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.
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.
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?