Remembering And Explaining Roger Federer's Early Climb
Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers shows Federer's serve was critical to his rise
It took four years for the potential to be realised. From 1999-2002, Roger Federer's ability was clearly evident, but he was still perfecting his ruthlessly efficient patterns of play. And then is 2003, the Swiss took it to another level.
Federer exploded in 2003 with his first Grand Slam title at Wimbledon. He defeated Andy Roddick 7-6(6), 6-3, 6-3 in the semi-finals and took out Mark Philippoussis 7-6(5), 6-2, 7-6(3) in the final. It was game on for Federer, and game over for pretty much everyone else.
Roddick and Lleyton Hewitt were early yardsticks for Federer. The four years of Federer’s pro apprenticeship from 1999-2002 and the four years after, 2003-06, clearly show defined improvement against Roddick and Hewitt.
Federer had a lopsided losing record (2-5) against Hewitt in the earlier years, but once he flicked the switch in 2003, the next four years yielded a 9-1 record for the Swiss. Federer is 21-3 lifetime against Roddick, pretty much always having his measure.
An Infosys ATP Beyond the Numbers analysis of Federer against Roddick and Hewitt in the four years before 2003 and the four years following provides an insightful look at Federer's rise.
|Match Statistic||1999-2002 v Roddick/Hewitt||2003-2006 v Roddick/Hewitt|
|Break Points Converted Percentage||31||42|
|Break Points Saved Percentage||77||79|
|First Serve Percentage||56||59|
|First Serve Points Won Percentage||72||77
|Second Serve Points Won Percentage||52||60|
|First Serve Return Points Won Percentage||28||32|
|Second Serve Return Points Won Percentage||50||53|
Federer’s Super Serve
Against Roddick and Hewitt, Federer bumped his average ace tally from 7.4 in 1999-2002 to 11.3 in 2003-2006. As Federer got better at painting the lines, he also got better at not missing the box on his second delivery. His double faults dropped from an average of 2.7 per match to just 1.8 during the second four-year segment.
Overall in 2002, Federer averaged 2.6 aces for every double fault he hit. By 2006, that had been dialed up to 5.4 aces per double fault.
Federer’s serve has always been the rock he's relied upon to get out of a jam and finish matches. From the first four-year period to the second, his serve developed into an amazing blend of hitting spots on the first serve and generally targeting the backhand jam location of his opponent on the second serve. Federer also made sure to stay clear of the dangers of the singles sideline and the centre line.
His first-serve percentage rose from 56 per cent against Roddick and Hewitt from 1999-2002, to 59 per cent from 2003-2006. Overall in 2001, Federer was making just under 60 per cent of his first serves for the season. By 2005, that number had vaulted to almost 63 per cent. Federer's serve, more than any other shot, has carried him to many a victory over many an opponent.