by Mats Wilander
translated into English by Mauro Cappiello
In his analysis for L'Équipe this morning, Mats Wilander wrote about the transformations in Roger Federer's game style after the start of his partnership with Stefan Edberg that allowed him to get back to his top and take, at the age of 33, his first Davis Cup title.
Yesterday, Roger Federer was amazing. It's hard to say that he is a better player than between 2004 and 2007 because he is thirty-three. But in terms of technical options and tactical understanding, he never played tennis this well.
He always plays the right shot at the right time. He goes to the net exactly when he needs it, he plays drop shots with the perfect timing during the rally, etc. You can feel a systematic will to move forward and not to be dragged into a long exchange.
This is hard to explain, but I find him both predictable and unpredictable. Predictable because we now know that he will soon create something. Unpredictable because of the extraordinary variety of his shots.
We can clearly see the influence of Stefan Edberg in his net play. His volley, especially his forehand volley, is much more effective. I do not know if he has changed his grip, but the gesture is more "cutting" indeed. His volleys are cleaner than before. In his first step towards the net, in his decision, we feel that there is no more hesitation.
That's why he makes fools of other players. They know they will find it hard to breathe. He smothers them and the shorter the rally, the harder it is to survive. One has the impression of being constantly oppressed.
Of course, his back was a question mark. But I think he was fully reassured on Friday against Monfils. The fact that he was starting the doubles match was a very good indicator. He knew that he absolutely had to win the doubles with Wawrinka. This is the kind of situation he likes.
This week-end is a further proof of his genius. What he managed to do on a tennis court is unique.
Could Gasquet stop this machine? Before the match, I thought that if he turned it into a very physical game, he had his chance. Even if only because of the age difference. We have seen that Gasquet tried to put the lift in his strokes to harden the rally and make it longer. It was the right tactic.
But Federer has consistently refused to accept this strategy. And his tactical genius enabled him to find the right shot at the right time to break Gasquet's game.
I hope he will continue to follow this path. Including against Rafa, and on clay.
Download the pdf of the Davis Cup feature by L'Équipe» (issue of November 24th, 2014 - size MB 5,51)
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