After the tragic disappointment of losing out in five thrilling sets here at Wimbledon last season, Roger Federer went away with Stefan Edberg working on becoming a master in the forecourt. Following on they developed a ghosting to net on frequent occasion style which aimed at helping his chances increase against Novak Djokovic.
Federer and Edberg’s reassessment in how to approach Djokovic:
Federer put the style to test when he and Djokovic met at the Masters 1000 final in Shanghai a few months later, played on fast hard. Federer won that match. Earlier this season Federer repeated this feat in the Dubai 500 final, again on fast hard court. In both matches Federer prevented being drawn into the backhand to backhand cross court exchanges the Serbian is used to ultimately gaining success against him with. Mixing pace, adopting slice and paying spontaneous visits to net, Federer didn’t allow Djokovic to settle at all into any sort of robotic baseline rhythm he is used to so successfully operating from.
On fast surfaces Djokovic still has a great passing shot with the double hander, but the forehand passing shot doesn’t quite seem to make the same cut. Federer in those two matches essentially made Djokovic have to red line and come up with ridiculous passes on the forehand, time after time. Djokovic can act as a great counter-puncher on the court, but he is human. The grass being a relatively fast surface and very similar in speed to the two hard court tournaments Federer beat Djokovic in, suggests it may be much of the same.
Federer’s confidence and momentum:
Federer right now you’d imagine is flowing with momentum and essentially riding the crest of a huge wave. One which may likely take him to his 18th grand slam title and 8th Wimbledon. He’s cruised through the draw. Four break points? His serving rhythm has been the best I have ever seen and that includes those 2004-2008 years. He has been hitting his spots, mixing up, leaving returners with not even the vaguest idea for where to lean.
Djokovic’s inability to move as effectively or efficiently on grass:
Djokovic’s game is primarily about movement, having himself in such early position to hit each shot, allowing himself plenty of time to swing. On the grass this movement is weaker and due to the slippery nature. Much more difficult to suddenly press off and change direction on the grass and that will give Federer an edge, as he’ll be able to gain success from going back-in-behind (Wrong foot Novak) more often.
Visually it’s clear under the tutorship and guidance of Stefan Edberg, Roger Federer has become a more well rounded player. His forehand volley has improved, he has better ‘feel’ for the court as a whole, knows when to come in and capitalise at net on players that are on the backfoot and these changes for me will be the ultimate difference here, on a fast surface, for why he will win today. He now has the game to edge the match-up against Novak Djokovic on grass and any fast surface.
Prediction: Roger Federer to win his 18th Grand Slam Major title and 8th Wimbledon crown.