In my previous article, I wrote that Roger Federer had tweaked three things post-US open: Improved first-serve returns, clear posturing to attack the second serve and, most importantly, a more powerful backhand.
In the first semifinal against David Ferrer in Barclays ATP World Tour Finals semis, a real and stern test of the improved Federer SHB was the most discernible aspect of his game.
It is fairly safe to say that Federer has more work to do on this front. One could witness a litany of errors late in the first set which allowed Ferrer to come within two points of claiming the first set.
Ferrer came in with a definite and clear strategy to keep the ball hard and fast to the Federer backhand. Federer started out with the now more powerful backhand strokes only to commit a whole slew of basic errors.
Quickly, as is the hallmark of the top three (no, Murray not included), Federer made some adjustments to fall back on his older SHB—the slow chips, the more frequent slices and the more conservative, high-flight backhand top-spins.
Federer managed to pull himself through the first set, but had to rely on the rest of his game to come through. Barely.
Although I couldn't get my hands on the stats, a majority of the 29 (approx.) total unforced errors that Federer committed were on the backhand. And among the 24 winners, none were from his backhand.
Once the first set was in the bag, Federer had the luxury to give his improved SHB another go. He managed to get it back on track only in the last couple of games of the match. It's really the rest of his game that wrapped up this encounter without much additional drama.
Federer has to continue to bolster his SHB and make it more reliable if he wants to pull off a remarkable 2012.
Related article: Roger Federer Tweaks a Bit, Conquers Basel & Paris