Decoding the Federer Serve: Is Roger Readable?

Goutham ChakravarthiCorrespondent IAugust 31, 2009

NEW YORK - AUGUST 31:  Roger Federer of Switzerland returns a shot against Devin Britton of the United States during day one of the 2009 U.S. Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on August 31, 2009 in Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

Even whilst I write this, Roger Federer is giving his US Open first-round opponent Devin Britton a master clinic in tennis during the first set. More so in serving.

Federer has had a great service for a number of years, but I feel that, since the Madrid Masters prior to the French Open earlier in the year, he has taken his service game to the next rung. 

It is a strange thing, reading a great serve. People spend years reading tapes of a top server to pick up anything to decode his serve: a change in ball toss, change in body posture, service motion, different service stance, number of times the ball is bounced before it is tossed, a twitch of the nose...well, you name it and they look for it. 

Apparently, none of the aforementioned ingenious observations on my Serve Decoding Template 2.0 seem to work on Federer. Maybe my titration and the inference aren't perfect.

Perhaps they should be counting the number of times he blinks before he tosses the ball, or how many times he wipes his brow with his index finger before going wide or down the middle. And if you are thinking that I am going nowhere with this, you should read the next few lines before you crucify me. 

In the late '80s, when Boris Becker ruled the roost with his booming serve, the tennis world watched his tapes over and again to see if they could read his serve. Of course, he had one of the better service games ever.

Andre Agassi, the greatest returner-of-serve of his generation, remarkably had a good time against him (10-4 to Agassi head-to-head in their careers). 

At the far end of his career, Becker asked Agassi how he could read his serves so easily when no one else could. Agassi told him it took him five years of watching his mouth to break the code: while serving, Becker opened his mouth and stuck his tongue out in the direction he was going to send the ball! Needless to say, Becker kept his mouth shut till his playing days were over!

See, you never know how you decode a person’s game! Maybe they should be watching his mouth to see if he sticks anything out! There, I have said it first!