This Guest Post is offered up by Melvin Wong. Founder of Qoach, offering online sports courses for free with the mission to discover the next world champion from online sports training. Melvin has global sports business experience in 17 countries covering U.S, Europe, Asia and South America.
The quote saying “age is just a number” clearly reflects upon Roger Federer this year, fresh after winning the Miami Open and conquering Indian Wells and not forgetting winning the Australian Open in January 2017. At the age of 35, what makes this 18-time Grand Slam winner to be on such a spectacular form, especially by beating Rafael Nadal thrice in a row.
There were some significant changes that we have witnessed in Federer in recent years. Let’s analyze them in chronological order.
2014: Change of Racket from 90 to 97 square inches
Federer moved from 90 to 97 square inch racket in 2014. Federer had long dominated tennis with his smaller racket until 2013, when he failed to advance to any Grand Slam finals, although he had consistently been into the finals since 2002. He described the new larger racket as more powerful but harder to control. Perhaps during 2014, he was still in the mode of getting used to the new commanding size.
2015: Along Came Ivan Ljubicic, The King of One-Handed Backhand
Federer hired Ivan Ljubicic as his new coach in late 2015, replacing Stefan Edberg. Ljubicic was well-known for his superior one-handed backhand, a style similar to Federer. According to Lon Shapiro, a professional tennis coach, Ljubicic was the only player with a one-handed backhand besides Federer’s fellow countryman Stan Wawrinka who could step in and attack high balls to the backhand. The one technical disadvantage of a one-handed backhand against a two-handed backhand is the ability to attack balls above the shoulder.
2016: Injury Means More Rest But More Focus in Training
Federer was hampered by injuries in more than half of 2016. On the contrary, this gave him sufficient time to rest and recharge and to focus on improving his play and backhand with Ljubicic.
Any professional athletes know that sometimes you have to stop and look back at how you’re performing and at times you need to go back to the drawing board. Perhaps this is exactly what Federer did in 2016. Federer was able to practice a more offensive approach in his gameplay by stepping in and attacking high backhands and driving his backhand off his return.
2017: The Result is an Improved Backhand and Three Titles So Far
This year Federer began the season incredibly well – winning his fifth Australian Open in January, his fifth BNP Paribas Open victory in March and third Miami Open title in early April. Past years, Federer’s one-handed backhand had been on the losing end to Nadal’s forehand heavy top spins. This year, this is no longer true, as statistics showed that Federer’s backhand was the force that beat Nadal. He had beaten Nadal third time in a row in 3 months. And 3 years after changing his racket and 2 years after changing his coach, he can finally reap the fruits of his labor. He gave credit to this larger racket for his improved backhand at Indian Wells. “I think the backhand has gotten better because I have been able to put in so many hours onto the racquet now,” he told reporters following his fourth-round win at Indian Wells. Federer is displaying more offensive tennis, compared to that seen under the coaching of Stefan Edberg. Credit should absolutely be given to Ljubicic this time around.
“35 years old” does sound like a number to Roger Federer and perhaps this year we ain’t seen nothing yet from him.