Once again, Roger Federer seems to be getting better and better. How many times have we said it? What makes this the best return of them all, is the fact that Roger is 36 this year, and has spent nearly the entire 2016 year on the sidelines with injuries. So how has he done it?
JustBall has spent the last few months tracing back and watching Federer compete and train and it is somewhat very different to the Federer we knew 5 years ago. Over these months, we have collected some data and have decided upon 3 main areas of Federer’s game that has changed the most.
- Ivan Ljubicic
Ljubicic had been previously working with Milos Raonic. During their time together, Raonic stormed his way into the Worlds Top 10 and for the first time made the Semi Final at Wimbledon. This could be seen as a successful relationship; however, the pair decided it was time to part ways. Cue – Roger Federer.
In an open interview with Ljubicic, Ivan explains how he had a serious chat with Federer to explain where he believes Roger is at and where he could go in the near future. Ljubicic explained to Federer that he believes he has ‘always played too many Forehands’, and that he ‘doesn’t believe he can beat Rafael Nadal in a 5 set match’. It’s fascinating to uncover this information, because as we know now, these are two areas of Federer’s game that have completely changed. This leads us onto the next area.
2. The Backhand
Quite possibly the most obvious change in Federer’s game. But what is the change? We have studied the Federer backhand of 5 years ago and have compared it to his 2017 backhand. Whether or not Ljubicic has changed the backhand technically remains a secret, and we have struggled to find any differences with the way it looks, however we believe the biggest development is his belief. Have you noticed the way Federer is now enjoying being inside the baseline when he hitting his backhand? The old Federer of 5 or more years ago would be prone to a ‘shank’ and would be much more comfortable letting the ball drop, behind the baseline to give himself time. However, Federer is now stepping into the court and taking the ball on top of the bounce to take time away from his opponent, allowing him to be aggressive and for him to either move up the court or look for his favoured Forehand.
Below is a table showing the stats of Federer’s backhand of matches won. The BHP is calculated in several ways. Add one point for a winner or an opponent’s forced error, subtract one for an unforced error, add a half-point for a backhand that set up a winner or opponent’s error on the following shot, and subtract a half-point for a backhand that set up a winning shot from the opponent. Divide by the total number of backhands, multiply by 100*, and the result is net effect of each player’s backhand. As you can see, Federer’s win against Nadal in the Australian Open shows his best statistics to date. We haven’t included the data from his Indian Wells and Miami matches as of yet, but we are sure that the stats are very similar that of his AO Final.
3. The Racket
Federer has famously used the Wilson Pro Staff his entire career, similar to that of Pete Sampras. The Pro Staff he has used over the years has ranged from 340g to 360g, a very heavy racket that he has favoured for many years.
However the biggest change in his racket is the head size. Federer has often used a 90sqin head size, a considerably smaller head than most, if not all of his closer rivals. A small head size can lead to easy mishits as it has challenges a players timing to the maximum. However, with the new RF97 Autograph racket being his own design, and with a head size of 97sqin, it is no wonder he is inside the court, hitting backhands that are bouncing above his head. Some may argue that if he had changed his racket 10 years ago, he may have won more grand slams. With the design being his own, the specifications being made specific to his own game and style, along with the bigger head and knew found confidence, we can see how his game is forever evolving even at the age of 35. At his age, a lot of players can be ‘stuck in their way’ and will struggle to allow themselves to change and develop. Not Federer.
We have thoroughly enjoyed watching Roger Federer play over the last year. It is great for Sport, not only Tennis, to see an older man with such class improve beyond his own dreams. It goes to show that no matter how old you are, if you have the passion and the drive, you can improve and better yourself. If Federer continues to train and play the way he is doing, who knows what he can win in 2017. At this rate Roger will be playing into his 50s, and as coaches, players and fans ourselves, he is the one player we could watch everyday, all day.