There was little doubt that World No.4 Roger Federer would cinch up two back-to-back victories at Basel Open and Paris Masters. The question was how definitive and spell-binding these wins would get.
I am not sure if "the old Roger" that Tomas Berdych talked about after he lost to the Swiss maestro in the Paris Masters semifinals is back to the circuit after a long title drought. We all know how some of the younger players have beaten Roger and stripped him of that aura of invincibility that he wore like an invisible cloak every time he waltzed into the court.
But what is certain is, Roger is tweaking and fine-tuning the finer aspects of his game to suit the vigour and raw ruggedness of his younger opponents. As the Paris Masters finals wore on, it became obvious that Roger has made a couple of key adjustments to his game, and it paid off.
Needless to say, much has been said about the Fed's single-handed backhand over the years. The game has raised itself to force Federer to try a bit more on the backhand. It is clear that he is trying to whack those SHBs with more power than ever before. Almost as if to acknowledge and correct the power deficiency vis-à-vis the double-handed backhands of Nadal and Djokovic.
Although Federer is bound to make more errors with the more powerful backhand, it does give him more options to pass and create width in those longish baseline rallies. Exquisite examples of these backhands were especially evident against Berdych in Bercy.
Next up is the most obvious visible change to the Federer game. Clear posturing for attack on the second serve—both on the forehand and with the improved backhand.
No more the weak chip returns that critics have pointed out so often. It's not the same "put-the-ball-back-into-the-court-and-you-are-in-play" strategy. He is trying to retrieve better. He is avoiding putting the ball back in the middle of the court and getting whacked by players like Berdych and Tsonga.In other words, powerful hitters who devour such opportunities and make him look like a sitting duck.
Roger is looking to add a little something on the first serve returns and a whole lot more on the second serves. This is clearly inducing and forcing his opponents to make adjustments in their second serves. This was evident when Tsonga double-faulted and handed down a second break in the first set of the Paris Masters as he went for a bit too much with his second serve which was under consistent and flawless attack.
Clear and strategic thinking on the Federer camp is definitely encouraging. We, Federer fans, will take heart and sing hosannas to our guy's yet another "resurrection".
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