Roger Federer: Last-Minute Adjustments Federer Must Make to Survive

Marc Weinreich@QuestionMarcsCorrespondent IJuly 4, 2012

Roger Federer: Last-Minute Adjustments Federer Must Make to Survive

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    Roger Federer is like the Tim Duncan of tennis. Cool, calm and collected, Timmy and Fed go out onto the court like they're walking into a library and it's any other day. And then, more often than not, they completely dominate you before going home expressionless like nothing happened.

    But that hasn't been the case for either of them lately. Federer hasn't won a Grand Slam since 2010.

    While it's hard to suggest adjustments for the greatest tennis player ever, I figured I'd take a stab at a few things Federer can do as he finds himself becoming one of the elder statesman in tournaments that are  being more and more populated by the young guns.

    Without further ado, here are a few adjustments from someone who is completely unqualified to give advice to the greatest ever.

Federer's Calm Is Good and Bad

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    Certain players can be their own worst enemy.

    Take John McEnroe, for example. As amazing he was, he often let his temper get the best of him. He was known for it. Sometimes it appeared to take him out of his game, but it was his 'tude that often kept him on his game and is what threw his opponent off a little, too.

    Players need that sometimes to kick it up a notch. Without a coach out there, they need to be the one to slap themselves in the face or risk defeat. 

    Where would Andre Agassi be without his edge? Likewise, we can only wonder how Gael Monfils, with such raw talent, would fare if he knew how to control himself. Ditto for Andy Roddick.

    It's hard to speculate how the greatest tennis player of all time would've played had he taken on a more McEnroe personality. The same goes for Pete Sampras.

    Federer's seemingly lax style is what allows him to serve under such pressure at break points. But sometimes you have to wonder whether he would've won some of the matches he ended up losing if he was able to pick himself up a little more.

    He's not the same Fed he used to be. He turns 31 next month and can no longer rely on power groundstrokes on every single point, the way he used to win by just hanging by the baseline.

    Fed is going to find himself in closer matches than he's used to seeing, when he doled out more bagels than a bakery.

    We've already seen it in Wimbledon, with a close match to Julie Benneteau and dropping almost two sets to the unseeded Xavier Malisse in the fourth round.

    When the competition gets tough late in the match, Federer seems to retreat into his own little tranquil world. We saw it in the 2009 U.S. Open when he all but disappeared at critical break points against Juan Martin del Potro, who came away with an amazing upset. Go back and watch the match. Federer looked flat and completely out of it the moment he felt tested.

    He's got to embrace his age and realize that acting calm isn't always the best decision. Perhaps this time when the machine faces Novak Djokovic he'll learn that a little pizazz can go a long way.

Where's the Motivation?

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    Being widely regarded as the greatest ever when you're only in your 20s has got to be nice.

    Now Roger Federer turns 31 next month and is still in rare form. He's taken home virtually every trophy you could possibly imagine including 16 Grand Slams. He's won on every surface and has broken so many records, there's really no disputing he's the greatest ever to pick up a racquet.

    So where's the motivation?

    You have to think that this level of sheer and utter dominance, while certainly enjoyable to watch, can have an adverse effect on the person, too. Has Roger's play of late been more a function of his aging or is complacency setting in?

    His only incentive at this point is to dominate Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, the only active players in his class. But with Nadal taking an early exit, will Federer really be motivated enough to power through Djokovic en route to capturing another Grand Slam?

Limit the Unforced Errors

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    Watching Roger Federer now, one thing is apparent. He's had a lot more unforced errors than he's accustomed to seeing.

    But if he comes to the net more often, he may see different results. Fed seems to be stuck in his 20s when he used to dominate from the baseline and overpower opponents with groundstrokes.

    Not so anymore. But what's great about his game is that he can adapt to any style and beat the opponent at his own game. He needs to embrace this quality while adding to his own game, and that includes becoming more aggressive and going on the attack at the net early on. Otherwise, he finds himself caught on his heels, making unforced errors that he'd normally smash if he took the offensive.

Approach Each Match with an Open Mind

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    You have to wonder if, despite his calm on the surface, Roger Federer psychs himself out against certain opponents who have beaten him in the past.

    In reality, there's nothing he can do at this point to screw up his place in tennis as the greatest ever.

    But it was clear in his scare against Julien Benneateau in the third round at Wimbledon this year that Federer had not forgotten about his loss to the Frenchman at the Paris Masters in 2009. Rather than let him use it as firepower, Federer seemed to once again disappear at crucial break points and came incredibly close to losing the match.

    It's hard to argue that the greatest player ever cracks under pressure, but how will he fare as the years go on when his mental toughness will have to carry him where his physical abilities can no longer take him?