Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Game, set, match: Sports Illustrated did a great piece in last week's issue regarding Federer, which I felt was much-needed given how little we still know about the man off the court. Apparently he was a Safin-like rabble-rouser on the court until about two years ago, when he not-so-coincidentally started dominating matches. What may be more amazing is that he's doing it all now pretty much without a coach - although he does rely on some old hands as advisors. Playing without a coach is not so incredible; even winning some Slams without a coach is not beyond compare; but so utterly dominating the game (See U.S. Open, 2004, Hewitt) while playing a style of game that has never been seen is truly amazing. Pick any of the great mens' players - they were all reliant on two to three skill sets which they perfected to carry them through (Sampras - serve, and serve and volley; Agassi - return of serve, footwork; McEnroe - net play, intimidation; Lendl - groundstrokes, tireless pressure).

But Federer does it all. Now, that's not to say he has the hardest serve (he doesn't) or the fastest feet (nope), but that he has the complete game. He is never out of position, he can poinpoint his serves, returns, passes, and basic groundstrokes. He's adept at the net or he can hang back and tire you out with placement. And, he does it all with this graceful aplomb that is such a welcome change from the plodding cannon-armed serve specialists (Roddick, Hewitt et al), or the wimpy, touchy boys (see Spain, France, hell even Germany).

I think the only thing that stops him is injury, which he has struggled with at times. I think he masters the French Open either this year or the next. He's simply too talented to be another Sampras in that regard.

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