Brain Game: Federer Rides Hyper-Aggressive Game Plan To Victory
Federer dialed in a perfect game plan, especially in the important moments, to defeat Novak Djokovic 6-3, 7-5 in the final of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.
There were nine break points played, and Roger Federer won them all.
Federer attacked in all ways possible, keeping points short, and robbing the World No. 1 of the rhythm and stroke-building patterns he thrives on. This was one of those matches that looked even, but every time a point rolled around at a critical juncture, Federer was unstoppable.
Behind his incredibly accurate serve, there was no hole that was unescapable for the Swiss star. Three times in the match he fell behind 15/40 while serving, and three times he held with conviction.
Federer faced seven break points for the match, and because of his formidable serve never had to hit a backhand from the baseline in any of them. This was a critical, hidden aspect of the final, because of the 10 times he started the point with a “Serve + 1” backhand combo, he only won one of them. Federer made five of seven first serves on break points, hit one ace, had three serves unreturned, and found his way as soon as possible to the net on the other three points. The plan was clear and unrelenting. Federer sought short points with no backhands. Djokovic craved longer points with a plethora of backhands.
The Swiss star mixed a high degree of offensive skill with a little lady luck, hitting a forehand volley winner, down 4-5, 15/40, in the second set that skidded right through the back of the baseline. Another inch or two, and this match was going to a third set.
Federer was an offensive juggernaut, which has proven to be a perfect counter-move to cause chaos to the Serb’s baseline lockdown tactics. Federer served and volleyed 16 times for the match, winning 83 per cent (10/12) of first serves, but only 25 per cent (1/4) of second serves - still probably better than trading backhands through the Ad Court.
Federer’s first serve was humming, making 64 per cent, and winning 80 per cent (41/51), mainly targeted at Djokovic’s forehand return. The Serb hit 62 per cent (24/39) forehand returns off first serves for the match, only winning six of them, and fared even worse off his more favored backhand wing, only winning three of 15.
Federer’s favourite spot to serve in the deuce court was a slider out wide to Djokovic’s forehand, where he attempted 20, made 15 and won 12, including a slow 105mph ace at 4-5, deuce, in the second set. To hit a first serve that slow, on such a big point, highlighted the poise and confidence that carried him to victory.
Federer targeted Djokovic’s forehand return in the Ad Court, attempting 22 first serves down the middle, making 14 and winning 10. His secondary pattern was out wide, where he attempted 13, made 10 and won nine. It was the perfect ratio to win the critical guessing game of serve location against the best returner in the world.
Making first serves helped Federer primarily hit a forehand as the first shot after the serve. He won 54 per cent (14/26) with this forehand “Serve + 1” play, but only one of 10 with a backhand.
Federer showed his cards in his opening service game, coming to the net four out of the five points, including three serving and volleying. Yes, it was going to be one of “those days.”
Federer’s goal was to take the baseline rallying out of the equation. The quicker court in Dubai allowed for that, and the extra speed Federer was putting on his groundstrokes made them tough for the Serb to successfully redirect.
Federer crushed an 89mph forehand approach winner at 3-2, 15/15 in the first set and also ripped two consecutive backhand down the line winners at 3-3 in the second set that registered at a bruising 90mph and 86mph. If there was going to be a point, it was typically going to be at full throttle.
But Federer also used a lack of power to perfection as well. With Djokovic serving at 3-4, 30-30 in the opening set, Federer deliberately hit a low, slow, short backhand slice to buy enough time to run around the next shot in the ad court and crush a dominating forehand. Federer hit the same type of backhand slice as a return on the next point that Djokovic sailed long. Federer won both points to break serve.
Coming forward is about making a statement and asking a question. Federer, once again, is the man with all the answers.
Craig O'Shannessy uses extensive tagging, metrics and formulas to uncover the patterns and percentages behind the game. Read more at www.braingametennis.com.