by Greg Rusedski
Roger has always had one of the best forehands in the business, but this year he has shortened his swing. His new racket-head - which is 95 square inches as opposed to the previous 90 - gives him extra power, so he does not need so much of a backswing.
The old long and fluid action has changed into something that, while still lovely to watch, has a new snap and urgency. This means Roger can play higher up the court, because his swing is so compact. He can hurry his opponents and give himself more chance to get to the net.
The other shift is harder to spot, but it involves his footwork, which has become faster and more precise at cutting off the angles.
Imagine yourself standing on the middle of the baseline as a crosscourt diagonal ball heads towards to your forehand, the most basic sort of rally in men’s tennis. The conservative option is to run to your right along the baseline, but an aggressive player like Federer can choose to come diagonally forward and to his right, intercepting the ball while it is still inside the court. In most cases, he then hits an approach shot up the line and comes to the net.
Paul Annacone wanted Federer to refine this pattern of play last season but a niggling back injury reduced his mobility. Annacone’s replacement, Stefan Edberg, has been more technical in smoothing out Federer’s approach game and the results have flowed.
Apart from making life difficult for any opponent - even Novak Djokovic, whom Federer blitzed in their Shanghai semi-final - these two shifts have reduced the mileage in the great man’s legs this season. He may still move as well as most of the young guys, but at 33, you want to be playing as cleanly and efficiently as you can.
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