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Tennis strategy — Andrew Burton on Roger Federer in Miami

Andrew Burton



Steve Mitchell -- USA TODAY Sports

One thing that’s been really interesting for me in Miami is that Roger Federer appears to have adapted extraordinary rapidly and is emphasizing consistency on this court rather than offense.

It is interesting to see Federer use a kind of three-quarter slice in Miami to play through the center of the court, and then throw in a lot of down-the-line shots with side spin, which was very effective against Kevin Anderson.

Federer seemed to have decided that hitting past players is tougher on these courts than playing neutral rallies; he then used variety to put his opponents into uncomfortable spots.

One thing that I noticed starting in Dubai was that Federer was hitting way more topspin and block/drive backhands than he had in the past: The slice was there, but mostly as stretch defense and an occasional change-up. That lasted until set three versus Radu Albot. Federer had to be in full problem-solving mode in that set, and he began aiming shaped backhand slices to the ad sideline.

Then in the match against Filip Krajinovic, he came out with a completely different mindset, I thought. He used slices much more, possibly deciding that the court would only reward attacking shots from a very advantaged position.

He and his team came up with a completely different strategy for winning.

He played three players since Albot — Krajinovic, Daniil Medvedev and Anderson — and in those matches, his stats looked like Novak Djokovic’s or Rafael Nadal’s rather than Fed’s.

Federer often finishes three-set matches with 28 winners and 25 unforced errors. Against Anderson in the quarterfinals, it was 13 and 12.

The John Isner match was very similar in game style to Fed’s Laver Cup win over John last year: comfortable on his own serve, aiming for big targets in rallies, attempting to craft 30-30 or better scores in John’s service games.

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