hoping it would 'break down' (a tennis phrase connoting dire things). He would begin toshank the backhand; as with any player, the frustration that misses would bring register withthe opponent. The other player then happily capitalizes on the misfiring opponent's misery.Federer knew, of course, that players and critics alike thought his backhand vulnerable. Whatdid he do about this flaw? He played. The great thing about a weakness in tennis is thateventually opponents give you so much practice hitting a shot that it becomes a strength. Thishappened with the Swiss maestro, whose backhand is now artful, varied and dangerous.The one-handed backhand of any advanced player is nearly by default an interesting stroke. Ithas inherent variety, especially if the player has a nice slice. Then, the slice - which isprimarily an approach shot and a change-up rally shot - complements the topspin backhand. We can see this with Roger and a host of other top one-handed backhanders.Fed's backhand is probably not at the level of those top players who used the backhand as a'kill' shot. This list includes players like French Open champ Gaston Gaudio. Britain's formertop player Tim Henman had a beautiful single-handed backhand. Probably the paradigm forthe modern one-hander is the multiple Major winner Ivan Lendl, whose forehand was also athing of (devastating) beauty.
The Federer serve is another unsung component (relatively) of his amazing game. It featuresthe kinetic chain illustrated better by Pete Sampras than by just about anyone in tennishistory. Fed arches his back, which promotes the rotation that is a prerequisite to 'unwinding'the chain that Sampras perfected. What is really interesting about Federer's service motion is the first-serve toss location. Whilemost pros and other advanced players toss the first serve ball about 12:30 (if your head is thecenter of a clock and a toss directly above it is 12 o'clock), Roger generally lays the ball just tothe left of his head, or somewhere about 11:45 on the virtual clock. This produces more spinand net clearance, and forces the back arch. It may also account for some of his back problemsin 2009.He rarely goes all out on the serve, which is a lesson that Sampras and others taught well.Rather, Federer stays within his margins and emphasizes placement most of the time. Thisincreases his serve percentage and helps avoid reliance on the second serve. The old tennistruism 'you're only as good as your second serve', while basically accurate, is 'trumped' by players who regularly achieve a high percentage on first serve.This is the thing about Federer's game in general. He plays within himself. It is both ameasure of his relaxed state on court and a means to maintain that state. The serve is yetanother example of this savvy approach to play.