Federer Fun House Re-opens

By Jane Voigt

January 20, 2014 -- He's back. 

Whether it's the bigger racquet, a healthy back, or Stefan Edberg's influence, Roger Federer of the golden age looks to have been revived. At least from his performance last night where he kablobbered Jo-Wilfred Tsonga in straight sets, making the Frenchman look like a fish out of water. The scoreline was 64 75 64.

"I dictated play tonight," Federer told Jim Courier. "It's tough to pass Jo-Willie, although it's [court] playing a bit quicker."

For a man who has danced the light fantastic on-court for most of his brilliant career through natural athleticism and sharp tennis skills, today's performance was calculated. 

"I don't come into night sessions unprepared as I used to do," Federer told Courier, with a smile.

Federer approached the net 41 times. He won 34 of those points, which means he won 47% of total points at the net. But was this aggressive serve-and-volley tactic totally attributable to Edberg's presence? No. When Roger first came on tour he served and volleyed. He served and volleyed his way past his childhood hero Pete Sampras at Wimbledon in 2001. 

"That was like 13 years ago, man," Federer told reporter. "It's not like I've been standing way back in the court like some clay courter. I've always tried to come in."

Federer's yesteryear tennis was based on his perception that he wasn't good enough from the baseline against men like Lleyton Hewitt, Juan Carlos Ferrero, Marat Safin, David Nalbandian, and Andre Agassi. 

"In 2003 I probably realized I can actually also hang with them from the baseline and beat them," Federer said. "Things changed. Conditions got slower; my movement got solid. I was fit. That's when I went on a run."

USOFedererVsRobredoAug302013

Roger Federer in action against Tommy Robredo September, 2013, at the U. S. Open. 
Photo credit tennisclix.com

One crucial aspect of serve and volley is, of course, the serve. Today, Federer's serve spilled good fortune game after game. He won 88% of points on his first serve, and 69% of points on his second. His break-point conversion rate was 43%, higher than average based on the prior three rounds. 

Federer turned up the volume on Tsonga, basically. The Frenchman embarrassed Federer in Paris with a 3-set lashing last spring. "I got a hiding that time," Federer told the press. 

We have to suspect his win today was part retribution and part the desire to return to greener winning pastures. His loss in Paris stopped the clock on Federer's 36 consecutive quarterfinal appearances. Today, however, his victory put him on even ground with American Jimmy Connors. Both have appeared in 41 major quarterfinals. And, by the way, this is Federer's 11th consecutive quarterfinal in Melbourne.

Federer played Tsonga in the quarterfinals in Melbourne last year. He won in five sets, which is always grueling. It zaps energy. Considering his age -- 32 -- the quick match today positions him well for the quarterfinal against Andy Murray. When Federer met Murray in the semifinals last year, he lost in five after having the longer encounter with Tsonga.

"I'm glad I didn't play five sets against Tsonga," Federer admitted on court. 

Federer's 98-square-inch racquet did make a difference, too. He was confident his returns were better and that 'easier power' was at hand, especially on his serve. "It's a great start to the season with the racquet, with my body. Everything is going really well."

© Jane Voigt Tennis 2013