The Positives and Negatives of Roger Federer’s New Racket

Photo Credit: tennisearth.com

Photo Credit: tennisearth.com

Happy New Year everyone, and I’m back with the first blog of the tennis season!

Roger Federer started 2014 in a winning way, taking out Jarkko Nieminen in Brisbane, 6-4 6-2. Starting his season in Australia for the first time since 2000, Federer is featuring a couple of new things in his game. He announced about a week ago that he is teaming up with Stefan Edberg for around 10 weeks this season. Federer described Edberg as “an inspiration” and “somebody I always looked up to.” Perhaps more importantly, the Swiss great is once again playing with a new racket. This new frame from Wilson has a 98 square inch head size, and definitely has an impact on Federer’s game.

I’ll start out by saying that the new stick seemed to perform overwhelmingly well in the match, and that I think the new racket is a must for Federer. There were a few noticeable effects on Roger’s game, some positive and some negative. Let’s break them down individually.

Positives

Serve- Roger hit 9 aces, certainly nothing out of the ordinary for Federer, but the new frame did seem to add a few MPH to his flat serves, and a good amount of extra spin on the slice and kick serves. Roger was hitting the serve down the “T” on the deuce side with good pace, regularly eclipsing 200 kilometers per hour. However, most of his aces and service winners came off of his preferred slice serve out wide on the deuce side, and down the T on the Ad side. It was hard to tell if Roger’s second serve was any better/worse because Nieminen was taking very aggressive cuts at the ball even if Federer hit a quality serve.

Forehand- Federer’s best and most important shot, the forehand looked very strong with the new Wilson. Again, he was hitting the ball with a little more pace and a little more spin when he needed it. He was hitting the inside-out forehand noticeably well, crushing that shot throughout the match. Federer’s turning point shot, the Inside-In forehand, looked good as well, with Federer able to swing freely but still have the necessary spin. Also, with the slightly larger sweet-spot, it seemed like Roger was half-volleying balls from the baseline with relative ease.

Backhand Slice- He didn’t hit too many, but Federer’s backhand slice had a ton of bite and was staying very low, even for him. Playing a lefty, Federer opted to go with the slice down the line much more often than cross-court. The chip return looked sharp, and with the new frame I think a little extra under-spin could really help this already great shot become even more of a weapon.

Negatives

Return of Serve- As I said above, the chip return looked good, but when Federer tried to hit over the return, especially on the forehand side, his timing was a little off. With a larger frame, it looked like Federer was just a a bit late getting the racket face through the contact zone on his first serve return. If he guessed wrong he was having trouble compensating with his return. He also struggled a little bit with his second serve return, missing quite a few forehands into the net in the first set. To his credit, he made a nice adjustment in the second and was attacking beautifully.

At the Net- Hiring Edberg as his coach, you figure that Federer will try to get the net even more than in the past, and he was making a concerted effort in this match to move forward. However, his feel at the net was not great. When he had time, he was hitting volleys well, but when he was rushed he missed a few. He also had trouble with a few half-volleys at the net, struggling to find the same feel with the larger head size.

When asked on how he thought the new racket played, Federer said,”I had a much longer time to get ready for this swing than I had last time around, after Wimbledon, before the American summer. So I’m not thinking about it when I’m going out there, which is a great thing. I’m hitting the ball really well, so I’m very pleased with the racquet.”

Overall, the new racket looked great, and I think it can really add something to Federer’s game. He struggled with a couple things, but I think as he plays more matches and gets more comfortable with the frame those things will disappear.

What are your thoughts and what are you looking forward to in 2014?

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25 thoughts on “The Positives and Negatives of Roger Federer’s New Racket

  1. Pingback: 2014 ROGER FEDERER OLYMPICS SCHEDULE

  2. My thinking is that a larger frame must reduce the racquet head speed, that is basic physics, (assuming the swing weight is the same) so the strings must do more and it is easy to get them to do that with a larger frame. In the end, Roger is trading in some pace control for perhaps more spin larger sweet spot. It will reduce the shots available to him such as hitting a drop off a 140 mph serve.
    Probably, this trade is worthwhile for Roger but only the next for majors will tell.
    What will be really exciting to see is if Roger will play closer to the baseline during Roland Garros, taking the ball earlier on the backhand and so on due to the larger sweet spot. That could change his clay tennis radically, but again, time will tell.

    • Hi Jarek, thanks for the comment! You are right on many points here, but in fact larger frames actually are much lighter than smaller head size frames. Roger is giving up the plush, plow-through feel of his pro-staff to get a little more spin, pop, and forgiveness with the 98.

      • In deed they are. Beginner frames are usually large, head heavy and weighting in the range 260-280g while more advanced players prefer heavier, head light smaller frames for the added control. Graphite gives the designer the freedom to choose weight and size almost independently.
        There is little data on Feds new racquet but I would guess that this frame resembles in both weight and distribution the K factor he used to play with.

  3. great and very complete!!!

    • I agree with some points, I have had the Head IRadical 104, the Head Prestige Mid Plus 98 and the Head Prestige paint job TGK 238.1 (pro racket). The Serve, Forehand were outstanding, but the precision, volley and backhand were an issue. I have a one handed backhand. I then decided to buy 2 Wilson Pro Staff Six.One 90s, I put lead in the top grommet and matched them both to 364gram and used a weight balance board and made them less head light. My return of serves are good, volleying (I stop and drop balls on a dime) and my backhand return and ground stroke is excellent 100 percent improvement… What good is more power, if you cannot keep the ball on the court… I saw Roger Federer´s games in Australia and did not see any improvement in this volleys and I saw him spraying balls everywhere. I even saw him mishit 2 overheads with a 98in racket head… I think his issue is phsical and mental, not the racket…

      • From this tournament I couldn’t see why he changed racquet. He plays the same game. Didn’t see any stats but maybe he’s got more speed on his second serve. It’s the firs time I’ve seen him do 200 kph second serve (which was strange) but that may have been a one time thing. I had some hope that we would see more backhand down the line. It is a shot that is not fully exploited in his game (IMO). This racquet should offer some more spin but I could not see what Roger might have been looking for in this racquet. Maybe we will have to wait until Roland Garros. My pet theory is that Roger want’s to move closer to the baseline on clay. A larger frame with more power could perhaps help him do that. We’ll have to wait and see.

  4. Pingback: New racquet saga continues for Federer - SportsHoopla.com Sports Forums

  5. Pingback: la nouvelle raquette de Federer en 2014

  6. I’m excited to see what kind of angles he can produce with his forehand. With Nadal and Djoker’s speed, they were able to catch up with his inside out angled forehand that is usually a winner. With more pace and way more spin, I imagine Fed being able to hit angles to pull his opponent waaayyyy off the court much like Nadal does. I’m old school and still hit a one handed backhand… I too have been tempted to get a larger racket (pro staff) and… and… switch to a 2 handed backhand. The modern game almost requires it… only 3 of the top 10 have a one hander and only 5 of the top 20. Everyone in the top 5 is double handed. Change or die, right? Good for you Federer… I’m still rooting for you.

  7. A more open string pattern and larger sweet spot will be the positives and more racquet twist on off center hits will be the negative. Roger’s racquet (like most pros’) is highly customized (custom fitted handle, weighting etc.) Even the racquet twist can be addressed by adding more weight. Roger is likely trying to recreate the feel of his older stick while taking advantage benefits of the larger head with an open string pattern.

  8. You guys are blind if you don’t see the changes. Fed has the ability to open new angles (while still conservative by Nadal standards) on his inside out forehand due to the increased spin. I also see him hitting more looping topspin shots off both wings instead of the chip shot to buy himself time to recover and get into position. The slice serve out wide is decidedly slicker and pulls his opponent at least 6 inches further off the court. Occasionally he sprays the ball, but no more than we see any other top pros spray the ball. We’re just not used to seeing Fed spray the ball, but with the increased swing speed, he is still adjusting to the timing. His groundies are consistently deep… Watch his rallies and you’ll see him hit shot after shot that land about 1-2 feet from the baseline. He did not do that before because he was not able to generate as much spin on the old six.one.ninety. Overall, I don’t see him reverting back to the old sticks.

    • very, very good analysis

      • The depth of Rogers shots has puzzled me for quite some time. They are definitely much closer to the baseline now with the new racquet. That’s good. Added spin is probably the answer. He didn’t seem to find any pop on the backhand down the line against Murray, but Rogers game differs a lot from every other player on the tour which makes it very difficult to judge what the new racquet really does for him. Yes, the serve is significantly better and surprisingly, the touch also seems improved. I think though that we haven’t really seen what he can do with it until Wimbledon or Roland Garros at the earliest. I would really love to see Roger go deep deep at Roland Garros this year.

  9. Obviously, all your above comments focused on his new racket which is only a hardware. I am interested to learn from your guys about the way he plays now, particularly having Edberg as his coach. Apparently, he played more serve and volley in the Australia open. He was smart enough to pick the right time and right return (angle) before approaching the net. However, the angle and power of his volley shoots were still weak. They would not be compared with Edberg’s volley. Agree?

    • Although they’ve only been together for under 2 weeks, Edberg’s impact has been noticeable. Federer has been coming to net very often, and is having a lot of success in the forecourt. However we must consider that this also has to do with his improved physical state, allowing him to move much better, and, in turn, allowing him to turn defense into attack.

      As for comparing his volleys to Edberg: Federer has a rare talent in that he hits the toughest volleys very very well, such as sharp backspin drop or half volleys, and he really takes a big swing on his standard volleys, really cutting down on the ball to impart spin. Edberg’s are different in that he was much more compact, and probably “stuck” the volley better than Federer does. However, they both have a similar sort of smooth, elegant flow at the net.

      Great comment and hope my answer is sufficient!

      • I appreciated your comment. Yesterday, Federer’s semi-final match with Nadal disappointed me again. I am not sure if he could return to the top.

    • The biggest change I see in Roger this year is that his mental state is improving over the course of the tournament. Last year you could see, even in the semi against Tsonga that he won, that something was amiss. Just watch the ball that Roger won when Tsonga ended up on his side where he later faked to shoot a ball back at him. Watch that body language and compare that to his reaction when Murray passes him with that spectacular cross court forehand where Roger simply gives him a a little nod of approval, nothing more. Really good stuff. I think he is really coming together. Nadal is probably going to test every bit of mental strength that Roger may have gained so far. That will become obvious soon enough.

  10. looking good… almost a significant change as when tiger changed from the titleist clubs to nike…

    • Like I mentioned, Federer’s performance in the semi final against Nadal was disappointing. As his long time fan, I sincerely hoped that he would return to the top, like Agassi. Using his age as a reason of falling down is not convincing to me. Federer is only 32 years old. He should be physically fit, in my opinion. In the previous semi final, I got a strong feeling that his mental strength was weakening. If such problem does exist, no one or nothing could help him, not even Edberg or his new racket. It was one of Lendl’s objections in coaching Murray. Right? In the professional circus, changing instrument (racket and club) has its commercial consideration. Woods made money from it much more than from his prize money. However, as a user, my experience was that whenever I changed a new racket or a new golf club, I got some excitement. I would rather say, a new feeling. If I would not improve my basic technique and physical strength, I would just go back to the same old situation after a short while with a new tool in my hands. Just like marriage! Ha Ha! Instrument manufacturers want to increase their sales by launching new models. It is a commercial world, money talks! As a consumer, we mostly chase for improvement by paying. Eventually, we are on a cash cow.

      Coming back to Federer’s situation, I just worried that he might be losing his passion on tennis. He might be looking for a reason or an occasion to retire. Winning a grand slam would be one. In my opinion, he still has the chance and ability, provided that his mental strength and spirit could be maintained at a high level at all time, like Wawrinka. Consistency is the key factor. Sampras was a good example. In a match, who would maintain a higher spirit and reduce unforced errors, who would then have a bigger winning chance.

  11. Interesting stuff! More articles about gear, please.

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