A first US Open title in 10 years? Roger Federer must re-think returning serve

When we talk about Roger Federer we talk about one the greatest players in tennis history we don’t talk about a drought. However he has been on a drought in New York for some time.

No one had ever won the US Open five times in a row until Roger did between 2004 and 2008 but now 10 years on from his last triumph at Flushing Meadows is he set a big day once again?

Since he last won in 2008 he has been in two finals against Novak Djokovic and Juan Martin Del Potro losing both.

What is it with New York?

I’ve been looking back at defeats and I came to last year’s tournament when he lost to Del Potro and watched it back and a few things stood out for me;

1.  Pace of the court (lack of pace)

2.  Returning serve

On the tour there are a lot of different hard courts and they come with different speeds depending on altitude and how the surface is laid. In door hard courts are naturally faster than outdoor hard courts due to the enclosed space of being indoors than outdoors.

In New York the weather can impact as well. The wind, rain and humidity can impact and Roger has been at his very best these last few years when he plays on a fast surface, hence why he skips clay as it is naturally slower and is more testing on the body so to have to put your body through tougher movements before you’ve even began speeding up in rallies is tough.

Looking back on his defeat last year he had a rough time returning serve against Del Potro, it was completely flat and the stats show that.

The stats on returning serve against Del Potro were;

1st serve return points won – 19% (15/80)

2nd serve return points won – 49% (19/39)

His stats for the 2017 season were;

1st serve return points won – 32%

2nd serve return points won – 51%

Roger last year on grass compared to hard court was winning 2-3% more of points on first serve return, 2nd serve was the same at 51%.

Now let’s have a look;

Here is a couple I picked up from this match last year

The first one below is a bit bizarre, Roger saw the break point opportunity and on a 121mph serve decided to step in and went for that sliced backhand return but it just set Del Potro up throughout the whole match.

 RF R1

The sliced backhand is a good weapon when used properly but returning Del Potro’s serve does just two things;

1.  Takes the pace off the ball

2.  Adds height

With no pace and a high ball Juan Martin Del Potro must have felt like a kid in a sweet shop as he strolled forward and put the ball away for a winner.

The second one is similar,

 RF R2

The slice again on a 123mph serve. This is something Del Po would have looked out. Serve into the backhand but take a little pace off from his usual 130 numbers so he could work the ball onto his forehand.

This one I have saved for last.

Serving to the other side Del Potro still kept the speed around 120-125 and went for the body so why stand in and chip and charge?

 RF R3

The outcome?

Del Potro hits a passing winner. Pace taken off the ball by the return and Del Potro is there. If there is one thing Del Potro loves it is time to move onto the ball.

Do I think Roger will win here for the first time in 10 years? I don’t think so, once he runs into a player who plays with pace it will be tough to see how he nullifies their weapons.

 

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