Roger Federer has been competing with his new 98 square inch Wilson Racquet for about five full months now, and the results have been nothing short of outstanding for the 32 year old. But rarely do we see or hear an explanation on how the racquet is helping. Well, I’m here to break down how the racquet is impacting each and every part of Federer’s game. It’s almost all positive, but there are some things that Federer has had to adjust in his game to adapt to the racquet. Let’s get into it.
Serve–For the most part, the larger racquet head size and lighter frame has allowed Federer to put a few more MPH on his serve. However, it’s not that big of a difference. He peaks around 205 kilometers per hour(127 MPH), and that’s about the same as when he was using the old racquet. This biggest thing is that Federer is getting a consistent increase in pace AND spin. The spin here is the key. He’s now hitting kick serves as first serves, and they’re extremely effective. His wide serve is also getting excellent width with the added spin.
His second serve was starting to get eaten at up in 2013. What used be one of the best second serves in the game was not getting punished when he played good, attacking players.(See matches against Nishikori, Berdych, Stakhovsky, Robredo) The new frame is getting just a little bit more kick, and it’s made a difference. In 2013, Federer won 55% of his second serve points, and in 2014, he’s winning 57% of those points. While that may seem like a minimal gain, it actually is huge. When he’s consistently defending his second serve, Federer is very tough to beat.
Return–This is probably the toughest aspect to analyze. Federer’s return has always been the weakest part of his game, even though it’s really not that weak at all. He’s winning the same amount of first serve return points as he did in 2013, 33%. He’s doing slightly better on second serve returns though, where he’s gone from 53 to 55% points won. He is able to attack second serves more effectively because he can generate more pace with the larger frame.
What we see is that Federer is about the same on first serve returns on his forehand side, but slightly better than before on the backhand side. He’s mishitting fewer, and putting more in play. That allows for him to get into points and really get the most out of the racquet–at the baseline.
Forehand– It’s interesting, because Federer is one of only a handful of players in the top 100 to still use an eastern forehand. Everybody talks about how the racquet is giving Federer more power and spin, but nobody really goes further than that. Players with eastern forehands, such as Roberto Bautista Agut and Radek Stepanek, often hit very flat strokes, and rarely ramp up the spin. But Federer is an exception. He uses so much wrist just before contact that if he wants to hit spin, he can. Watch below.
So with the new larger frame, he has more margin for error during that wrist action, therefore limiting the number of balls he mishits. He’ll still shank an occasional forehand, but far less than when played with the 90 square inch frame. He is hitting the ball with more power and spin, but that’s predominately because the sweet-spot on the racquet is larger, and he has more margin for error.
It also doesn’t hurt that he can generate more racquet head speed with the lighter frame.
Backhand–This is where we really start to to see a difference. In 2013, Federer was shanking balls left and right. He was leaving the ball short and making numerous unforced errors off of his weaker wing. The new frame has added a couple dimensions that have really helped Federer. First, he’s able to hit over his backhand WAY more than he used, especially when he’s on the run. The larger head size is allowing Federer to get more easy pace, and therefore he feels more comfortable driving through the ball, even when he’s in defensive positions.
This video is a great example of that.
The slice is getting more spin and bite than before, and he hasn’t lost any control in the process. One concern when Federer switched was that with more power at his expense he would lose some of the precision that his game is based around. Well, that concern is gone. In fact, he is able to be just as precise if not more accurate, due to the consistent increased spin rate he is putting on the ball.
Volley– This was my biggest concern when Federer switched. Bringing in Stefan Edberg, everybody talked about Federer’s increasing desire to get to the net. Often times larger and lighter frames lack the stability and feel needed to excel at the net. But it turns out that Federer’s volleys have IMPROVED with the new racquet. He’s getting a little more stick on the standard volley, and a ton of slice and bite on the low volley.
And don’t worry, his drop volley’s look just as good as they used.
Here’s a video of some of Federer’s best points of 2014 thus far.