Roger Federer plays Alexander Zverev in the finals of the Rogers Cup in Montreal today, and frankly, I do not even care whether he wins or not! I just want to see him execute those jaw dropping shots in that aggressive and inimitable playing style of his.
Roger Federer in the post-Sampras era
Roger Federer continues to defy age and the concept of how tennis can be played, on super slow courts, with crazy top-spin producing string technology. Modern day tennis was tailor made for the grinders and retrievers cast in the mold of warriors like Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic who display their warrior like persona unabashedly on the court and do just about all that it takes to put the next ball into play. Tennis became a war of attrition after the Sampras era, and court surfaces were made slower to support longer rallies. Even Wimbledon was made to tow the line and slow down its courts.
The genesis of Roger Federer’s transformation
Roger was happy to slug it out from the baseline with the likes of Djokovic and Nadal and won more than his fair share of the battles against them.
However, towards the end of 2013 and at the ripe old age of 32, Federer finally realized, what he should have by 2009, that he could not keep up with the retrievers and grinders from the base line and needed to change his playing strategy if he wanted to win a few more slams. He even hired Stefan Edberg to bring about a change in perspective and playing style. Federer is an accomplished volleyer and expert at moving forward and approaching the net and didn’t need to be taught all that. However, Federer needed the assurance and peripheral guidance of hard core serve and volley giant that his decision to go ultra aggressive was the right one.
Federer realized that the backhand was the key
I believe that the gradual emergence of the new Roger Federer avatar, we see in 2017, began in early 2014, and culminated with his 2016 injury inflicted time off, which allowed him the time to analyze the changes he needed to make to stay relevant on the tour by continuing to win slams. The presence of Lubjcic, in his team, helped Roger obtain the perspective of a player who had faced him as a competitor. It did not take much for Federer to realize that he’d need to make all parts of his game aggressive. Therefore, retooling of his backhand to be able to face the barrage of top spin heavy balls targeted to his backhand wing was a prerequisite.
He had to strengthen his backhand and turn it into a weapon because using it is a neutralizing shot to give himself time to recover was unsustainable. The effort paid off, and today we’ll get to see yet another display of his aggressive net rushing and half volleys to take time away from his opponents, and that flattish backhand which is perhaps as dangerous, and even more versatile, as his much-feared forehand.
Roger Federer versus Alexander Zverev
It will be interesting to see which aspect of Federer’s game the young Alexander Zverev will be attacking today. The way I see it, Federer has won quite a few matches recently and, he is due for one of those bad days which are inevitable in pro-tennis, and he could lose any day now, but the match will still be on his racket. In fact, Roger could play either the Nadal of 2013 or Djokovic of 2014-15, the way he has been playing lately, the match would still be on his racket.
Conclusion: Roger Federer wins in 3 sets