Federer Calls For Faster Courts and Less Defensive Play

“It’s an easy fix. Just make quicker courts, then it’s hard to defend,” Federer said. “Attacking style is more important. It’s only on this type of slow courts that you can defend the way we are all doing right now.”

Wow, when Federer says that the courts are slow even on an indoor hard surface that is a heavy lambasting of the state of the playing field in today’s game. Djokovic even described his play as “passive” in thwarting Fed at the year-ending event.

“He’s somebody that is very aggressive, that likes to finish points very quickly,” Djokovic said. “But I managed to get a lot of shots back into the court, being passive, a couple meters behind the baseline. … That was one of the goals tonight, to always try to get him into the longer rallies where I think I had the better chance.”

I agree wholeheartedly with Fed here. I’d like to see more attacking play. When a Top 4 guy like Murray wins the U.S. Open by basically retreating on every ball hit around the service line, than something smells fishy in Flushing Meadow. I love tennis, but I took particular glee in Paris when serve and volleyer Llodra made it to the semis.

Maybe the state of the courts had gotten too fast in the Sampras, Ivanisivic and Kraijicek days, but now it has clearly gone in the other direction. I say enough of these five-hour matches. Let’s reward the versatile player who can also play the net.

“What you don’t want is that you hit 15 great shots and at the end, it ends up in an error,” he said. “So I think sometimes quicker courts do help the cause. I think it would help from time to time to move to something a bit faster. That would help to learn, as well, for many different players, different playing styles, to realize that coming to the net is a good thing, it’s not a bad thing.”

Let’s say hello to quick agile forays to net and some touch, where a player is required to develop a short game. Otherwise, we have Junior Development coaches like Pat McEnroe saying that you can’t make it in today’s game unless you can rally 35 balls back and forth from the baseline.

Is that really the best style of game we tennis fans want to watch? Is it the most entertaining? Let’s reward the Federer’s, Llodra’s and Fish’s and make the game more athletic and artistic again by adding some faster surfaces on the tour, particularly at the outdoor hard court slams and at Wimbledon.



  • Steve · November 14, 2012 at 5:36 pm

    Yes, let’s make Wimby fast again and put some of the Masters events on fast, indoor carpet. Every tennis fan I talk to wants the differences between clay and grass to be more exaggerated just like in the old days. Fed’s career began when the courts were still fast so he’s experienced the change. There was talk they tried to slow things down at Wimby by changing the balls too but f#ck that. Let’s get Goran out of retirement.

    There’s a place for 35 stroke rallies but there should also be a place for first strike tennis.

  • Thomas Tung · November 14, 2012 at 7:06 pm

    Well said, Steve and Dan.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 14, 2012 at 8:24 pm

    I thought the 02 courts were considered fast weren’t they? Why would they slow them down this year? For what possible reason? Having a little trouble accepting this, could it be sour grapes? The chip and charge worked vs. Murray for Fed. I saw Fed hitting winners in the final, he just needed to hit more without missing. Whatever court they play on, Djokovic is just a little better than Fed, as reflected in the rankings and season head to head.

  • Dan Markowitz · November 14, 2012 at 10:45 pm

    Look, I don’t see how you can make an argument that Fed wouldn’t beat Djoko 7 out of 10 times on even this slow Wimby court. But let’s speed everything up: the courts and the balls and let’s get some indoor tennis back in the states that matters.

    We used to have great events in NYC, Philadelphia, and San Francisco and now there’s nothing. Why can’t the indoor season be played in the Northeast and Northwest, too?

  • Steve · November 15, 2012 at 8:55 am

    Scoop, he wasn’t talking specifically about the 02 courts but the surfaces & courts in general. I didn’t detect sour grapes in this instance as he’s also has strong defensive skills.

    I don’t think the Mcenroe of old could have a career today with almost every point a long rally from the baseline. It’s much easier to pass a guy a net with extra time.

    Djoker started and finished the year strong. Did he break any records, Scoop? Fed set several new records this year.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 15, 2012 at 9:13 am

    Complaining about the speed of courts is a clever sophisticated way to make excuses. To heck with the whining about the speeds of the courts, just play tennis, it’s the same for everybody. Just zip it up and PLAY TENNIS!

  • Mitch · November 15, 2012 at 10:30 am

    It’s hardly complaining or making excuses; Fed was just responding to a question about why tennis had shifted from being offensive to defensive. I agree with most of Scoop’s point, except that offensive tennis is more athletic than defensive. Djokovic, Nadal, and Murray’s defensive skills personify athleticism.

  • mat4 · November 15, 2012 at 11:55 am

    The speed of the courts in certainly not the only factor in the death of net rushing. The luxilon strings are much more important, the insane spin that can be generate, the unimaginable control of the ball just ten years ago.

    But, it really seems that there is not end to it: the FO and Paris Bercy were slowed down this year, the WTF, IW… The USO a few years ago.

    And Dan, Djokovic, who is a placement player and doesn’t have the kind of power Murray and DelPo have, is also clearly disadvantaged.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 15, 2012 at 1:32 pm

    Then when they change the equipment and speed up the surfaces and tennis becomes all offense, will there be complaints that tennis is not defensive enough? I like it just the way it is, tennis has never been better.

  • mat4 · November 15, 2012 at 1:56 pm

    I didn’t meant that, Scoop. I believe that it is just a question of balance and of diversity. I certainly didn’t enjoy the tennis era 15 years ago, and I am horrified at the thought that serving well could be enough to become a top 10.

  • Steve · November 15, 2012 at 2:15 pm

    “Djokovic, who is a placement player and doesn’t have the kind of power Murray and DelPo have, is also clearly disadvantaged.” Actually Djoker can hit laser bolts off the ground and certainly hits as hard as Murray. He’s got placement and power and defense.
    It’s more the Murray & Nadal that might struggle as they can be beaten with pace sometimes.

  • mat4 · November 15, 2012 at 2:26 pm


    IMHO, you are utterly wrong ;-)

    Come on, Steve: the difference in power between Murray and Rafa, on one side, and Djokovic, on the other, is nearly abysmal.

    Just look at them: Djokovic is a middleweight, Rafa and Murray are heavyweights. They are about twenty pounds heavier.

    It is obvious even when they chase balls in defence: Djokovic has to stretch when Murray or Rafa make easy gets.

  • Steve · November 15, 2012 at 3:10 pm

    No, Djoker hits huge. Even years ago and the bloggers here love to mention his powerful return against Fed in the 2011 US Open.

    Rafa has to make amazing gets against Fed too he just doesn’t do the splits.

    Murray has improved his forehand recently and can serve big but still defaults to junk when the new game plan fails.

  • Dan Markowitz · November 15, 2012 at 3:33 pm

    I think net-rushing tennis displays more athleticism than baseline tennis. Certainly, today’s baseliners for the most part aren’t Harold Solomon, but who would you say is the better athlete, Rafter or Nadal? I’d go with Rafter, although Nadal can clearly play the net game, too.

    Playing the net well means you have speed, agility, touch and great reflexes. Playing the baseline well means you’re fast and can rally which don’t require as many athletic skills.

  • mat4 · November 15, 2012 at 4:16 pm


    Novak is very able to use the pace of the opponents balls. But, e.g. the average speed of his FH is 10 miles slower than Berdych’s. The strategy both Murray and Nadal use against him is to slice, to deny him pace. Just remember what Rafa does to Roger’s sliced backhand, and compare.

    Novak’s fastest FH (he hit it once at 180 km/h, in Rome last year, against Soderling) is his running FH, but he used Sod’s pace there.

  • Steve · November 15, 2012 at 5:25 pm

    Exactly, Djoker can hit laser bolts. He can also inject his own power when needed as he does to Gasquet all the time.

    Sure Berdych, Delp & Solderling are gonna hit a bigger ball but Murray & Nadal have no power advantage on groundies. In fact, I have a whole match on DVD from years ago where Djoker(back when he used a Wilson) crushes the ball without any strategy behind it.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 15, 2012 at 5:56 pm

    I think Djokovic does have the power of Delpo or Berdych or Murray or Fed, he just opts only to use it in certain situations. He plays more for control than to smash. A lot of top boxers do this too, they don’t throw most of their punches at full velocity, they try to set it up.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 15, 2012 at 5:59 pm

    I say Rafa is the better athlete than Rafter. Rafter’s backhand always looked a little mediocre or shaky, while nothing in Rafa’s arsenal looks mediocre. Rafa has better movement than Rafter too.

  • mat4 · November 15, 2012 at 6:24 pm

    He played a different game with the Wilson.

    First, he could hit flatter than he does today. His serve was a bit bigger too.

    But the twi most important things are, one, that he has a more elaborate vision of his strategy now: in a rally, he doesn’t only trade shots, but he opens angles whenever he can, and his combinations of shots are completely elaborated after his serve; two, he has changed his balance, the way he moves. Tsonga said it: he’s the same guy, he just runs faster.

    But there is no question that he doesn’t have the power of Tsonga, Murray, DelPo or Berdych.

  • mat4 · November 15, 2012 at 6:28 pm

    Djokovic needs a higher rebound to hit flat and fast.

    Anyway, some commented once that he plays “almost winners” most of the time, opting, it’s true, for more security on his shots.

  • Dan Markowitz · November 15, 2012 at 7:15 pm

    It’s hard to argue that anyone is a better athlete than Nadal, but for me, Rafter, with his power (he hits the serve a lot more fluidly and effectively than Nadal), ability to pick up low volleys and his touch at the net, is a hellava an athlete.

    It’s hard to judge who’s the greatest athlete. A guy like Ali probably wouldn’t have done well in a Superstar competition because he couldn’t sprint that well, probably didn’t swim too much and his tennis game was probably nil.

    I’m always amazed at a person who can play two sports at a pro level. Danny Ainge, Dave DeBusschere, Bo Jackson and the sprinter, Bob Hayes, as well as Deion Sanders, come to mind.

  • Steve · November 15, 2012 at 7:28 pm

    Yes, Djoker plays smarter now but he still has the same abilities he had then on the ground. Not sure why you think Murray is Mr.Power off the ground. Surely you know that Djoker has a more powerful and, more importantly, a better backhand. Only recently has Murray juiced up his forehand. Murray’s true skills are variety, junk and playing possum.

    Modern technology has allowed Davydenko, whose about a buck 50, to serve 130mph so Murray having 15 pounds on Djoker doesn’t mean much. Superior technique trumps some extra pounds. Also, you all need to re-assess Murray’s movement. He moves like a Giraffe in heat. Speedy but incredibly awkward.

  • mat4 · November 15, 2012 at 8:00 pm


    I am a Djoker fan, but I tend to believe that Murray has a more powerful and better backhand, especially his sliced BH. He is reluctant to play it down the line, it is true, and that’s Novak’s only advantage here.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 15, 2012 at 8:02 pm

    Steve some smaller guys can boom the serve, ask Dan about Jeff Salzenstein who is 5-10 but had a huge serve. Murray is a great athlete and moves brilliantly like a cat, no awkwardness at all. Andy’s a big strong guy too. These pros all have power shots but they hold back and use it only when they feel necessary. People say that about me all the time, that I’m a pusher, no big weapon, but it’s because I don’t use the big forehand enough, I like to play using only about 75-85% power and I like to mix up speeds and spins. Then others have seen my forehand at 100% and say it’s one of the best in USTA and they say I should use it more. Djokovic has big power, that forehand return vs. Fed on MP down was one of the biggest forehands in tennis history!

  • Dan Markowitz · November 16, 2012 at 5:25 am

    Scoop, I think Jeff would take offense saying he’s 5-10, but he’s not too much bigger. Hey, look, Dolgo hits a big serve, how big is he? And Murray moving like a giraffe in heat, not a bad description, but that guy is an amazing athlete who runs down almost as many balls as Djoker and Nadal.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 16, 2012 at 8:55 am

    Maybe Dr. Ivo moves like a giraffe pranked by a hotfoot but not Murray, Murray runs like a tiger. Dolgo is about 5-11 or 6, maybe 5-10 – he seemed right at my height. It’s all about the arm whip, torque and knee bend. Salzy musta had that.

  • Sidney · November 17, 2012 at 11:27 am

    Hello. I am new here, but I couldn’t keep myself from sharing my thoughts on this topic.

    I agree with Scoop’s points, 100%!

    Scoop says
    “To heck with the whining about the speeds of the courts, just play tennis, it’s the same for everybody. Just zip it up and PLAY TENNIS!”

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 17, 2012 at 2:53 pm

    Haha thanks Sidney! Don’t know how you found us but thanks for your comment and welcome to the site.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 17, 2012 at 8:53 pm

    Just thought of something – Didn’t Fed advise Djok and Rafa “to adapt” to the blue clay conditions Madrid? Maybe Fed should use his own advice and just adapt to the conditions, no?

  • Steve · November 18, 2012 at 10:30 am

    No, Scoop. Fed was asked about why the modern game of the top players is so defensive. He merely answered it. Fed doesn’t whine about this. He gets to the finals and semis no matter the setup.

    Would you like your USTA tourneys to be on slippery, blue clay?

  • Dan Markowitz · November 18, 2012 at 8:25 pm

    I don’t see why the players can’t voice an opinion–not whine–on the state of the courts they’re playing on. Look, you think Stepanek is beating Almagro if the court at the Davis Cup Finals wasn’t very quick. I like having a court fast enough it rewards players who come up to the net.



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