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How important was the racquet to Federer's improvement?

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Post by bogbrush Mon 7 Jul - 22:16

Obvious question, and I suspect the answer is "very".

The reason I ask it though, is what this implies for Federer going forward. Drawing a line through the last 7/8 years shows a steady decline, with bumps of course, but I suspect there's a tight line of best bit with a pretty good 'r' value.

Taking that forward, W 14 feels like the last twitches. But what if the unconsidered variable is the racquet? He's only been using it a short time, and his serve holding was magnificent (just two breaks all tournament going into the 3rd set of the final). The backhand shanks are so minimised that I'm starting to look in anticipation when he winds the SHBH up, not peer through my fingers as was the case.

So, if the racquet is really that important then he's onto a different curve than that which has seen his steady slide. We shouldn't forget the potential impact in protecting the dodgy back he's nursed for many years.

I not going all "back to #1" crazy, I still see him as a weak version of the peak Federer, but maybe he's not the declined version of 2011/12/13. Who knows, sounds like Rio 2016 wasn't just a throwaway line after all.


PS really wish he'd switched half a dozen years ago........
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Post by reckoner Tue 8 Jul - 0:18

Agree, very important and long overdue. But I think you are too optimistic - I don't have the feeling Fed is about to go on a tear this time, unfortunately.

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Post by bogbrush Tue 8 Jul - 1:36

I agree, not a tear (I tried to head that impression off, not well enough I guess) but I do just get a bit more optimistic. Fact is that he went toe to toe with the #1 on Sunday, and it took four hours to separate them.

There's no way that could have happened 12 months ago, he looked awful.
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Post by TRuffin Tue 8 Jul - 1:43

A portion from Wilson's specs
According to the press release, Federer’s version of the racquet has a 97-inch Sq. headsize and a weight of 340 grams (12 ounces). The biggest change from Federer’s previous Pro Staff is the headsize, which has increased from a 90-inch Sq headsize to 97, and the beam width, which has increased from 17.5 mm to 21.5.

- See more at: http://www.tennisnow.com/Blogs/NET-POSTS/June-2014/Video-Federer%E2%80%99s-New-Racquet-Set-to-Hit-Stores-in.aspx#sthash.K65PUhBX.dpuf

I've read in another article which I can't find now that the wider beam is perhaps the most extreme change- moreso than the size. It prohibits him from using his wrist as much on the forehand, and the massive head acceleration he was famous for. He's having to modify the swing and form.

Those saying he played yesterday or playin like Prime Federer are so misinformed or simply forgetting what prime Federer looked like. Even take a look at the 2008 Wimby final and his forehand was massive, the inside out painting lines. Recently, he's not even using the inside out as a winner shot. His forehand is more of a rally shot now and some of those loopy shots yesterday were horrible.

It seems some think, the forehand will come back with fine tuning and time.. IF so- Fed will be a huge force if he continues the serving mastery and the backhand holds steady as it is now.

Others says it's lost forever....

Will the forehand be back? I think that's the biggest question in what Fed can do over the next two years (my opinion of how long he's intending to play.

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Post by TRuffin Tue 8 Jul - 1:50

Here's a question..........

.IF Fed continues to hold top 4 ranking in his mid 30's, maybe wins another slam, wins some nice titles-- and most see it partly as the result of the new racquet..........

and knowing that the new racquet isn't anything better or enhancing his game more than other players... but it's actually just bringing him in line with what his younger rivals have been using for years...

and seeing all that Federer won with the handicap of using a lesser capable racquet as others on tour- does that enhance his GOAT claim?

I think the argument can be made, while it was his decision to play with the handicap, that its even more impressive he was able to accomplish so much in his late prime, out of prime years with the old racquet--- after seeing that a similar racquet to the other players allows him to play better than his base capabilities.

Courier said during Wimbledon that the old racquet was akin to Federer spotting the other top players 2 games a match........ IF true, that's big.


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Post by laverfan Tue 8 Jul - 3:25

TRuffin wrote: ... and seeing all that Federer won with the handicap of using a lesser capable racquet as others on tour-  does that enhance his GOAT claim?    ...

The GOAT debate is better had in newspaper columns, IMVHO.

1. The smaller racquet was not a handicap. It gave him the control he wanted for the liquid whip, aka his FH. The counter argument is that he may not have won as much as he has done till now, if had had a larger sized racquet since say 1998.

2. It was a choice by Federer, his fans can keep painting what-if scenarios till the cows come home.

3. He never stopped trying new racquets since he became a pro, and you are very well aware of it.

4. This lesser capable racquet (or almost the same one) gave Sampras 14 big ones.

5. If he used a larger racquet head, he may have never had an SHBH and could have been playing a DHBH, for all we know.

6. You can make a similar argument for synthetic gut vs natural gut, and it also can be challenged with similar logic.

It is the razor's edge in this argument and the pros and cons need to be seen clearly, not subjectively.

Second-guessing TMF is not a good idea. Wink

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Post by Jahu Tue 8 Jul - 7:34

While he was young and powerful, smaller one provided better precision.

Now older and less power, bigger one compensates a little.

I agree, shot making seems a little easier for him now, also more power shots, but that might be just his back not hurting for now.
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Post by HM Murdock Tue 8 Jul - 7:40

The racquet is an interesting variable.

It seems to have bolstered the backhand significantly even if the cost is perhaps a little less 'pop' on the forehand. Still seems like a big net gain overall.

From what I garner from his interviews though, I think the biggest difference is not the racquet but being pain-free and having that extra confidence that comes from knowing you are fit and capable of facing a battle.

The racquet is perhaps a contributor to this confidence. Being able to rely on his backhand again must greatly affect his feeling on court.

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Post by Born Slippy Tue 8 Jul - 10:28

I don't see the racquet as that important. It seems that the back has eased dramatically this year and that, combined with getting Edberg on board, has re-focussed him. The racquet is just a small cog in an overall re-focus from a disastrous 2013.

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Post by reckoner Tue 8 Jul - 10:57

bogbrush wrote:I agree, not a tear (I tried to head that impression off, not well enough I guess) but I do just get a bit more optimistic. Fact is that he went toe to toe with the #1 on Sunday, and it took four hours to separate them.

There's no way that could have happened 12 months ago, he looked awful.

It's true, things have improved since last year - he looked on his way to the glue factory.

I agree with you that he exceeded expectations in taking it to 5 and the racquet played an important part in that.

However the sense of confidence gained from new racquet / new coach clearly wasn't enough - he still ended up gifting the deciding game by losing his serve - unthinkable from the Fed of old.

I had hoped to see some tactical adjustments courtesy of his work with Edberg but there was little evidence of this aside from a lot of largely ineffectual chip 'n charge thrown in seemingly for the sake of it. He kept engaging in energy sapping crosscourt backhand exchanges rather than pulling the trigger and going down the line. I read somewhere he ran almost a kilometre further than Djokovic during the final - completely insane.

I sincerely hope he improves for the USO but he's as likely to follow 2012's trajectory.

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Post by Guest Tue 8 Jul - 11:08

Me and lydian did bang on about Federer changing racquet and that even changing to a Yonnex which was a 97in headsize would give his BH and bit more pop like it has with Wawrinka.

I am glad he made the change and certainly the BH doesn't break down so easily like it used to.

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Post by lags72 Tue 8 Jul - 11:42

Yep, good points LK.

I can remember reading an ATP article some time ago, in which Federer expressed (ironic) gratitude to all those players who had targetted his backhand over the years, because the constant pummelling eventually had the effect of making it stronger. Sure, it can still be prone to break-down against the really big boys - but that's as much down to the quality of opposition as it is to any inherent failings on the part of Federer himself.

I am amused by the reaction of many lower-ranked guys when playing the Fed for the first time. They come into the match all fired-up, but are often left bewildered when the backhand tactics don't have quite the effect they were expecting/hoping for. You can almost read their thoughts as they look plaintively towards their coach in the box ....... "You told me his backhand was the real weak spot in his game ..... but he keeps getting them back. And now he's tiring me out. So what do you want me to do now ...... ??" Headscratch 

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Post by Silver Tue 8 Jul - 14:15

Pretty important, just as much as his fitness improvement, I would guess. Both are linked.

The struggles with the back were well-documented last year, and lydian, myself and others speculated that Federer had essentially gotten lazy with his gym work. He even dropped something like six pounds prior to the USO, which is incredible for an elite athlete. Towards the back end of the year he seemed sharper, as though he'd started on the road back towards getting in proper shape - and then the racquet came along during the off-season whilst he was working like a dog and skipping the exho circuit.

The AO was a smidge too soon for him, but since then he's looked pretty damn good on a consistent basis. If he keeps up the conditioning work and continues to fine-tune with technical aspects of the game with the new stick, then I really don't see why he can't stay near the top for a while yet. It's certainly made a big impact on him, and the backhand looks fantastic. I can see why you're optimistic, BB.

And tooting my own horn, I was damn near the only one who called this comeback during the woes of last year  Very Happy  in fairness this was always a possibility, it was just a big leap to make last year when all seemed at sea. But it's sometimes easy to forget that Federer is a man possessing excellent work ethic, and judging by interviews he never gave up on trying to recapture his old form. Didn't strike me as someone ready to quietly pass into the night during the twilight of his career.

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Post by TRuffin Tue 8 Jul - 18:45

Annacone has been commentating for Tennis Channel a lot- esp Fed matches which is pretty fascinating. He has continuously said that the problem last year was the back and that they had to modify and delete a lot of their typical training and work. He said Fed was battling the back off and on during 2012 as well, esp during Wimbledon. Fed has confirmed all that as well. Annacone was also pretty ambivalent to the benefits of the racquet change. Early in the year, I got the feeling that he had actually counseled Fed against it.. He said it has to be done for a purpose, just not to change for change sakes- that Fed generated plenty of power and that "anyone who thinks someone who generates as much racquet head speed as Roger is going to solve shanks with a bigger racquet doesn't know tennis" From what we've seen- I think he was dead wrong, but everyone has an opinion. I wondered it that even helped end the relationship if Fed wanted a change and Annacone didn't.

Anyway- during Halle- in the studio he was asked if he thought Feds resurgence was due to the back problems easing. He said he thought so, that Federer had done a great job managing the issue and that this year he has had only a "few minor flareups" compared to last year when he was in "some degree of pain most of the year"..

Hearing him I think the problem was greater than anyone knew, but also found it interesting that he knows of some minor issue this year as well- so I guess it will never go away. Like last year, Federer might be stricken again suddenly which sucks, but lets hope he manages it and his body lets him play as long as he wants.


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Post by lydian Tue 8 Jul - 19:00

Cheers LK and good article OP.

The racquet change as with most things benefits some areas and not others. It's reduced the strain (effort) on his back for serve and BHs...the wider beam meaning less rotational energy needs to be imparted as before to get the same ball speed. The bigger head reducing BH shanks too.

However, his FH isn't as good I'm afraid, particularly cross court. If you notice more closely he's playing the FH much more DTL than before. This may be due to him needing a bigger take back with the new racquet which makes him late for CC shots vs DTLs, not sure. But hey, it's still good. I'd even say his BH is almost stronger than the FH now...it's certainly more versatile.

The biggest change is easy power on the serve for sure. He could probably get 130+ with this racquet vs his old one for the same effort/speed he used to put in. So hitting mid 120s probably takes less effort which is great for his back and means he can be more accurate/higher 1st serve %. It will be interesting to see if his % 1st serves in are higher for 2014 than before.

However, he biggest change may be mental...Fed believing he's more solid on the shots. Still, his footwork is getting later on shots the longer a ralley goes against the very best and no racquet will help here but I think he can now stay top10 until he just about decides to retire. Let's not forget the game evolves too...even if Federer hadn't declined one iota his performance now wouldn't be quite as effective as 2004.
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Post by laverfan Tue 8 Jul - 19:34

The most remarkable change I have seen is when he has to cover the FH when he is planted in his BH corner. The foot speed is definitely slower than his heydays.

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Post by bogbrush Thu 10 Jul - 13:17

Thanks all, seems we're all on the same page.

I truly believe the back has been some kind of problem for a very long time, more or less his version of Rafas knees.
When the book comes out I suspect it'll be revealed he's had issues throughout his career, though obviously getting worse over time. I remember it being a big problem at the end of 2008, he was serving like a grandad playing Murray indoors! I forget where.
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Post by reckoner Thu 10 Jul - 13:32

bogbrush wrote:Thanks all, seems we're all on the same page.

I truly believe the back has been some kind of problem for a very long time, more or less his version of Rafas knees.
When the book comes out I suspect it'll be revealed he's had issues throughout his career, though obviously getting worse over time. I remember it being a big problem at the end of 2008, he was serving like a grandad playing Murray indoors! I forget where.

IIRC Federer was unable to do millitary service because of issues with his back, so yes it has been a problem for a long time.

And was the match you're thinking of Shanghai?

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Post by reckoner Thu 10 Jul - 13:40

See point number 4: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/tennis/rogerfederer/7102859/Australian-Open-10-things-you-need-to-know-about-Roger-Federer.html

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Post by laverfan Sat 12 Jul - 6:11

bogbrush wrote:When the book comes out I suspect it'll be revealed he's had issues throughout his career, though obviously getting worse over time. I remember it being a big problem at the end of 2008, he was serving like a grandad playing Murray indoors! I forget where.

TMC 2008 - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MGWfCdhR2wo (Trainer in attendance - a rare occasion).

Shanghai 2010 - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mtRWdLkigCg

Shanghai 2012 - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cdWWLZo2CQg

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Post by invisiblecoolers Sat 12 Jul - 22:49

The bigger racquet means he shanks a lot lesser than what he did last 3-4 years, yup when he was younger the smaller racquet was better coz if could extract the power and he had more control and stamina to run all around the court, now with little stamina he needs to compensate that with bigger racquet and more control at the expense of power.

He may not even reach 50% of his success of his peak but 1 odd glory is all expected and if that happens I guess all Fed fans will take it with both hands. The 1 glory could be 2016 Olympics, 8th Wimbledon, 2nd FO, 5th Australian Open or 6th USO , all would be a record feat for him.

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Post by lydian Sun 13 Jul - 14:56

Smaller racquet didn't equal more power...Nadal gets huge power from a <300g 100inch racquet. Also, if you line up a 98inch racquet over a 90inch one the difference around the head is actually surprisingly small. But it is a bigger sweet spot...it's helped his BH and serve but not the FH and volleys...so it's + and - really.

The biggest change to Federer isn't the racquet at all, it's his renewed commitment to fitness and practice.
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Post by JuliusHMarx Sun 13 Jul - 21:59

Changing rackets is just about the biggest change a pro can make (along with shoes, according to Goran). Given Fed's antiquated (in tennis terms) equipment previously, it's bound to have made a big difference, and not too surprising it took him a while to get used to it.
He said at the beginning of the season that he didn't expect to be fully comfortable with it until the grass season.

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Post by lags72 Sun 13 Jul - 22:25

I think 2013 was such a horrendous season (when judged strictly using the Federometer) that 2014 was always going to throw up two distinct possibilities : either more of the same, and hence the beginning of the end .....OR a significant improvement. Clearly, the latter is proving to be the case.

The racquet has almost certainly played a big part. But the man himself has made frequent comment about how much better the body is holding up, and so it would seem that the combination of improved health and a conscious decision to go through all that is involved in equipment change have conspired in his favour.

lydian, I take your point re the importance of a commitment to fitness & practice, but are you actually implying that he was not willing to put in the effort last year ......? You would acknowledge, surely that - however high your motivation & willingness to work hard - it's virtually impossible to make headway if your back is a constant cause of restriction & pain .....?

This match in Rio looks headed for a tie-break ....... er .... edit ....... no it doesn't .......!!

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Post by Born Slippy Mon 14 Jul - 11:45

If the idea is that the racquet is somehow aiding the back then its impact has been huge - not sure that's what is being suggested though? If not, then it seems it is a small cog with the prime issue being that he is much fitter/healthier. I don't see that he is playing better than 2012 (and indeed I would suggest he is slightly worse - being 2 years older that is not surprising) which surely has to be the true comparable of the impact of the racquet.

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Post by Calder106 Mon 14 Jul - 13:49

lags72 wrote:I think 2013 was such a horrendous season (when judged strictly using the Federometer) that 2014 was always going to throw up two distinct possibilities : either more of the same, and hence the beginning of the end .....OR a significant improvement. Clearly, the latter is proving to be the case.

The racquet has almost certainly played a big part. But the man himself has made frequent comment about how much better the body is holding up, and so it would seem that the combination of improved health and a conscious decision to go through all that is involved in equipment change have conspired in his favour.

lydian, I take your point re the importance of a commitment to fitness & practice, but are you actually implying that he was not willing to put in the effort last year ......? You would acknowledge, surely that -  however high your motivation & willingness to work hard - it's virtually impossible to make headway if your back is a constant cause of restriction & pain .....?

This match in Rio looks headed for a tie-break ....... er .... edit ....... no it doesn't .......!!

Not sure what Lydian's point was. However what is fact is that Federer played a number of exhibition matches in December 2012. That would surely a) Cut into the time he had to recover from the 2012 season and b) limit his training schedule prior to the 2013 season. For someone who was 31 at the time and with the potential for having back issues maybe it was a bit too much. Having proper downtime and preparation, new input to his coaching and game plan, and the new racquet seems to have helped. Keeping the points short appears to be the key for him now.

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Post by lydian Tue 15 Jul - 8:05

Thanks, yes my point was that he fitter and faster again because he's able to train more with a better back. If your health and fitness routines are stable then yes changing racquets is a bigger deal but like I say the racquet is aiding BH and serve through easier power (it's a wider beam racquet) so that also is prophylactic for his back. But let's not forget the basics of tennis...fitness, footwork and form (stroke technique). All 3 areas had slipped due to his back...the racquet is additive once that's solved.
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Post by Jeremy_Kyle Wed 16 Jul - 8:57

lydian wrote:Smaller racquet didn't equal more power...Nadal gets huge power from a <300g 100inch racquet. Also, if you line up a 98inch racquet over a 90inch one the difference around the head is actually surprisingly small. But it is a bigger sweet spot...it's helped his BH and serve but not the FH and volleys...so it's + and - really.

The biggest change to Federer isn't the racquet at all, it's his renewed commitment to fitness and practice.

Hi, Nadal's raquet is about 340 g strung. Pro's raquets always differ to the basic verision available to the public and in this case it is a very lightweight raquet for a pro as most are in the range of 360 to 400.


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Post by lydian Wed 16 Jul - 21:48

It is very light indeed. His 'base' unstrung and unleaded weight is commonly known to be 10.6oz (300g) for the APD 1st generation racquet he still plays with under latest AeroPro paint job. Strings tend to add about 18g and his lead has increased from 2010 to now, see below.

His 300g APD base weight is referred to here...
http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052748703453804575480023126380744

This 2012 article refers to the ~340g weight you mention...
http://tennisopolis.com/forum/topics/nadal-s-actual-racquet-shown-and-his-specs

Also, don't forget he plays with a ridiculously small 4 1/4 grip size so his base is also a little lighter due to that.

Re: adding weight, well he upped the lead tape at tip and handle to 20g (from about 5g he was using before) from USO 2010 onwards to get more pop on serve - at first the extra weight gave him a bad shoulder if you remember around that time...
http://www.tennistalk.com/en/news/20101122/Nadal_battles_shoulder,_Roddick_in_opening_match
It also added oomph to his FH to meet the challenge of Djokovic. In partic his FH DTL took him quite a bit of time to adjust to through 2011 (if you noticed his FH DTL relatively misfired and all but disappeared for many matches across 2011...plus he hit short a huge amount in trying to micro-adjust his strike arc and follow through to cope with the extra weight. Nadal's uses stretch short cycles via his wrist on the FH like no-one else does...adding 10+g of lead is a huge deal to a pro.

So when we talk about Federer changing his racquet set up a lot don't forget Rafa has done so too. I actually have no idea how Rafa plays with what is a very unique racquet set up to be honest, it's just plain weird. Pick up a 4 1/4 racquet in a shop and feel how weird that is in a typical adults hands!

Feds and Djokovics racquet are a good 20g heavier (Delpo's 30g heavier), which again seems nothing but makes a massive difference to swingweight and easier power.
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Post by Jeremy_Kyle Thu 17 Jul - 10:00

Good point re serve improvement in and after 2010 due to added lead tape. Yes 20 g definitely increase power particularly for flatter hitter!
Jeremy_Kyle
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