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How long could Federer play at the top for?

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Post by bogbrush Tue 26 Jan 2016, 11:20 am

It was funny watching the quarter today. As one poster said, Berdych used to trouble Federer but on a court ideal for his play he was dismantled pretty emphatically by Federer. Where he seemed always to be short of time against the big Czech, he looked in control throughout.

The winners almost doubled the unforced errors (so it was attacking tennis) and Berdych looked further away from overcoming him than perhaps ever before. There was the usual drivel from Simon Reed about how Federers movement is "better than ever" but in my opinion he's confusing footspeed with the impact of court position.

What Federer seems to have done is made his court smaller, and in doing so he's made the other guys bigger. It's done simply by standing right up on every shot from return to mid rally and refusing to back off; in doing so he's rushing opponents and giving himself broader angles to play into, as well as cutting down the distance he needs to travel side to side. I thought it was noticeable how many killer forehands he hit - a part of his game that became a shadow of it's former self.

The only requirement for this tactic is insanely good reactions & the ability (which he's always had) to play half or near-half volleys like normal groundstrokes.

The question I'm thinking is; provided he keeps his hand-eye skill (and he'll probably have it in some form for decades), and he stays basically fit, what's to stop him staying in the top 5 for another 4 years or so? There's no sign of others coming through, I think the events are starting to realise they took the slow court thing too far and there are signs of a reversal, and he seems to want it. If he fails to win this Australian Open it's most likely to be because the current established #1 beats him; that's what it's taken to stop him winning the last two Grand Slams after all.

Exactly why will he stop, and when? We all keep predicting he'll fall away but while he's able to reinvent / rejuvinate his game where's the evidence?

As the man says today; “It's part of the reason why I guess I'm still playing. I feel like I'm competitive at the top. I can beat all the guys on tour. It's nice now that in the last three slams that I've been as consistent as I have been,” Federer said.

“I'm playing good tennis, fun tennis for me anyway. I really enjoy being able to come to the net more like back in the day. So I'm very pleased. It would mean a lot to me (to win another major), no doubt about it.”
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Post by dummy_half Tue 26 Jan 2016, 11:48 am

BB

To be honest, I think in part it depends on how long Fed wants to play seriously, and whether he can stay fit and healthy.

He probably is half a step slower than in his prime, but his game has never been as much about speed of court coverage as the likes of Novak or Andy, so a bit of a loss of speed is less detrimental; to compensate, he is probably serving better than ever (placement and variation rather than outright power), his game plan has reverted to being more aggressive both on serve return and with coming to the net, and he is hitting a flat backhand really well. The forehand is probably not quite as good as at his peak, but is still a shot 99.5% of pro players would kill to have.

Hand/eye coordination and timing are things he just has as a natural gift - of course all pros in bat and ball sports are way better than the norm in this regard, but you do get the occasional player who stands out even from his contemporaries, and Fed is definitely one of those, so that is something that is just going to stay. The difficulty comes if the footwork around the ball slows down too much or the eyes go (tends to happen to cricketers in their later 30s).

Another 4 years in the top 5 or so sounds unlikely, but as you make the good point, where is the challenge to the current top players coming from? There are few obvious contenders in the 23-27 generation (perhaps Raonic, if he can maintain and improve his form from the start of this season), and the younger generation (Thiem, Kyrgios and a few others in the 19-20 age range) have potential but still need to develop and mature. I certainly think that if Federer wants to do so, he can stick around as a threat in all tournaments for this year and next at the least.

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Post by CaledonianCraig Tue 26 Jan 2016, 11:49 am

I don't think any time limit should be set on when he should quit - that will be his decision.

I think slams still are on the agenda. If Novak had lost to Simon then Federer would have become warm favourite for the title so that speaks volumes. He is still consistently at the business end of virtually all the tournaments he enters and that must be worth continuing on for.
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Post by HM Murdock Tue 26 Jan 2016, 11:54 am

As much as people emphasise the physical nature of modern tennis, it remains ultimately a game of match ups.

Federer remains a difficult match up stylistically for almost everyone.

As that style is not built upon foot speed or endurance, his decline in these aspects is not the killer blow that it would be for others (Rafa being a very good example).

His fall from the top may well be the result of scheduling rather than usurpation.

Already, he's ditched all clay events except RG. He tends to skip Miami too.

This will keep him playing for longer but he's in effect giving his rivals a potential 3000+ points head start.

This makes it tougher to hold onto a high ranking. And if the ranking slips, then draws can become tougher and winning ranking points becomes tougher and it becomes a downward trend.

I suspect this will be what prompts the slide rather than the level of his tennis.

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Post by coolpixel Tue 26 Jan 2016, 12:25 pm

for 2-3 more years for sure, if he chooses to continue playing.

Nadal isn't the force he was and unlikely that will return. Murray remains inconsistent and his being a parent will impact his motivation. Djokovic will remain untouchable for maybe a season more.

Federer will get older and slower, but really, who is going to challenge him for fourth spot? not a single other player from the current crop.


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Post by CaledonianCraig Tue 26 Jan 2016, 12:27 pm

coolpixel wrote:for 2-3 more years for sure, if he chooses to continue playing.

Nadal isn't the force he was and unlikely that will return. Murray remains inconsistent and his being a parent will impact his motivation. Djokovic will remain untouchable for maybe a season more.

Federer will get older and slower, but really, who is going to challenge him for fourth spot? not a single other player from the current crop.


That sums things up nicely.
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Post by barrystar Tue 26 Jan 2016, 12:29 pm

@HMM - he has not given up all clay tournaments apart from RG.  He has said that he prefers to add tournaments to his schedule rather than remove them because of the fans, and he is not sure which clay lead-up tournaments he wants to play.

It's top 4 that makes the difference, and that requires c.5,000 points.  Fed already has 870 in the 2016 race.  I don't think scheduling will be his downfall.

His downfall will be when there are 5-6 players who can beat him 50% of the time on hardcourts - and that looks a long time coming if he keeps up his end of the bargain.
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Post by bogbrush Tue 26 Jan 2016, 12:35 pm

We all seem to be headed in the same direction, albeit Murdock makes the point that as I stipulate "top 5", skipping most of clay makes that trickier. If he really did go on and on then even some of Jimmy Connors records come into range  Yikes

One point on draws getting trickier; this only really applies if you hit one of the players who really is better than you. A "true" #2, for instance, who's playing as #7, runs the risk of meeting the #1 in the quarters. He doesn't really care about meeting the #4 at the quarter because, well, he's better than him. Imagine Federer drawing - say - Stan in the quarters because he's #7. So what?

In the end I'm not sure it's as big a problem as we sometimes think - and a bit of luck on the draw makes it zero.


I also noted him saying something about the girls the other day - that they're still too young to take much notice (apparently he was asked about them reading books in the stand while he was playing). He used to say he wanted to play at the top when the girls could really know about it, so perhaps he has incentives? Now, we have to convince him that the boys should remember him playing too......................
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Post by bogbrush Tue 26 Jan 2016, 12:41 pm

Oh, on the subject of the girls I liked the sound of the advice they gave him. One apparently said he should play the ball onto the lines all the time while the other said he should try looking one way and hitting the other.

Could they be the secret weapon to counter Boris in the semi?
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Post by Haddie-nuff Tue 26 Jan 2016, 12:45 pm

bogbrush wrote:Oh, on the subject of the girls I liked the sound of the advice they gave him. One apparently said he should play the ball onto the lines all the time while the other said he should try looking one way and hitting the other.

Could they be the secret weapon to counter Boris in the semi?

Rafa needs new blood on his team I wonder if Roger's girls might consider the job Wink

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Post by bogbrush Tue 26 Jan 2016, 12:47 pm

Speaking of whom, he's odd man out unmarried & without kids. It's getting like family men at the top is the norm!
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Post by Guest Tue 26 Jan 2016, 12:50 pm

Haddie-nuff wrote:
bogbrush wrote:Oh, on the subject of the girls I liked the sound of the advice they gave him. One apparently said he should play the ball onto the lines all the time while the other said he should try looking one way and hitting the other.

Could they be the secret weapon to counter Boris in the semi?

Rafa needs new blood on his team I wonder if Roger's girls might consider the job Wink

I have a calf if he needs it Wink

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Post by LuvSports! Tue 26 Jan 2016, 12:51 pm

That is if his back doesn't flare up again. It can come outta nowhere.

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Post by Haddie-nuff Tue 26 Jan 2016, 12:53 pm

Yes but I think you will have noticed that it is only Feli Lopez who is a married man amongst the Spaniards and I have explained the reasons for that before..
I would like to see him married he has a beautiful girlfriend who has been by his side for around 9/10 years .. she will want to settle shortly I feel because I know they both love kids. It would be the making of him I think

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Post by prostaff85 Tue 26 Jan 2016, 1:03 pm

Interesting idea that if Federer really continues playing into his late thirties, age will be in his favour again as Djokovic and Murray will start to decline!

In the last 5 years, Federer has won only one major (vs. Djokovic 9, Nadal 5, Murray 2, Wawrinka 2 and Cilic 1), and it's mainly Djokovic and Nadal preventing Federer from adding more. With Nadal out for now, there's only one roadblock remaining...




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Post by bogbrush Tue 26 Jan 2016, 1:03 pm

She's a stunning girl, probably the loveliest wag on the tour (Berdych's included). The only thing is that I have a theory about Mediterranean women that are are incredibly beautiful until overnight they put a black shawl on and become ancient. I think she's got a while yet on that.
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Post by temporary21 Tue 26 Jan 2016, 1:05 pm

As long as his health holds out. He is currently still playing at a level where he should still be winning slams, let alone his last chances at them. Novaks his Everest though. Thursday will tell big whether that's set to continue, or of he can get to 20.

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Post by bogbrush Tue 26 Jan 2016, 1:05 pm

prostaff85 wrote:Interesting idea that if Federer really continues playing into his late thirties, age will be in his favour again as Djokovic and Murray will start to decline!

In the last 5 years, Federer has won only one major (vs. Djokovic 9, Nadal 5, Murray 2, Wawrinka 2 and Cilic 1), and it's mainly Djokovic and Nadal preventing Federer from adding more. With Nadal out for now, there's only one roadblock remaining...
So Federer regains pre-eminence by outlasting Novak's career? Laugh

This has gone to the very top of my personal wish list.
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Post by HM Murdock Tue 26 Jan 2016, 1:11 pm

barrystar wrote:@HMM - he has not given up all clay tournaments apart from RG.  He has said that he prefers to add tournaments to his schedule rather than remove them because of the fans, and he is not sure which clay lead-up tournaments he wants to play.
According to Severin Luthi here:
http://www.tennis.com/pro-game/2016/01/luthi-no-big-changes-ljubicic-look-federer-add-clay-tournament/57127/#.Vqdr4pqLSUk

..."He will play another clay-court tournament, but which one is not known" before RG.

So playing only one of the three clay 1000s sounds like a very real possibility.

With Miami gone too, that is three Masters tournaments he won't be competing at.

I also strongly suspect he won't compete (or perhaps will lose early) in the full sequence of:

Rogers Cup
(1 week break)
Olympics
(no break)
Cincy
(1 week break)
USO

If he takes a hit at Cincy or Canada, that's a lot of points he's not playing for. Which means he's going to have to go deep in the slams again to hold his ranking.

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Post by temporary21 Tue 26 Jan 2016, 1:14 pm

But tbf. No one below him has the bottle and/or skill to beat him. You can basically place him in the semis of three of the 4 slams without fear

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Post by HM Murdock Tue 26 Jan 2016, 1:17 pm

prostaff85 wrote:Interesting idea that if Federer really continues playing into his late thirties, age will be in his favour again as Djokovic and Murray will start to decline!

In the last 5 years, Federer has won only one major (vs. Djokovic 9, Nadal 5, Murray 2, Wawrinka 2 and Cilic 1), and it's mainly Djokovic and Nadal preventing Federer from adding more. With Nadal out for now, there's only one roadblock remaining...
If, four years from now, tennis' top battle is 39 year old Federer v 33 year old Djokovic, then it really will be time to give up and start watching volleyball.

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Post by HM Murdock Tue 26 Jan 2016, 1:20 pm

temporary21 wrote:But tbf. No one below him has the bottle and/or skill to beat him. You can basically place him in the semis of three of the 4 slams without fear
But if his two final appearances become semi finals, then that's almost a 1000 points lost right there.

His approach of playing less in order to play better is the right one. But it means he has to do the business when he does play. Any slip ups (which must surely increase as the years pass) become more costly.

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Post by temporary21 Tue 26 Jan 2016, 1:22 pm

Fair enough. But then if he slips to like 8th he's still better than about 5 people above him.

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Post by banbrotam Tue 26 Jan 2016, 1:34 pm

coolpixel wrote:for 2-3 more years for sure, if he chooses to continue playing.

Nadal isn't the force he was and unlikely that will return. Murray remains inconsistent and his being a parent will impact his motivation. Djokovic will remain untouchable for maybe a season more.

Federer will get older and slower, but really, who is going to challenge him for fourth spot? not a single other player from the current crop.



I don't see the Top 3 been caught by any of the others for three years, unless Nadal suddenly wins all the clay events

Not certain I agree about Murray's inconsistency, isn't he (or wasn't he) No.2 in the world?? Also, having a child hasn't blunted either Novak or Roger's motivation

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Post by CaledonianCraig Tue 26 Jan 2016, 1:42 pm

banbrotam wrote:
coolpixel wrote:for 2-3 more years for sure, if he chooses to continue playing.

Nadal isn't the force he was and unlikely that will return. Murray remains inconsistent and his being a parent will impact his motivation. Djokovic will remain untouchable for maybe a season more.

Federer will get older and slower, but really, who is going to challenge him for fourth spot? not a single other player from the current crop.



I don't see the Top 3 been caught by any of the others for three years, unless Nadal suddenly wins all the clay events

Not certain I agree about Murray's inconsistency, isn't he (or wasn't he) No.2 in the world?? Also, having a child hasn't blunted either Novak or Roger's motivation

The inconsistency is certainly there in the crunch matches such as slam semis and finals. If he could have cracked that problem I am sure Andy would have more than two slams by now.
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Post by coolpixel Tue 26 Jan 2016, 1:53 pm

Murray has said tennis will not be more important than his child. i don't think either Federer or Djokovic has said this.

this does not mean that their kids are less important than their careers. it just means they have been able to strike a balance.

whether Murray can do that, remains to be seen, however the fact that he expressed that sentiment in the 1st place, opens the door for post child motivation questions.

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Post by CaledonianCraig Tue 26 Jan 2016, 1:58 pm

coolpixel wrote:Murray has said tennis will not be more important than his child. i don't think either Federer or Djokovic has said this.

this does not mean that their kids are less important than their careers. it just means they have been able to strike a balance.

whether Murray can do that, remains to be seen, however the fact that he expressed that sentiment in the 1st place, opens the door for post child motivation questions.

I think it would be ludicrous if both Roger and Novak didn't think their children are more important than their tennis careers. Murray has come out and said it because he has probably been asked whereas Novak and Roger haven't. Today Andy is saying he sees the likes of Ferrer and Federer continuing to play well into their 30s as an inspiration to him as he hopes to do the same so his heart is still in tennis.
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Post by coolpixel Tue 26 Jan 2016, 2:08 pm

'I think it would be ludicrous if both Roger and Novak didn't think their children are more important than their tennis careers.'

i haven't said that.

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Post by CaledonianCraig Tue 26 Jan 2016, 2:11 pm

coolpixel wrote:'I think it would be ludicrous if both Roger and Novak didn't think their children are more important than their tennis careers.'

i haven't said that.

So it doesn't matter if Roger or Novak have said it then as we all know (surely) they feel the same about their kids as Andy will. Kids/Family first tennis next.
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Post by Calder106 Tue 26 Jan 2016, 2:19 pm

As long as Federer continues to serve at the standard he has the last couple of years I don't see him dropping away soon. It gets him so many free points and means that his matches are rarely extended which lessens the impact of age/foot speed/stamina. Also as pointed out out his main rivals are not getting any younger either and are really the same people (apart from Djokovic) that he been beating reasonably consistently over the past few years. Raonic and Nishikori (25 and 26) if they remain fit are players who could move into the top 3 but other than them it is waiting to see who out of 18-22 year old players will mature enough to challenge at the top.

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Post by laverfan Tue 26 Jan 2016, 2:20 pm

The increase in number of squash shots does show a decline, but the ability to evolve and add shots to his repertoire shows why Federer is still a force to be reckoned with. Is he old, yes, that he is.

If the bad days at the office exceed good days at the office, it would certainly motivate Federer to look for a different office (other than Pro Tennis). It could be coaching, politics, champions tour (?).

Berdych did play quite well, but could not capitalize on his breaks. If he can beat Djokovic (a tall order), then #18 is much closer. Is #18 the key to his continuing to play the pro tour?

He does make an interesting observation about DHBH/SHBH in one of his interviews.

http://2016.ausopen.com/en_AU/news/media/4721753173001.html

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Post by Calder106 Tue 26 Jan 2016, 2:32 pm

coolpixel wrote:Murray has said tennis will not be more important than his child. i don't think either Federer or Djokovic has said this.

this does not mean that their kids are less important than their careers. it just means they have been able to strike a balance.

whether Murray can do that, remains to be seen, however the fact that he expressed that sentiment in the 1st place, opens the door for post child motivation questions.

Conversely having something something more important than tennis might actually help him to be more relaxed and not get so frustrated when his game drops below the standard he expects. It's all speculation at the moment though the next year or so will tell.

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Post by dummy_half Tue 26 Jan 2016, 2:38 pm

LF

I think in Federer's mind, the fact that he is still quite consistently reaching slam semis and finals suggests that #18 is a possibility - one of these days he will play as well in a final as he did (for example) in last year's Wimbledon semi-final. His best level is still good enough to be a serious challenge for the top 2. I think he'll certainly keep playing for as long as he thinks he's a contender, and perhaps even longer as he does seem to be one of the players that takes great pleasure simply from hitting a ball.

An interesting point earlier, that with Nadal already looking like he's passed his peak and Djokovic and Murray getting towards the age they are likely to lose a step of pace, there's the possibility that unless some of the youngsters show great improvement, Federer could again become the man to beat in his mid 30s - certainly a less good player than a decade earlier, but better than a weaker field.

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Post by bogbrush Tue 26 Jan 2016, 2:56 pm

HM Murdock wrote:
prostaff85 wrote:Interesting idea that if Federer really continues playing into his late thirties, age will be in his favour again as Djokovic and Murray will start to decline!

In the last 5 years, Federer has won only one major (vs. Djokovic 9, Nadal 5, Murray 2, Wawrinka 2 and Cilic 1), and it's mainly Djokovic and Nadal preventing Federer from adding more. With Nadal out for now, there's only one roadblock remaining...
If, four years from now, tennis' top battle is 39 year old Federer v 33 year old Djokovic, then it really will be time to give up and start watching volleyball.

That's sent a chill through me. I don't mind them both sticking around putting the shivers up the younger new champions (in fact I'd love it) but please God not still the top battle.
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Post by laverfan Tue 26 Jan 2016, 4:25 pm

@DH.. My yardstick for longevity is Rosewall or Pancho G. Federer is getting there. Federer alludes to the hard work he has put in over the years, but we only get to see the few hours on-court. I hope the younger generation has the cojones to follow the example of the hard work these top guys put in.

@BB... Djokovic (the elastic man) is excellent as is Murray, but as we saw in Wawrinka v Raonic, there is wave behind these guys that is coming. If Berdych did not have his mental demons, he would be a force now.

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Post by TRuffin Tue 26 Jan 2016, 4:27 pm

Massive true age decline can happen quickly though. Fed is holding off father time and modern times have extended the age of top athletes but there is always a cliff coming. Look at Peyton Manning. Two years ago he was breaking every NFL season record in the books, lighting up defenses. Following year- he was on track halfway through the season to do the sae and suddenly arm just got tired and gave out. Second half of the season and this year his arm is a noodle and he might be the worst throwing QB in the league completely reliant on teammates. Tennis players don't have that luxury.

No reason to think Federer can't go another couple years at a consistent top level and he can prob turn up at a place like Wimbledon at 40 and still be better than all but a couple players- but at that point, there is no way he will be able to do it consistently. It's hard for me to see him willing to struggle a lot with the hopes of catching on fire and making a run here and there.

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Post by laverfan Tue 26 Jan 2016, 5:26 pm

I used to watch Joe Montana, and the career he had at 49ers (with Rice) vs Chiefs was a stark contrast.

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Post by temporary21 Tue 26 Jan 2016, 5:43 pm

Yeah I imagine his decline at his age wont be a slow descent, hell just fall straight off one year and hell surely call time after that.

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Post by TRuffin Tue 26 Jan 2016, 6:10 pm

laverfan wrote:I used to watch Joe Montana, and the career he had at 49ers (with Rice) vs Chiefs was a stark contrast.

I'm a massive Montana fan, both as a person and player. Don't forget he won 2 Super Bowls without Rice :-)

Perfect example with Chiefs though- Montana actually had some great moments for them. Led them on crazy comebacks to get to the AFC Championship his 1st season until a concussion knocked him out on the frozen Buffalo field. 2nd season beat the 49ers and outdueled Steve Young, outdueled Elway with a last second drive in what for years was called the best Monday night football game ever. Got them to playoffs and had a shootout with Marino where the rest of the team let him down and they lost....

The 1st year coming off major arm surgery that ended his time with 49ers- Montana looked like his old dominant self the 1st few games, then his body just started getting beat up and his age truly showed. He was still able to summon up some amazing moments that I mentioned above- experience, confidence, talent all helped, but week in and week out- he just wasn't the same player. Same as Manning- they can look great 1 week and look like old has beens the next.

Ali, Jordan, Rice- it happens to them all.

That's what will happen to Fed and any great player that plays into true no turning back age decline. He'll be able to summon up a 1 week run of old glory level, maybe 2 weeks - but week in and week out it's impossible. I don't think he will be the type to just show up here and there with a chance.

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Post by temporary21 Tue 26 Jan 2016, 6:23 pm

Being English I don't know Joe Montana, but I assume he was a great quarterback. I guess like Brady and Payton (who I do know) they generally have longer careers than tennis pros?

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Post by TRuffin Wed 27 Jan 2016, 6:48 pm

temporary21 wrote:Being English I don't know Joe Montana, but I assume he was a great quarterback. I guess like Brady and Payton (who I do know) they generally have longer careers than tennis pros?

Your assumption is correct- he is widely regarded as the greatest big game QB in history and along with a handful of others like Unitas, Brady, Manning- one of the GOATS :-)

Like tennis- the prime age and longevity seems to have climbed. In Montana's day, QB's were way past their sell date by their mid 30's. I believe Montana was 37 or so when he retired and considered very old. Now- guys like Brady and Manning, Favre have played at very high levels in their late 30's. Brady is still going strong at 39.

Both Favre and Manning fell off the cliff ability wise quickly though- which lends to the theory that it happens sudden at some point when in that age range.

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Post by socal1976 Wed 27 Jan 2016, 11:20 pm

There is no question that fed is unique athletically and as a tennis player that is why he owns almost every record in the sport and is still playing top three tennis. I think he can be in a top five player for at least three more years if he chooses to. It's not just federer though, players are all benefitting from greatly improved training and diet. The fact that he plays quick attack tennis with a lot net approaches helps him maintain. Plus he is unorthodox player on today's tour and so he has the benefit of confusing the standard patterns players are used to.

The thing for me that is so unique about fed is the athletic grace and fluidity of his movement. He is like a cat that no matter what you do and how you throw him he will always gracefully land on his feet. I mean the way he moves is just unique he doesn't exert dangerously and is never out of control

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Post by summerblues Thu 28 Jan 2016, 2:29 am

I do not see him staying competitive much longer.  He may be able to mask his aging fairly well, but at one point it will start going downhill very quickly.  I would not be at all shocked if this were the last slam where he is still really competitive.  In any event, I definitely expect that next year he will no longer be a major force.

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Post by Born Slippy Thu 28 Jan 2016, 9:32 pm

Following the debate over whether Federer is far worse now than at his peak, I have done a little comparison of results against the top guys who were around a few years back and are still going strong now.

The comparison is a simple one. I looked at his results against them in 2007 and 2009 and compared them to the same number of matches going back from now (I ignored 2008 and 2013 given health issues). The results are interesting (shown below as matches, sets and game %) - earlier results top line in each case:

Novak :

5-4 17-9 53.7%
4-5 11-14 47.8%

Rafa :

4-3 12-13 51.3%
3-4 9-12 49.1%

Andy :

2-1 5-3 51%
3-0 7-0 64%

Ferrer :

4-0 9-2 63%
4-0 8-2 57%

Berdych :

2-0 6-2 56%
2-0 5-0 63%

Wawrinka :

1-1 2-2 50%
2-0 5-0 70%

Tsonga :

0-1 1-2 55%
0-1 0-2 44%

I work out that makes him 17-10 overall in both timeframes. Given that all these players, bar Rafa, are definitely better now than 7-9 years ago, arguably it's evidence Federer has improved.

I'm perfectly willing to accept he's more inconsistent and his stamina isn't going to be as good. However, with the various improvements he's made, when it comes to the matches with his main rivals it would appear his level remains pretty similar to his peak.

Thoughts?

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Post by TRuffin Thu 28 Jan 2016, 9:51 pm

Born Slippy wrote:Following the debate over whether Federer is far worse now than at his peak, I have done a little comparison of results against the top guys who were around a few years back and are still going strong now.

The comparison is a simple one. I looked at his results against them in 2007 and 2009 and compared them to the same number of matches going back from now (I ignored 2008 and 2013 given health issues). The results are interesting (shown below as matches, sets and game %) - earlier results top line in each case:

Novak :

5-4 17-9 53.7%
4-5 11-14 47.8%

Rafa :

4-3 12-13 51.3%
3-4 9-12 49.1%

Andy :

2-1 5-3 51%
3-0 7-0 64%

Ferrer :

4-0 9-2 63%
4-0 8-2 57%

Berdych :

2-0 6-2 56%
2-0 5-0 63%

Wawrinka :

1-1 2-2 50%
2-0 5-0 70%

Tsonga :

0-1 1-2 55%
0-1 0-2 44%

I work out that makes him 17-10 overall in both timeframes. Given that all these players, bar Rafa, are definitely better now than 7-9 years ago, arguably it's evidence Federer has improved.

I'm perfectly willing to accept he's more inconsistent and his stamina isn't going to be as good. However, with the various improvements he's made, when it comes to the matches with his main rivals it would appear his level remains pretty similar to his peak.

Thoughts?

How do those stats play out in best of 5 matches? I think that's where the aging comes into greater play.

I'm not sure how to explain my thoughts on it without writing a book- but I think every great has "his time" when they are just feeling it in all aspects. Federer has talked extensively about how his confidence in those peak years just made him feel invincible and that was an extra little % that pulled him through big matches. All greats improve over time- thousands of hours of practice, greater tactical understanding, modern equipment changes,etc-- but nothing I have seen replaces what they had in "his time" when youth, athletic ability, and confidence were all working together. Not to mention just the newness of it all-- the edge that everyone loses as they do the same thing year after year. Jordan was a better shooter, defensive player, better understanding of the game as he got older, ali was a far better fighter tactically in the 1970's, Montana able to read and dissect defenses better in his 30's, but none of them could dominate their sport in the same way as they did in their "prime years" time and competition moves on. Just like Federer's backhand can improve over time, it still doesn't replace what he's lost imo.
Maybe the results look similar against some top guys, but he's taking more odd losses.. no more 35 semis in a row or whatever crazy number there is. He's more vulnerable to lesser players. In the big matches, he can't hold his top level for as long as before. as great as Djoko is playing, you can't tell me Federer at his peak wouldn't have pulled out a win or two out of two matches on Wimbledon grass, us open hard court.

There are so many factors- someone like Murray for example.. Back then, maybe the style and matchup gave prime fed more issues... even though Murray has gotten better overall and in his prime, maybe the style he has slightly morphed too is an easier problem for older fed to solve, and better results follow..

Doesn't take away from how amazing he is still playing (for his age). He's just not what he was.. The unbiased eye test and the results tell us that- even if he is improving a head to head against someone like Murray.

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Post by Born Slippy Thu 28 Jan 2016, 10:22 pm

I like the point about having their time. I tend to agree with that - Fed must have felt invincible (off clay) from 05-07. He's lost a tiny bit of that aura now. Whether he would have been able to have that aura had there been a 25 year old Novak to compete with we will never know. I do wonder if the unbiased view is a touch rose-tinted though - I'm genuinely unbiased and I see minimal difference bar he definitely struggles for stamina.

Look, I'm not disputing he probably has lost a slight edge. However, I seem to read a lot of comments on here which basically imply he's a pale shadow of his former self and that tennis must be in an awful state if he's still making slam finals. In fact, he's still playing tennis which is very very close to his peak (remarkably). His tennis isn't amazing for a 34 year old - it's just amazing.


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Post by Guest Thu 28 Jan 2016, 10:35 pm

You ignored 2008 and 2013 on health issues.

So does Nadal's results 2009, 2012 and 2014 not count or similarly Murray's 2014?

Consistency dear boy. warning

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Post by Born Slippy Thu 28 Jan 2016, 10:57 pm

I wasn't going to go through and work out when/if his opponents weren't 100%. However, had I included 2008 I would obviously have been criticised (Fed got beaten up badly by Rafa and Andy particularly that year). If leaving out 2008 it was also fairly logical to do the same for 2013.

Knock yourself out if you want to see what the stats look like with the changes you suggest. Probably more constructive to deal with the overall point though but I appreciate that's trickier than making snide remarks about the analysis.

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Post by socal1976 Fri 29 Jan 2016, 12:02 am

Born Slippy wrote:I like the point about having their time. I tend to agree with that - Fed must have felt invincible (off clay) from 05-07. He's lost a tiny bit of that aura now. Whether he would have been able to have that aura had there been a 25 year old Novak to compete with we will never know. I do wonder if the unbiased view is a touch rose-tinted though - I'm genuinely unbiased and I see minimal difference bar he definitely struggles for stamina.

Look, I'm not disputing he probably has lost a slight edge. However, I seem to read a lot of comments on here which basically imply he's a pale shadow of his former self and that tennis must be in an awful state if he's still making slam finals. In fact, he's still playing tennis which is very very close to his peak (remarkably). His tennis isn't amazing for a 34 year old - it's just amazing.

At least now there is some basis for it I have been reading fed is old excuse post since 2009. I agree he is better in some areas like the BH return and even on serve. Those are significant improvements. Like Ruffin says how players get smarter and more refined as they age but they can't still dominate in their prime. I think you both touch on something in that the game moves on and eventually the level always heads up at least in the long run that is what we have seen in every modern sport. I think it is both a case of his rivals improving post 2007 and fed slowly getting worse. I think the rot actually started much later than most like to believe. I think in 09 he was as good as ever but Nadal was just better and fed would have had no chance if Nadal didn't get hurt to be number 1. Nadal of 2009-2013 was just better than fed and it had little to do with age and everything to do with Rafa learning to play well enough to consistently beat Fed on a fast court. Fed was not over the hill at the same age Djokovic is now. Especially in light of the fact that he went on to play 6 more years of top three tennis. I mean which is it was the guy a shot force at 27 or 28 or is he the guy who could still be ranked number 2 at age 34?

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Post by summerblues Fri 29 Jan 2016, 2:32 am

Born Slippy wrote:Following the debate over whether Federer is far worse now than at his peak, I have done a little comparison of results against the top guys who were around a few years back and are still going strong now.

[...]

I'm perfectly willing to accept he's more inconsistent and his stamina isn't going to be as good. However, with the various improvements he's made, when it comes to the matches with his main rivals it would appear his level remains pretty similar to his peak.

Thoughts?
First, I will start by saying that I agree that he is not miles and miles behind where he was in 2007/2009.  But, nevertheless, let me also chime in with counterpoints to your points:

1.  Player is measured by all kinds of measures, and you just happened to pick one where Fed has held up pretty well.  But there are also quite a few measures which show Fed declining.  Perhaps the most critical one:  From 8 slams in 2007/2009, Fed won 5 titles and had three losses (2x Nadal, 1x Delpo).  He also had one win against Nadal, and two against Djokovic.  In the 8 slams in 2014/15, Fed won zero titles, and his losses were: 3x Djokovic, Nadal, Gulbis, Cilic, Seppi, Wawrinka.  He had zero wins against either Nadal or Djokovic.  From this angle, 2014/15 looks rather significantly worse.

2.  You picked 2007 and 2009, but those were not really Fed's best years.  His best years were likely 2004-2006, or at most 2004-2007.

3.  While Fed has kept his overall level close-ish to where he used to be, it is also quite clear how he has achieved it.  He had to de-emphasize baseline game where he can no longer last with the top players, and he instead worked on improving his attacking game.  It is to his credit that - in not so friendly conditions - he has been able to do fairly well.  Nevertheless, at the end of the day, he has had to compensate for his aging.  And as he ages further, his game will deteriorate more and he will run out of areas where he can compensate by tactical adjustments.

I think he is close to where the decline will become very visible in results.  I expect he will be out of top 5 by YE.  I could be wrong - I would love to be wrong - but I will believe it when I see it.

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