My Direct Line to Roger: He's Changing the One Thing I Told Him to!

Marianne BevisSenior Writer IMarch 10, 2009

I have any number of fantasy scenarios when it comes to Roger Federer.

Right up there is the one where I stand on the other side of practice court, hitting a few high balls for him to volley back, or smash past my right ear, or drop just centimetres over the net.

The view from where I’m standing is just grand. What’s even better, he wants to hear what I think.

Well as I said, courtesy of Rob York’s recent “Change One Thing” series, top of my list is to increase the very volleying outlined in that fantasy.

I’ve believed for ages that Federer should make more of the natural ability he has for moving forward into the ball, and timing any variety of mid-air shots to perfection.

The serve and volley game as played by the great exponents—Sampras, Rafter, Navratilova—is probably a thing of the past. However, the all-court game that mixes up short and deep, drive and volley, drop and lob is exactly the game for which Federer was born.

Here’s where I take a bow. I said last week, “He should play the occasional doubles tournament, which would help him hone those net skills and give him the chance to express his joyous side.”

And what do I hear on the Swiss media grapevine? Federer has taken a wild card into the Indian Wells doubles with Swiss team-mate Yves Allegro.

Now if this does indeed come to pass—and there is no official confirmation yet—there are several ways to interpret the news.

Federer is not playing with Olympic partner Wawrinka (who’s chosen a rather interesting partnership with Gasquet). Therefore, he is not expecting to go too deep into the tournament. It will, though, provide some valuable ball-hitting practice to file off the rust from his six-week layoff.

But it will also give him the chance to practise his net game.

I’d love to take credit for this (and in that parallel fantasy existence, I do, and Roger is eternally grateful for my perceptive advice). The reality, of course, ties in with his link-up with Darren Cahill.

If Cahill, as anticipated, joins Federer in California, he will be keen for him to get some matches under his belt. Cahill would also be crazy not to cash in on the sadly under-used volleying side of Federer’s game.

It’s a win-win tactic. Try new things. See what works. Adjust strategies and play-structure before Miami.

If nothing else, a flexible, varied play will get Federer moving in, attacking, taking control. He did that against Andy Murray at Flushing Meadow. He may have the opportunity to do it again against Murray in the semis at Indian Wells.

Federer will certainly have to take the initiative to beat the likes of Karlovic, Blake, and Gasquet.

And a particularly interesting matchup might be a head-to-head in the quarters with Fernando Verdasco, Cahill’s previous charge. (Is that arrangement now over? Would there be divided loyalties? Or just some useful inside knowledge for Cahill’s new associate?)

Anyway, whatever Cahill’s role, and whether or not Federer plays doubles next week, if the tactic of mixing up Federer’s game fails, you didn’t hear the idea from me.

But if it works, Roger, you can thank me later.