With his 3rd straight victory over Nadal, mainly due to Nadal’s unusual inability to exploit Roger’s backhand again, Roger’s backhand has become the talk of the tennis town lately.
I am a thorough fan of the single hander as elucidated in my previous post https://www.138mph.com/backhand-single-vs-double-handed/. And, I still maintain that a tennis prodigy, if truly talented, must be taught the single handed backhand because that’d allow the child to naturally exploit versatility without compromising power. And, over the last 15 years, who can truly match Federer on the talent scale? The single hander was designed for Roger by providence itself and he used it masterfully to win many tournaments until the high-rising left-handed spins of Nadal drove a hole the size of a soccer field right through providence’s design.
Nevertheless Fed always had that backhand and could also take balls on the rise back in 2007 too; however, he never committed himself to that strategy previously and therefore couldn’t reap its rewards. It’s like the serve & volley play which requires that you be prepared to loose 45% of those sojourns to the net in order to win the remaining 55%! The purpose is to put constant pressure on the opponent by rushing to the net; and the idea against Nadal was to put pressure on Nadal by hitting the ball early and on the rise and to not slice it because that would allow Nadal to take control of the point.
So what made Roger stick to the plan now? One of the reasons could be that Roger finally got used to his larger racket frame which gave him an additional 7 to 8 square inches of hitting surface and therefore a little more confidence to go for those backhand shots. However, I believe it also has to do with his changed mindset while playing Nadal.
After six months of injury driven hiatus from the sport Roger simply came to the conclusion that something had to change and that playing safe by slicing the backhand back was just not going to cut it any further, and that added to the realization that these would be his last few years as a pro probably engineered this commitment to “ditch the fear” and “hit, not slice, that backhand early.” There is no doubt in my mind that Roger always knew that taking those backhands early and on the rise could neutralize the high rising and toxic effects of Nadal’s spin and he even tried, on more than many occasions in the past, to execute those on the rise backhands but the smaller racket head and early shanks pushed him back to the “slice and keep them in” strategy!
So is Federer’s backhand better than what it was 9 months ago? Sure, but only because of his commitment to the winning strategy of taking the ball early and on the rise. Once he committed to that strategy his confidence grew and with it the length and accuracy of his backhand shots.
Is Federer’s backhand better than his forehand now? No way, never, and not a chance.
Roger’s forehand is without doubt one of the most awe inspiring and lethal shots ever. Moreover, technically the forehand shot requires transfer of body-weight from the dominant foot to the non-dominant which allows for the forehand shot to be generally more powerful and controlled and overall just a little more of a finishing shot than the backhand for most, if not all, pros. Heck, even Wawarinka had more forehand v/s backhand ground-shot winners in his US Open win over Novak last year. And, Stan is still the man when it comes to “devastation by the backhand.”