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Is Federer All Alone in his Style of Play

Everyone is marvelled at Federer's fantastic record but it is no surprise if you think not to far back at Pete Sampras dominance and John McEnroe's, who also played great all round games. One of the characteristics that separates these players from others is their uncanny ability to perform at their best under extreme pressure and win the "big points" especially at the "Big Four" (the Grand Slams).They all have or had big weapons, the courage and clarity of mind to use them when they most needed them or when they mentally, would/will do the greatest damage to their opponents.For example, in the last US Open Björn Borg played, John McEnroe used his creativity as one of his weapons against Borg. The match was at a very tight crucial moment with Borg realizing that he would not win from the baseline and feeling pressured to come to the net. Borg did just that with a great approach shot up the line to John's forehand, which McEnroe responded with a weak cross court passing, Borg volleyed solid up the line for what should have been a winner and moved in closer to the net for the kill.

McEnroe somehow managed to get to the ball and strike an incredible backhand topspin lob over the head of a surprised, flat footed, stunned Bjorn Borg! After that there were many interesting points in that match, but that lob took the soul out of Borg and showed him that all doors to US Open heaven were shut! When Borg walked back to the baseline he knew he had lost the match and not much long after that tournament he retired from professional tennis.Pete Sampras did the same kind of mental damage during his vomiting session to Corretja at the US Open 96, in his crying session to Courier at the Australian Open 95 and in a number of different occasions to the likes of Ivan Lendl, Boris Becker, Agassi, Rafter, Henman and others. Petes greatest weapon was his second serve, you may say, "What about the first?" Pete's second serve was what allowed him to go left and right for aces with his first serve at the "big points". So sure he was that he would not miss his second service as well as of the quality of it, that he had no fear of his opponents return! This great confidence in his second service, allowed him the luxury to even ace his challengers with his second service in the climax of pressure.

Needless to say, this was disheartening, frustrating and mind boggling to his despondent adversaries.In 1990 in Milano I saw the begining of the effective use of such weapons, when Pete threatened Lendl into a 3rd set, which was continued in Philadelphia where he defeated a baffled Agassi shaking his head, changing from side to side barely touching a ball on the return. Two matches later there was more of the same in the final against Andres Gomez. At year's end using similar tactics and weapons Pete culminated his season with the crown at the US Open.Federer today with his "unique" game (a throw back to the 60's and 70's tennis) demonstrates that the all around game is a tremendous challenge for today's players, because a large majority of them are totally inept at dealing with the short cross slice backhand as well as the low slice on their forehands (due to extreme grips), which makes them prey to attacks and winners! At his best Roger's refined "repertoire" can drive the most stall worth Hewitt, Ferrero, Nalbandian, Gaudio, Gonzales, Nadal into submission, if not into total embarrassment! This implicates the possibility that many players of the past e.

g. Rod Laver, Lew Hoad, Ken Rosewall, Roy Emerson, John Newcombe , Ilie Nastase, John McEnroe, just to mention a few, would be a great challenge to many of today's top hard hitting players.To substantiate my theory, in Davis Cup around 1988(?) maybe ailing unfit and "old" Victor Pecci, a much lesser player then the names above, demonstrated the vulnerabilities of a young Michael Chang and "modern tennis". Later on Jim Grab mainly a doubles specialist did the same by neutralizing Chang with the soft slice and attacking with low slices down the line or up the center of the court. Basically humiliating Michael into losing to a guy with slow movement "soft" hands but with solid volleys.

This does not mean that today's players are worthless or their games are stupid. Today's top players are great like in any other era. The game changed tremendously; extreme grips, power, topspin, the cross-court percentage play and waist level bouncing balls became common place, nevertheless the challenge of a low slice ball, a good mix of attacks from a creative Roger Federer has just proven overwhelming to them. Today's coaches and aspiring players should definitely follow the lead from Roger Federer and adopt his game and refined tactics, it will make for a much more varied and challenging future breed of tennis players as well as far more exciting game to watch for the spectator's.

Agassi in an interview about Federer, sheds some light on the challenges Federer's all round game presents to baseliners and aggressive baseliners. AA: "But, you know, with that being said, he hit an inside-out winner at 30-Love, 4-2 in the third set that found the line. He hit a few up the line. He hits that short chip, moves you forward, moves you back. He uses your pace against you. If you take pace off, so that he can't use your pace, he can step around and hurt you with the forehand.

Just the amount of options he has to get around any particular stage of the match where maybe something's out of sync is -- seems to be endless."."You know, that's my point, I was safe for a long time out there just hitting a dumpy second serve to the backhand and getting into the point. Then at any point he can decide, "Well, I want to make you worry about that.

" He had the breeze on his back. He just stayed through that ball and hit it up the line."."You know, and then the next couple points, because he has -- you know he's going to step up, you have that little extra pressure to do a little bit more with the ball, to push it through the wind, and to get it deep because you don't want to leave anything hanging against him on either wing.

And, you know, you make a couple errors because you're trying to play too good. And then just for good measure he did it at 6-1 in the tiebreaker."."So anything that you're trying to execute out there only lasts for a period of time till he makes the adjustment. Then you have to change it.

All the while, everything you're planning on doing, you have to do well and you have to do it start to finish. So that's, you know -- you can only say it so many ways. You know, that's too good.

"."Q. You said in order to beat him, something needs to be off. Was something off in his game at one point tonight?.

AA: No. You just got to do it for a long time. I mean, you know, this is not -- a match is a complicated thing. There are a lot of ebbs and flows in it.

There's a lot of -- but ultimately, the person that brings the most the most amount of times, you know, is going to win that. He just brings a lot all the time for all the options he has. And while there are periods that you can have him on the fence, his options when he's on the fence is better than most, better than most.

"."You have to respect not just his abilities, but you also have to respect what goes into all the pieces that make him the factor he is, you know. I mean, and that's the mindset. It is the focus.

It is the, you know, the knowing when to play, when not to play. It's pulling out of tournaments as you prepare to peak for other tournaments. You know, he's made a lot of good decisions, and he certainly is maximizing all the arsenal that he has.

And I can't say it surprises me because I don't know him, but it certainly amazes me.".Having read that, tennis is only a game and you are what you allow your opponent to do. Brad Gilbert was Boris (Boom-Boom) Becker black sheep and in the summer of 1989 he humilliated the tennis elite by winning 6 ATP tournaments and beating almost every top ten player. Without a powerful forehand, but with the ability to draw great players into his game, make them lose confidence in their shot making, raising their unforced error quota to unsustainable levels and producing some superb passing shots. Brad with very intelligent tactics, drew incredible wins from Great Champions that on paper were vastely better then him.

In the past there were a few players capable of doing the same to the very best of their era:.Ramanathan Krishnan (not to be confused with his son Ramesh), Willy Alvarez (famous Coach from the Sanchez boys), Corrado Barazutti and an infamous Zuleta just to name a few. These players made many of the very best look meek, despondent and frustrated in defeat.

Adjustments are being made by players and coaches that will make tennis ever more interesting. Basel Open 2005 gave me an insight on what's to come and it looks as if in the future tennis will be a much more exciting and varied game.Power is important but power is not all in tennis! Tennis is a game of skills, tactics/strategies, fitness, speed, intelligence, quick thinking, creativity, therefore opening the possibility for many of the players from the past to prevail on some surfaces and not on others against the likes of Federer, Sampras, Agassi, Courier, Nadal and many others.Martina Navratilova, a great champion, epithomizes the ultimate learner of the game, once said:.

"Why," she was asked, "are you still doing this at 46?"."Life. We're lucky to be here. It's about learning and our time is limited.

I'm still learning, to do better, still studying strategy. I'm technically better now than I was in my heyday. You know I hit a shot against [Jana] Novotna at Wimbledon last year when I played. After the game she said: 'What was that, I've never seen it before?' I said I only learned to play it a few days ago. The key was the grip but you never stop learning the game.

You have to have talent, but if you haven't the heart to explore the talent it's all a waste of time.".I almost forgot to say, Federer is not alone in his style of play, he is in very good company with the likes of: Rod Laver, Lew Hoad, Ken Rosewall, Roy Emerson, John Newcombe, Ilie Nastase, John McEnroe, Boris Becker, Stefan Edberg, Pete Sampras, Pancho Gonzales and many other greats!.Hope you are willing to develop your talent, enjoy "The Game".Copyright © 1999-2005®.

All rights reserved.

.Sérgio Cruz is ex # 1 National Champion, Davis Cup Player from Portugal and former Coach Jim Courier ATP World# 1 For comments or ideas about this article please email the author at or visit http://www.tenniscruz.


By: Sergio Cruz


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