So, I’m watching tennis last night, watching Andy (“Unfortunately, I’m the best America has to offer”) Roddick give it up to Federer. AR played the best tennis he’s capable of (in my opinion), and couldn’t get past Federer.
Which begs the question, how would YOU beat Federer? My wife and I were noodling on this one (both having played tennis for many years), and we came up with:
[li]Serve and Volley.[/li][li]Exhausting defensive game, with no unforced errors, and pinpoint accuracy.[/li][/ol]
So, since Nadal seems to be the only one to play #2 above, you’d think people would pattern their Federer matches after Nadal’s. They don’t.
So, if Patrick Rafter, McEnroe, or Edberg came back from the tennis dead, had the benefit of similar technology and fitness regimens…would they have a chance against who I’m beginning to believe MAY be the best to hoist a racquet?
Serving and volleying against Federer would be very hard. I’m not saying it couldn’t possibly work, given the right player, but Federer is probably the best serve returner in the game now and he would probably have a good time sitting back and hitting passing shots against someone rushing the net. Did John Isner serve and volley against him? I didn’t see that match. Someone with a top-level serve can take a set off Federer (it’s happened twice at this Open), but he gets a read on everybody eventually.
It’s not because they’re stupid, it’s because they can’t. Nadal is faster and stronger than just about anyone else out there. His style exhausts everybody, and it’s pretty hard on him, too. And obviously that style works much better on clay than on hardcourt or grass.
McEnroe is an interesting thought. Beyond his skills, Nadal clearly just pisses Federer off. Which is hard to do. He takes way too long between points, he pumps his fists, and his confidence doesn’t break. Mac might be able to duplicate that psychological approach, which Roddick and others can’t.
And then there’s Sampras, who did serve and volley when he was able and had a great serve - especially the second serve. But the main advantage he has over Roddick is mental strength. Sampras played his best under intense pressure, and even if he lost to Federer, I think he would still believe he could win every time. Roddick, with good reason, doesn’t really think he can beat Federer.
Don’t get too down on Roddick’s skills, though. In a world without Federer, I think he’d have won another U.S. Open and maybe two Wimbledons by now. Possibly more.
I have often wondered if guys like Sampras and Boris Becker, in their primes and with contemporary equipment, could break even with Federer over a long series of matches. Perhaps throw Ivan Lendl into the discussion.
Given late 70’s early 80’s equipment, I’d go with one of the serve and volleyers (Sampras being my #1 choice). With modern equipment (and modern sportsmedicine and training) I doubt anybody now or from history could stand with him-i.e. there a reason why dedicated serve and volleyers are pretty much extinct on the men’s side, and completely gone, with the retirement of Yana Novotna, on the women’s side.
A formidably gifted player, Borg has some curious gaps in his CV.
Apart from his 5 Wimbledon titles on grass he won 6 French Opens (on clay) for a total of 11 Grand Slam victories. Although he reached 4 US Open finals he lost all of them, twice to Connors and twice to McEnroe. Whereas he wasn’t quite as effective on the hard court surface on which he lost 3 of those finals, he had chances to win this event for 3 years of his career during which the tournament was held on clay. Losing 4 finals is no disgrace, especially to Connors and McEnroe, but it’s not the same as winning.
Borg only entered one Australian Open tournament (grass) going out in the 3rd round in 1974. I find this strange and I’m wondering if anyone knows why he avoided Melbourne so studiously.
How to beat him: be Spanish, and play him on clay.
There’s simply no correct “strategy” for beating him right now. No one is going to put together a game and you go “oh, that’s how you beat him.” He’s just better than everyone. He can play every style well.
You need to hope he’s having a rare off night and that you’re playing out of your tree, but that doesn’t give you a blueprint. In one-on-one sports, there are just some guys who can’t be beat for extended periods of their careers. It’s similar to boxing in that regard.
Mayweather MAY be beatable now, but for a while there he wasn’t. You couldn’t hit him, and he could hit you. End of discussion.
We were discussing how good he is the other day at work and someone remarked that they had never seen him do any of the spectacular diving to make a shot…he just appears to jog over there and hit the clean winner.
I am sure in my time following tennis I have seen three truly great players - Rod Laver, John McEnroe and Roger Federer. I didn’t see a lot of Laver but all 3 are similar in lots of ways - not at all physically dominating, superb skills, wonderful patience and magnificent court craft.
Just like McEnroe I love watching Federer set up a point and I sit there thinking, “here comes the running cross court passing shot” and looking at it I know how hard it will be to make, even if it is the right shot, but Federer, like McEnroe will make it look effortless and unhurried. And it will be inch perfect.
The only player I can imagine beating him is McEnroe in his prime. I can still picture him running to the net and half volleying a perfect return off his ankles without doing anything but stick the racquet head down there. No stutter step, no bent knees, no abbreviated swing…just reach down and half volley a clean winner. Brings tears to my eyes even now.
Funny…I was thinking that an Aggassi/Federer match woudl be a prety solid one, and certainly not a string of goose eggs.
I believe that Aggassi (during his 3rd incarnation) had the best groundstrokes I’ve ever seen. I loved watching him when he’s pull people all over the court, all the while sitting at the dash, orchestrating.
Sampras woudl have been an interesting match…he has the serve of Roddick (better 2nd serve, IMO), and far better grounstrokes…but the goal woudl be to get an approach and come to net against R-Fed.
I thought about Lendl…I just don’t see him beating Fed. Same for Bjorn…I always thought he was beatable (I know…the record…I’m not sure why I think that way).
Connors? Edberg? Perhaps an uninjured Wilander?
I’ve mentioned before that, in an all-Era team, Federer is only top-5, and not the GOAT. McEnroe may have given him fits…maybe Sampras.
What scares me about Fed is that he stil has room to improve. As far as his serve goes…meh. It’s not Edberg-style (“just get me into the point!”), but it’s hardly a weapon. I also see him getting bored at times (hard to blame him).
The love sets are really more wishful thinking on my part - I’ve always admired Aggassi’s athleticism, but there’s something else there that just gets under my skin and makes me dislike him. I think it stems back to his reputation for tanking points when he was in obvious trouble.
Granted, I didn’t follow Agassi during his early big hair years, so maybe I’m missing something, but in the years leading up to his retirement I considered him the hardest working, hardest playing man in tennis. I’ve never seen him “tank” a point. Am I missing something?
ETA: IMO, Federer’s success has to do with his unbelievable return of serve, which neutralizes the main weapon of most top-level male pros, and his efficient ground game that keeps everyone else on the run. To beat him, you’d need a serve of Roddick’s speed but with far better placement, James Blake’s foot speed, and Agassi’s ground strokes.
Produce that guy, and you’ve got a Federer killer.