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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

First topic message reminder :

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 CaledonianCraig Wed 03 Feb 2016, 6:28 am

Today a pre-requisite for getting to the top is two fold - you must have the talent and you must have supreme fitness to compete against the very best. Having only one of those qualities is going to seriously hinder your rise up the rankings.
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Post by lags72 Wed 03 Feb 2016, 9:25 am


CC - I think you make a very good wrt the importance of fitness

In one sense, the matter of fitness is a very basic and self-evident pre-requisite. And yet it can so easily be taken for granted.

Because we don't see what goes on behind the scenes in the many hours /weeks /months of training & gym work, we tend to focus (understandably perhaps) almost 100% on the level of talent we see during match play ; and can often forget the 'supreme fitness' required to a) climb the rankings - and then b) to stay at the top - or indeed, anywhere even close to the top.

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Post by CaledonianCraig Wed 03 Feb 2016, 1:15 pm

Well if you think about it the likes of Novak, Andy, Rafa and Roger have invariably been at the business end of all major tournaments over the last few years. They have soaked up the majority of the ranking points. For youngsters to make progress into the top ten you need consistently good results and runs deep into tournaments which in turn asks them to be able to occasionally beat those four and to do that you need that supreme fitness in many cases. Not just that you need the fitness say to beat them in maybe QF's and then recover and say beat another of them two days later in a semi. It is a step too far for those that have not prepared and tuned themselves into perfect physical specimens.

The likes of Novak and Andy learnt that hard truth at an early age. They had the clear talent but fitness (or lack of) hindered them in their formative years but they worked damned hard to remedy that and reach the stage they are now at.

Now it is reasonable to assume that the younger generation that have followed are not of the same class talent-wise and cannot recall Dimitrov, Raonic, Kyrgios or other young hopefuls out lasting the very top players in physical battles hence we have not seen them scale the heights to the top and stay there.

Finally, let's not frown upon supreme fitness as that is just another element of a true modern day professional where everything has to be the very best to succeed. It is akin to a modern day centre-back in football. In the old days the pre-requisite for that role was that you were hard as nails, good in the air and could take the centre-forward out at any time. Today they need to be more subtle and be able to pass the ball and have a good reading of the game. My point is that in every sport times change and so does the requirements to succeed in it.
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Post by lags72 Wed 03 Feb 2016, 2:20 pm

Some interesting thoughts there CC.

And I suppose an adjective such as 'fundamental' (rather than my use of 'basic') would have been more appropriate when talking about the requirement for fitness. There is, after all, nothing 'basic' about the level of fitness maintained by these four guys - who have pretty much held down the top four spots for close to eight years now .....

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