17-time Grand Slam winner Roger Federer is still pushing hard to be on top of the ATP World Rankings, and his resurgence the last two years has taken everyone by surprise. The 34-year old maestro was last ranked number 1 in the world back in October 2012, and since then has gone as low as 8th in March 2014. But now it has been 17 months since that low, and the Swiss ace has pushed himself back to the 2nd spot, just below Novak Djokovic who has been on the top of the table since July 2014.
The Swiss international’s climb to number 2 from 8 in a relatively short span is a remarkable achievment for a 34-year-old. He is well and truly back among the tennis elite, and he can credit his return to form mainly to two things – first, to his new coach, 6-time Grand Slam singles winner Stefan Edberg, and the second, to his new Wilson racquet.
Two-time ATP Player of the Year Edberg started working with Federer at the start of the 2014 season. Federer may not have won a Grand Slam since, but he has looked more composed as a player, and more confident in advancing to the net.
One major change in Federer’s game the last two years has been is in his footwork – his sprints across the court have become faster, and he has become more precise at cutting off the angles. This new, changed Federer chooses to come diagonally forward when the ball is played across on the baseline and intercepts the ball while it is still inside the court, after which he hits an approach shot up the line and comes to the net.
Paul Annacone, Federer’s former coach, wanted him to refine his pattern of play in their last season together, but due to a niggling back injury, the Swiss star was not able to do so. Edberg, who replaced Annacone, has been more technical in smoothing out Federer’s approach game, and the results have flowed.
The other major change Federer made at the start of 2014 was to change his racquet – his new Wilson racquet was customized to his preferences. The new racquet-head, which is 95 square inches as opposed to the previous 90, gives him extra power, so he does not need as much of a backswing as before.
Federer has always had one of the best forehands in the business, but due to the new big racket head he has shortened his swing the last couple of years. It has also helped his backhand immeasurably, which is now much more consistent and powerful than ever before.
Because his swing is now so compact, Federer can hurry his opponents and give himself more time to get to the net to play his favourite volley shot.
Astoundingly, the 2015 US Open was his 60th consecutive Grand Slam, and he while his hopes of taking another big trophy home for his children were dashed by World No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the finals, there’s no denying Federer’s progress the last two years. With many calling for his retirement two years ago, the Swiss maestro has produced some brilliant play to silence all his doubters emphatically.
All it took was a racquet change and a new coach, and Roger Federer is now back to his best, even at the ripe old age of 34!