen anyone done such kind of a return before - not to talk about the frequency with which this has been done by Federer!
In our opinion, Federer has the best forehand on the tool. The forehand is most obviously effective to our eyes when it is most destructive. The smashing forehand shots that could propelled down or seemingly laterally at rocket speed, before skidding off the court just as quickly. The relatively greater ease by which Federer could pull off such a 'flat' shot when compared to other similarly ranked players is due to the nature of his forehand grip - which is rather unconventionally halfway between the semi-western and eastern grips. Credits however should also go to his exceptional movement. He moves about like water, was what a commentator commentating his 2004 US Open final with Hewitt made of such. The ease and efficiency with which he gets to the balls saves him ample time to set himself up in positions from which such shots could be executed. One other reason for the effectiveness of Federer's forehand is its versatility. A further elaboration on this point is hard, as many of the shots produced defy any conventional categories of categorization. Just take for instance this whatever-forehand-you-call-this shot which finished the point, in the video below
One undeservedly neglected aspect of Federer's greatness is his serve. A former tennis coach of mine once said that the most important shot in a tennis player's repertoire, when a serious match is concerned, is the serve, which I very thoroughly agree with. It is the shot that makes or breaks the player in the match. It is not for nothing that qualified tennis commentators pay so much attention to the first serve percentages in tennis match analyses. A tennis serve does not necessarily have to lead to an non-return to break the player. A weak return as a result of a punishing serve can put the server in a position to finish the point or hit a series of finishing points. A great server would does be more likely to win matches - the record never lies. Buried under the long list of accolades and achievements of Roger Federer is the fact that he is the second in the all-time rankings of having the most aces served, with over 10,000 career aces under his belt as of now. His serve is not powerful, and thus the more unkeen/inexperienced eye may not spot its effectiveness, but it gets things done with his precision. I love the way my dear colleague put it:
If Roddick's serves are atomic bombs, Federer's are smart missiles. - Roger So (Rovo intern)
The one quality that believe is the main reason why Federer is where is his, and the continuance of such: his passion for the game. Whenever he is interviewed in any form about the game, there is very often a reference by him to how the thing driving him is passion. 'I'll just go out there and have fun' or something of that sort is said by him often enough we believe it should be seen as a trademark of his. He already has 19 grand slam titles, more than anyone could ever dream of, ever. Even Nadal does not come close (a difference in grand slam titles of 3 is very substantial, especially when you are already in your 30s, in which case the distance becomes practically unbridgeable.) Why does he want to play more? Sampras stopped at the 'perfect moment' (his own words). However we believe its a code phrase for saying there is no more value in competing given the impossibility of taking his achievements to the next level. Federer does not see his career to such a utilitarian extent. Hard work he puts in, but more importantly he is having, and this organic approach to the game is what we believe, the main driver of his excellence, and also longevity.
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