Should Federer learn from Wawrinkas Australian Open success

Colin ChambersStrategy Leave a Comment

What I really wish is that the swiss have a word with his fellow countryman or at least take a look at his game. Stan Wawrinka has the backhand that would perfectly complement Feds forehand. If Roger could balance his game by taking inspiration from his compatriot then his biggest rivals would not have this obvious target to aim at.

Alas I feel Fed is a little too stubborn to even try. His game is his weapon and it’s got him this far so I don’t expect him to change it.

Feds weakness is his backhand. Some say being one handed is a weakness but Stan Wawrinka proves it is not. His backhand is one of the best in the world because, not despite, it being single handed. If Federer approached his backhand as he does his forehand, with complete confidence, a shot he trusts with everything, then I don’t think he would be troubled.

Until then Fed has an imbalanced game. Not just in favour of attack over defence but by preferring balls to his right than his left. His forehand is so much greater than his backhand. Wawrinkas and Gasquets success last year is, in my view, down to their balance. Their tour leading backhands take away an obvious target and their forehands keep the other side effectively protected too. This forces opponents to find other ways to get points. Novak in particular struggles against opponents who are so finely balanced.

Roger has joked how Rafa spends all their matches targeting Rogers backhand but when Rafa plays Stan who has a much better single handed backhand he has to change his ploy. The swiss positively thrives on the high ball to his backhand. I think it is because Stan plays relatively flat. He doesn’t try the more awkward topspin backhand that will error more often playing high balls. Instead he uses the height of the ball as an advantage and just hits through it.

The deeper reason I say this is because I have the same single handed backhand, I have never got on with the double hander so I look to these guys to tell me how to win. When Stan pushed Novak to the brink throughout their amazing Australian open fourth round match I saw just what a single handed backhand can do. He obliterated Novak with it.

I have had the same success with my single hander. Obviously my shot is not of the same standard but the principles are the same. Hitting a high ball on the backhand, particularly one spun up there with a lot of topspin is awkward. Blocking and playing through the ball with a reliable stroke is more effective than attacking it with topspin. To play through it or block you just don’t have to move your body as far as you do playing topspin and you can use the power already in the ball instead of trying to to generate it yourself. That┬áputs the ball deeper in the court with pace and gets you back in position sooner. Giving your opponent less to work with and you more. Over the course of a match this difference can really add up as we see with Stan.

I can’t help but wonder if Roger used this tactic against Rafa then his backhand wouldn’t break down as much. I just think he is over complicating and over thinking the shot. Take that away and Rafa has much less of an advantage.

Can anyone tell me if Roger has already tried this. It’s only this year that I’ve started thinking this is the answer but I don’t know if it works at the top level only at the rec level I play. Maybe he’s already tried it and lost. If he has then maybe he just didn’t believe in it the way Stan does.

I find you really have to trust your backhand like any other shot for it to become your strength and work.

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