Tennis Prose



Federer Has Never Looked Better

Somehow, someway, Roger Federer has defied the assault of Father Time and continues to play astonishing, elite, best in the world tennis.

Today again, the near 38 year old Federer exhibited another vintage display of his mastery of a sport by trouncing a raging Rafael Nadal 76 16 63 64.

It’s possible Federer has never moved, served or struck the ball any better than he did today. His backhand actually handled his career kryptonite, the Nadal forehand crosscourt. And Federer’s serve was devastating. On top of that, Federer dominated the net.

The conditions seemed to favor Nadal. The Wimbledon court is said to be playing slow, and according to one player, Guido Pella, the courts are getting slower with each passing day. Nadal just manhandled Federer in the French Open, so with these favorable Wimbledon conditions, it’s another credit to Federer that he was able to subdue Nadal again.

Nadal summoned a last stand surge at the end today, staving off two match points in the last two multi-deuce games but Federer’s backhand thrived but his forehand administered the most damage.

Most tennis observers will say that Federer is not as good as he used to be but I think it’s possible the opposite may be true. He is older, wiser, and has more playing experience. He has won many more matches which add confidence. Sure, the Federer in his 20s was probably a little quicker and stronger. But with all the years of yoga, maybe Federer is more agile now. His anticipation and sense may be more acute now.

If Federer can beat Nadal and Novak Djokovic back to back, I think it could prove Federer is in his top form NOW.

If you disagree with this notion, please explain to me the signs or clues that makes you believe Federer has declined. Thank you.

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  • Scoop Malinowski · July 12, 2019 at 4:24 pm

    Fed artwork by artist Karl Rosenstock.

  • Scoop Malinowski · July 12, 2019 at 4:32 pm

    Djokovic-Federer, 25-22

    Grand Slams, 8-7
    Wimbledon, 1-2
    Finals, 12-6

    Federer’s last win vs Djokovic: ATP Finals 2015 RR
    Federer’s last Grand Slam win vs Djokovic: Wimbledon 2012 SF
    Federer’s last win in a final vs Djokovic: Cincinnati 2015

    This final is the first time Federer has ever played Rafa and Djokovic in the same major.

  • Hartt · July 12, 2019 at 4:36 pm

    I commented on another thread about Fed, and of course I was thrilled with his victory today. Outside of that terrible 2nd set walkabout, that had Fed fans cringing, Roger played very well. I don’t think we can say if he was better in his youth or now. He has improved in some areas and probably has declined a bit in others. But the end result is that he is still an amazing player. Now, if he could just win the title!

  • Scoop Malinowski · July 12, 2019 at 7:24 pm

    Hartt, no one can seem to identify any specific areas of decline though. It’s remarkable how much better his backhand is now. Nadal broke it down but Fed fixed it. Still, Nadal leads the head to head in a lopsided count like 24-16 or whatever it is. Still have to say Nadal is simply the better, smarter player despite the L today.

  • Vijay · July 12, 2019 at 9:56 pm

    The real tragedy is that it took a freak injury three odd years ago for Fed to fix his backhand, and to some extent, his volleys. Novak and Rafa have made so many improvements to their games, like with their serves, volleys, net games, slices, and general willingness and ability to change tactics in the middle of a match. I wonder how much more Fed would have won if he had made the change 10 years ago, and if the non-French majors had slightly faster courts.

  • Vijay · July 12, 2019 at 9:58 pm

    Only sign of decline was his body failing him against Millman last year. Otherwise, technically and tactically, he looks sharper than ever.

  • Jeff · July 12, 2019 at 10:10 pm

    It’s silly for all the people to be whining about the dominance of the Big 3. Just enjoy it. Sure it is disheartening for the younger players who many years ago grew up idolizing Djofedal and now continue to get their butts kicked by them. But that’s life.

    The younger kids better improve or continue to fold over the next 5 years.

    In the women’s final, I think Serena will win. She is not losing 3 straight Slam finals. I fear for Simona, she may be in over her head. Serena loves beating these No. 1 ranked players as well. I say Simona wins 5 games, tops

  • Vijay · July 13, 2019 at 12:24 am

    I envy the Big 3’s parents. Not only do their kids win, but they have spent 30+ years watching their respective kids play attractive and elegant tennis. I can’t imagine spending years watching one’s kid moonball for hours or hit strokes like Allison Riske does. For all their dominance, it’s worth emphasizing and appreciating the elegance with which the Big 3 play.

  • catherine · July 13, 2019 at 1:09 am

    Jeff- I agree that it’s silly for people to complain about Fed etc dominance. They’re dominating because they are the best and it’s up to younger players to lift their own games and challenge a little more seriously. I wish the WTA had a similar top 3 who go on year after year but alas there’s only one and she’s probably got retirement in mind.

    Yes, today’s final will most likely be another brief encounter. Simona will do her best but she hasn’t got the weapons and firepower and Serena will be ruthless.

    Women’s Wimbledon has been a bit limp. I might do a pass/fail test on the event later. Plenty of fails.

  • Scoop Malinowski · July 13, 2019 at 7:46 am

    Vijay, overlooked in Federer’s success the last several years is his coach Ljubicic. Looby is the first coach Federer ever had who actually played most of his opponents himself. This has to be a factor though Federer rarely gives Looby any public credit.

  • Scoop Malinowski · July 13, 2019 at 7:47 am

    Vijay, the heat clearly killed Federer vs Millman. It was a close match but I think it was the heat factor that was difference. In Facing Federer, Bjorn Phau revealed how Federer really suffered and struggled in the Citi Open Wash DC heat early in his career.

  • Scoop Malinowski · July 13, 2019 at 7:49 am

    The young ATP players play the living legends with too much respect. They might consider to do it how Hewitt did it, in your face and extremely annoying and bellicose.

  • Scoop Malinowski · July 13, 2019 at 7:53 am

    Catherine, it’s almost like it’s sacrilege to beat Fedalkovic, especially Roger. These are like Gods of tennis. All the young players know how valuable and important Federer is to the profits of the tour and tournaments. And for beating Roger, they will acquire unjust hatred form some fanatics. It’s almost like an honor to play Federer and just be happy playing with him. Very few players have the mindset to destroy and disrespect the master. It would be so interesting if Hewitt was 19 years old right now and the mental approach he would take to playing Federer, Nadal and Djokovic but especially Djokovic. Hewitt did his in your face act on Agassi, Sampras, Moya, the spaniards, Kafelnikov and he got away with it.

  • Vijay · July 13, 2019 at 8:10 am

    Very insightful on both counts, Scoop.

    But what does it say about Fed’s other coaches that they couldn’t convince him to come over the backhand? Apparently his dad has been telling him this for 25 years. (Fed’s dad said this in an ESPN interview a couple of years ago, at Indian Wells.) Haven’t the others also had old coaches who haven’t played recently? It just seems that the others have been more willing to change things over the years, even if only slightly.

  • Hartt · July 13, 2019 at 8:53 am

    The most important change was Fed finally going with a bigger racquet. Once he did that it took him a while to get used to it, but it did help him a lot with his backhand. Another important change was his net game. At one point it seemed as though as soon as he was passed a couple times he lost confidence in going to the net. Having Edberg as a coach was important in improving his net game.

    Ljubicic is an excellent coach. Proof of that is how he and Piatti improved Raonic’s game, taking him to No. 3 in the world. I hope Ivan can help Fed to win this title.

  • Hartt · July 13, 2019 at 10:53 am

    Simona was in the zone today and crushed Serena 6-2, 6-2. Serena’s nerves seemed to get to her, and she was far from her best, but it was more about Simona playing great tennis.

  • catherine · July 13, 2019 at 11:25 am

    Hartt – posted above about this but really, Serena hasn’t been at her best for a long time. Simona saw her chance and just let rip.

  • Leif Wellington Haase · July 13, 2019 at 7:46 pm

    Scoop—I’ll take the challenge on “peak” Federer (roughly 2003-2009) versus current Federer: peak Federer volleyed better, moved better, and hit his inside-out forehand a bit deeper and harder. I believe he also had a faster first serve, both absolutely (this can be checked) and no question relatively compared to the rest of the field.

    However, thanks substantially to his larger racket frame, his backhand (and his down-the-line backhand in particular) has improved greatly and this one improvement may be enough to counterbalance the other very modest declines. He appears to be more consistent off the ground and on his first serve.

    In comparison to his overall greatness Federer has always been a bit of a streaky returner and with the exception of the second set he returned well against Nadal’s improved serve. Against Djokovic he will not only have to serve well (replicating the 75 percent percentage of the first and third sets) but also return well as he is unlikely to hold serve as easily as during the rest of the tournament.

    It was eye-opening to see Federer hold his own and actually outduel Nadal during a majority of the long rallies (and to win two or three of the longest) but that won’t work against Djokovic, who hits flatter and through the court…Federer will need to win a lot of points at net as well.

    If Djokovic maintains the form he has displayed during the rest of the tournament it is hard to see a path to victory for Fed (as has been true for much of the past decade, in which Djokovic has dominated head-to-head) so if Federer can somehow prevail against Djokovic’s “A” or “B” game I’ll happily acknowledge that he is as good or better than ever.

  • Scoop Malinowski · July 13, 2019 at 10:46 pm

    Serena was good enough to cruise to the final. Simona just was better (except serve) in every way today. Major credit to Simona.

  • Scoop Malinowski · July 13, 2019 at 10:58 pm

    Leif, you could be right but to my eye Federer looks as great as ever and possibly great, all the epic battles with Andy, Djok and Rafa and all the other second tier and all the young hungry lions have sharpened Federer and made him even tougher, smarter, wiser, bolder. The foundation is always there but he’s added new layers with all the wins, the confidence, experience. Djokovic is a different animal though and he has Fed’s number in all the big matches since 2015. I see a Djokovic possible domination or four sets. But then again, Fed always raises his level and pushes Djokovic to his limits and forces further greatness from Djokovic. If Fed pulls this off, beating Rafa and then Djokovic in a major for the first time, it will be another special achievement for him.



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