Federer calls out next gen to be better

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Maybe it was the celebratory party, which went on until 5 a.m.

But it seems Roger Federer was in a feisty mood Monday for his champions press conference at Wimbledon.

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Maybe a little hungover, too, which is awesome.

‘Yeah, my head’s ringing. I don’t know what I did last night. I drank too many types of drinks, I guess. After the ball we went to a bar – and there were almost 30 to 40 friends that were there. So we had a great time,” he told the media at the conference. 

Federer, who won his eighth Wimbledon title and his 19th Grand Slam overall on Sunday, sent out a simple call to those attempting to follow in the footsteps of the Big Four and win big titles.

Be better.

The fact that they haven’t, Federer feels, is one reason the 30-somethings are not only sticking around longer, but still winning.

Here are a selection of quotes, from Mike Dickson’s story in the Daily Mail, and stories in The Telegraph. More by clicking on the links.

“A slugfest with Andy (Murray) from the baseline or Rafa (Nadal) for that matter – good luck if you are No. 50 in the world. It is not so simple to take them out … They can choose not to play that way, if the coach has taught them to play differently.”

‘I know you can easily get sucked into that mode when you don’t want to attack, but if you can’t volley you are not going to go to the net. Almost every player I played here wouldn’t serve and volley. It’s frightening to me, to see this at this level.”

“I look at the stats and go into whatever round it is and see that the guy I’m going to face is playing two per cent of serve and volley throughout the championship. I’m going, ‘OK, I know he’s not going to serve and volley’, which is great. We are talking about grass, and it was playing fast this week. I feel like I wish that we would see more coaches, more players taking chances up at the net because good things do happen there.”

“Since mine and Rafa’s generation the next one hasn’t been strong enough to push all of us out really.” he said. “So that’s helpful for us to be able to keep hanging around.” 

He’s not wrong about Wimbledon. And the lack of pressure at the net from opponents is probably the biggest Federer himself didn’t come to the net all that much.

He didn’t have to.

Multiple skills, multiple ways to win

In a macro sense, it was reminiscent of the period of time in the last decade that Federer was nearly unbeatable. He stuck to the baseline fairly consistently back then. And that’s why, when he returned to the aggressive, forward-thinking approach he had earlier in his career, there were so many theories out there.

The biggest one was that his super-coach at the time, Stefan Edberg, had some sort of big influence.

But in the end, maybe it was far simpler than that.

During those dominating years, Federer didn’t come to the net because … he didn’t have to. He was winning anyway. When he stopped winning as much, he added back some of his old weapons to become more competitive, more relevant again.

Tennis is a game of bait-and-switch. And that’s what champions do. When the opposition catches up to your game, you make adjustments.

The problem with many of those who have come behind him and his peers is that they never developed those weapons. And so, they don’t have additional elements to pull out of the tool box when things aren’t going their way in a match.

Even Nadal, over the years, has added a forward game to his options. And at 31, he may well become No. 1 again this summer.

It’s not as though the next group coming up don’t have plenty of talent. But they likely don’t have Murray- or Djokovic-level talent do do what those two have done from the baseline.

Too late?

It’s a big challenge. Because by the time these guys get to the big leagues, their games are set for the most part. It’s very difficult to extend your range on the court, add a transition game, without taking significant time off to retool.

They have to try to do it while still trying to win tennis matches, improve their ranking, and earn their living.

When you’re in pressure-packed situations on a tennis court, you’re going to stick with what you know best, what you have in your muscle memory, and what you can do without having to think about it.

All of which to say, the 30-somethings aren’t going away. But Federer’s callout should be heeded by the coaches of the teenaged players, those who are still developing their games. So that when those players get to the top level, they will have a complete set of tools and just be better.

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