Roger Federer Explains The Origins Of His SABR Shot And What It Stands For
by Tom Gainey | September 6th, 2015, 11:21 am

Roger Federer new trick shot, the SABR (stands for “Sneak Attack By Roger”) has been the story of the summer. The 34-year-old Swiss brought it out with varied success en route to his Cincinnati title, and now he’s using at the US Open where he finds himself in the fourth round.

After a third straight-set win of the week, a tougher victory over friend Philipp Kohlschreiber, Federer explained how the idea of the SABR came up.

When I arrived in Cincinnati, I arrived, I don’t know what time it was, maybe after lunchtime, and then I went for a hit. It was Benoit Paire. He had like an ear problem. I was tired from jet lag. We were tired and practicing on center court, which was great. Last year I couldn’t practice on center court before my first match. This time I had plenty of time. I think it was Friday and Saturday, I guess. So I put in a lot of hours on center court.

But that time I was very tired and he was tired, and at the end we said, Well, let’s still play some games just because it feels like it’s the right thing to do. I was going to stop already, but Severin said, Play a few games get used to the conditions. I said, Whatever. Let’s play some games. And, yeah, at the end we were just kidding around almost, and that’s when I said, Okay, I’m going to chip and charge and just keep the points short. I’m tired. I want to get off the court soon anyway. That’s when I started to run in and hit returns. I hit a couple for a winner. They were like ridiculous. He laughed, I laughed, Severin laughed.

Then I did it again in the next practice just to see if it actually would still work again. Then I tried it the next practice and it still worked. That’s when Severin said, Well, what about using it in a match? I was like, Really?

So he pushed me to keep using it and not shy away from using it on big moments, and not just because you don’t know how you look with a full stadium. He was actually the one who pushed, you know, pushed me to it. And because we were always talking about that tactic, as well, we sort of came up with that name, you, know, sneak attack by Roger (S-A-B-R). I don’t know. Call it Fed attack, call it whatever you want, but I thought it was kind of funny.

And, yeah, today again it worked a couple of times. I didn’t get that many second serves when I thought I could use it, but moving forward it’s an option. Clearly I’m very happy it worked so well in Cincy.

Federer admitted he doesn’t plan on using it against one of the very biggest servers ever in the game, the towering John Isner.

“I don’t think so,” Federer said on court. “I can always try. But it’s probably not the right guy to do it against.”

He also admitted he didn’t have a good read on the serve because he hasn’t seen it enough,

“For some reason I feel like I don’t know it as well,” Federer said. “I don’t know how many times we have played against each other. Played Karlovic more and Roddick and Raonic it seems like almost. But John it’s been once every two years maybe, so I don’t know it that well. He’s got the power. It needs to be, and then clearly because he’s so tall clearly he finds the impossible angles for us, really. And he’s got a great second serve, as well. Obviously best-of-three-set match he’s even more dangerous. Best-of-five you feel like you have a bit more time, but clearly he can also run three, four, five sets serving great. It’s going to be a tough match.”

Federer has won four of five against the American No. 1 including a 4-set win the Isner’ Grand Slam debut at the 2007 US Open. Isner said he has yet to really gameplan for the shot.

“I haven’t thought about that too much, actually,” Isner said Saturday. “So I have probably a little, I don’t know, 48 hours to think about that. I can’t give you an answer right now. Sorry, I haven’t thought about it.”

Federer SABR against Djokovic in Cincinnati final

Federer SABR v Leonardo Mayer at US Open

You Might Like:
Watch Novak Djokovic Hit This Insane Shot In Practice [Video]
Watch Roger Federer Use The SABR To Win A Point Off Rafael Nadal [Video]
Roddick in Rare Form Saturday in Miami vs. Chair Umpire
Roger Federer Explains How He Keeps His Cool On The Court And When He Stopped Being Angry
Roger Federer Grows A Mustache In This Hilarious Wilson Commercial [Video]

Don't miss any tennis action, stay connected with Tennis-X

Get the FREE TX daily newsletter

21 Comments for Roger Federer Explains The Origins Of His SABR Shot And What It Stands For

Giles Says:

Is this within the rules, running forward while the opponent is trying to serve? Surely a bit distracting for the opponent??

jane Says:

is this considered a “trick” shot? as i understand it, players used to do this in the past, edberg being one of them.

Ben Pronin Says:

Is adjusting your court positioning during your opponent’s serve within the rules?

Cmon Giles, at least familiarize with the sport you’re a fan of.

DC Says:

Whatever it’s is , it’s more legal than moonballing

Giles Says:

Just look at the expression on Becker’s face. Think he was trying to say WTF fed!

jatin Says:

Loved it every time I saw roger using this shot.
Cannot believe he could come up with something so refreshing at such age. A true Master of the game.
John is going to be a tough guy to beat but for SABR attack ROG ;)

Brando Says:

It’s good to see something different.

Essentially Fed is bringing something back from the old school and it’s nice to see. It’s a very aggressive play, a nice break from the usual monotony that ensues 99% of the time.

sienna Says:

surely SABR cannot be used against Isner.

Jock-KatH Says:

Is he?

tennisfansince76 Says:

@giles why yes it is. That takes care of that.

kriket Says:

It’s interesting to see how Fed is concerned with “how it looks”, not just if it works.
Such a style icon :)

Markus Says:

Very simple logic: If it looks good then it must be a shot that works. Those words are not exclusive of the other.

Tennis Vagabond Says:

This is an incredible story. I assumed this was something they’d been working on since Wimbledon or earlier. I’m blown away that it came up as a fluke at Cincy, and he’s been using it since.
Great story. Sneak Attack By Roger. Awesome.

Josh Says:

SABR is really just normal chip and charge tennis. Why are we making this out to be some new trick shot just because Roger does it? This is nothing special or new.

Nafissa baig Says:

I think it’s a great way of playing and if players get distracted they should not be playing its all in the game so. Why not

Senegal Says:

If it is a trick, what about screaming during a shot execution?

the DA Says:

For crying out loud. Anyone who has been following tennis for longer than 10 years will know that it’s not a new shot or tactic. People are talking like he invented it. Mega LOLs.

the DA Says:

Learn some tennis history:

That’s just 1992. The 70’s & 80’s were filled with it.

Aleardo Says:

SABR = Aut cum scuto aut in scuto

shorter: kamikaze

skeezer Says:

I tried the SABR in an on court match with my tennis buds today. Awesome result! Thanks Fed!

madmax Says:

the DA, thanks for this. It’s the first time I have seen this.

What I find astonishing though, is that Boris, who was on the other side of the net, “in those days”, now talks about it being disrespectful.

also talks about “himself”, of course. So full of himself.

Top story: Djokovic Wins In Vienna, Closes In On Year-End No. 1; Sinner v Rublev Thurs.
Most Recent story: Paris Masters In Doubt Due To COVID Spike In France