Will he reclaim the number one ranking?
Before the start of the fall season, Federer stated that he could “dominate anyone” when he was at his best. I don’t think any objective observers disagreed, but the question that popped up in the minds of many was how often could Federer conjure up his best tennis when needed? Turns out, often enough.
In the five events he competed in this fall, Federer won three of them, reaching a final (l. to Murray) and a semi (l. to Monfils) in the others. He went 21-2 in the time period, and dominated his toughest rivals to win the prestigious Year End Championships.
Is his form at the depth of the season a sign of things to come? Can Federer get back to the top again? Or was his play at the Grand Slams this year a more important predictor of his fortunes?
I don’t like to make big predictions, but I can identify several reasons why I think Federer can get back to the top of the ATP rankings.
Day in and day out, there’s no other combination of strokes in men’s tennis as effective as Federer’s serve and his forehand. He does not necessarily serve many aces, but he always seems to be cruising through his service games.
Federer possesses what Agassi would call a ‘great hold game,’ and his is one that doesn’t require thunderous serves at 220 KPH. He can get cheap points just as easily with a vicious second serve kicker in the ad court, followed by a forehand winner off the short ball or if need be, a put away volley.
His quick serve holds put the pressure back on the opposition and allows him to take chances on the return games. That’s exactly how he beat Nadal in London. If he can continue to serve well as he did this past fall, Federer should get going in 2011.
You wouldn’t be crazy betting on Federer every match he plays, except when it’s against Nadal on clay. That was true back in Federer’s absolute prime and it is still true today. He loses more matches today than he did years back, and that’s not a surprise.
He surely can’t have the same level of confidence or hunger as he did back when he lost five matches a year. Those days are over, and Federer’s no spring chicken.
I expect him to lose to a Monfils every now and then in 2011, but when the stakes are high who would you pick to win? I’ll go with Federer though a Wimbledon final against a red hot Nadal may be too close to call.
The one player that’s prevented Roger Federer from complete domination of the tour is still his biggest obstacle to the number one ranking. While he doesn’t beat Federer week in and out, he accumulates more points than anyone else.
But tennis is mainly played on the hard courts throughout the year. And while Nadal is a contender to win any event he enters, he has always struggled on hard courts. Consider the fact that in the last three years, he has won five hard court titles.
A little slip on the asphalt for Nadal, and a continuous surge for Federer could mean a significant shake up in the distribution of ranking points.
Annacone recently said that Federer reminds him of a “22 year old” in terms of his motivation level, and that he is “fresh as a daisy.” While the daily grind of the tour is lamented by many of its participants, Federer says he enjoys the life including the travel.
We often hear about how important it is to enjoy the process and not be entirely focused on the outcome. I think Federer epitomizes that lesson. A couple seasons ago I was surprised when he said that he had really enjoyed his training sessions coming into Monte Carlo.
I had thought the training was the part that had to be toughed out so one could go out and enjoy competing. I think John McEnroe felt the same way as his brother’s book reveals that he didn’t think much of doing drills but was competitive even on the practice court. Perhaps that’s why McEnroe burnt out early while Federer’s still going strong at 29.
That doesn’t mean he’s as motivated to win every match like a few years back. Federer himself has said that his days of winning 11 titles a year are gone. But he’s still keen to prove himself as unbeatable when he’s at his best, and that’s a healthy dose of desire.
Scaling the heights again
One would be hard pressed to think of a player who is more confident than one who is winning matches left, right and center. So Federer could only be less confident than when he was in 2005-06 right?
I wouldn’t completely agree with that. If in those days he didn’t know what defeat meant, now he has the experience of falling off from the top and bouncing right back up – multiple times.
Every time he’s been written off, he’s come back strong. They say you shouldn’t mess with a wounded tiger; messing with one who’s fresh out of rehab couldn’t be safer.