Roger Federer: I Will Not Gameplan For Novak Djokovic In The Offseason
by Tom Gainey | November 23rd, 2015, 5:51 pm

Despite all his titles, all his wins and his runaway No. 1 finish, Roger Federer says he won’t change his approach to tennis just because of Novak Djokovic.

Rafael Nadal? Maybe. But not Djokovic.

After losing the to Serb in the ATP Finals 63, 64 yesterday, Federer explained.

“For me personally, not really,” Federer said. “Because I feel like I need to work on my overall game that is going to have an impact against most of the players. For me, Rafa is the unique player in the field. I used to work more precisely towards him.

“With Novak, it’s more straightforward. If you don’t play very well, you’re going to have a hard time. If you’re going to play better, I know I have my chances with my game.”

The 34-year-old Federer went 4-1 at the ATP Finals, reached a record 10 final and finished the year as the oldest No. 3 after winning six titles.

“I’ve got to keep pushing forward,” Federer said of his season. “Got to keep practicing hard, being serious about all the things I do. Now rest, recover, enjoy my family, my wife. Just have a great time there. Then once I get back to practice, the gym, enjoy that part as well, which I do. Thankfully I found a way to embrace that part as well over the years

“I think this year had a lot of great things in my game. How I’m able to play at net now, how I’m moving and feeling at net in particular is a great thing to have. Then my serve has been really working very consistent, very well throughout the year more or less. Maybe if I can just get that to work slightly better at times, that would be incredibly helpful. I’ll work on that as well.

“Clearly, you want to be fit and fast on the court, on your feet. That’s the key today. If you look at the matches that are played at the very top, Novak is a great example. I don’t want to say it’s all about movement, but movement bails you out of a lot of tough situations.”

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20 Comments for Roger Federer: I Will Not Gameplan For Novak Djokovic In The Offseason

Tennis Vagabond Says:

Considering that Novak stopped him in, what, 6 finals this year, I hope his coaches are smarter than Roger on this one.

Wog Boy Says:

” For me, Rafa is the unique player in the field. I used to work more precisely towards him.”

No bad feeling, but that “more precise” work didn’t really work, I wonder what would be your result with Rafa if you haven’t work so “precisely” on your game towards him..

RZ Says:

I see Fed’s point. It didn’t seem to be as much of a match-up problem, like it is for him against Nadal, but more of the fact that Novak was the better player during most of their recent matches.

Chrisford1 Says:

About now, the only gameplan that seems to work with Djokovic is to try and blow him off the court with power. And maintain that over 2-5 sets. Roger has a shot since NOLE 2.0 emerged back when Fed was 28, but Djokovic has had the edge since then, and now Fed’s chances have been reduced to just a few fast courts.

Even on fast courts Djoker is still tough to beat.

Rafa is a tough matchup for Fed due to Fed’s vulnerable backhand, whereas Nole 2.0 feasts on what normally wins matches for Rafa. (“OH please Rafa, more high bounce forehands to my backhand I can jam down your throat!!”) And matches or exceeds Rafa in stamina, speed, heart, and mental strength – attributes as important to Rafa’s success as his forehand has been for most of his career

Pauly Says:

Nadal needs that fearsome forehand back
Improve his serve
Get new coach
Otherwise he is finished as slam winner

What ever happened to Nadal of 2013?
That Nadal made Djokovic run a lot … The Nadal of 2015 was terrible

Purcell Says:

One needs to have had unbiased observation of the peaks and troughs of Nadal, Federer, Djokovic and possibly Murray in order to compare them in terms of stamina, speed, heart and mental strength. A thorough understanding of the terms and acknowledgement that there are many more attributes that could be applied is also helpful. All four have been up to, or not up to the tasks, depending on a variety of outside factors so my conclusion is that, over the course of time, the dividing line between the top three wavers to the point of non-existence.
More interesting is the term ‘athletic’ which has been bandied around, without thought as to what particular aspects of athleticism, and there are many, could be applied to tennis players.

James Says:

Fed was in denial for a long time about Nadal (should have moved to net play after 2008), paid the price for it. Now he is in denial about Djoke.

He needs a new game plan. Might be constant serve/volley, might be a new serve motion, whatever. At 34, he is not going to win any long battles against Djoke, he just has to hope he can blast it for 60-90 min non stop.

Of course, at 34, his options are rather limited. Djoke has mastered the perfect game for today’s surfaces – what Nadal lacked was credible offense and serve, Djoke has all of a peak Nadal’s defense, movement and stamina, PLUS has a better serve, a not too shabby volley now, and more offense when he needs it. He is almost the perfect player for today’s surfaces.

Unless some surfaces go back to faster speed off the ground and lower bounce, Fed can’t win another slam – unless someone takes out Djoke, which is entirely possible.

James Says:

Pauly – Nadal of 2013 was 27, Djoke hadn’t moved his game to another level with Becker, Fed was in a terrible slump, and Murray – well he was Murray.

Nadal of 2015 is 29+, Djoke is at a whole new level, Fed has moved his game up (though they barely played the last couple of years) – Murray is still Murray, as we recently saw too. Plus Stan has become an inconsistently dangerous player with new confidence.

Nadal of 2016 is going to be 30. Djoke is likely not slowing down next year. Fed doesn’t matter that much. Murray will be Murray. Stan will probably remain Stan. Question is if anyone else shows up.

Doesn’t look good for him though.

Ben Pronin Says:

I do wonder when Federer started specifically working on his game to focus on Nadal. Because these latest interviews are the first time he’s ever admitted such a thing.

I definitely don’t think Federer needs to tweak his service motion. He has one of the best serves. But he should definitely look to change something for Djokovic specifically. He keeps saying it’s straight forward against Novak but I think he’s discrediting some of the things Novak does really well against him. The only thing I can really think of is to practice his backhand DTL like crazy.

Djokovic is turning 29 next year. He’s going to slow down eventually.

skeezer Says:

^Agreed Ben, and it’s not like he can’t or hasn’t hit BHDTL, he just needs to do it better and be more consistent( at the right times ). That said, I know you play, you know how hard it is to hit a one handed BHDTL, especially on the run.

Ben Pronin Says:

Well I use two hands. Not that I haven’t dabbled with one but that shot is impossible to time well. So yeah hitting it on the run is tremendously hard.

But Federer doesn’t need to hit it on the run. I’m talking about during rallies. Even though everyone wants to pretend Djokovic has no weaknesses and then go ape sh*t when he loses, if you hit it deep to his forehand during a cross court rally, it troubles him.

In 2013, when Rafa was playing his best, he was able to hit his forehand DTL deep during the backhand-forehand exchanges and this completely flummoxed Djokovic time and time again. It was a shot that helped him in the 2014 FO final. And it was the same shot he couldn’t connect on worth a damn in 2011. Generally, it’s a very difficult shot for Nadal to execute on a consistent basis. Especially when he literally doesn’t need it against anyone else.

Same thing applies to Federer on his backhand side. Even on Sunday, the few times he hit his backhand DTL during a backhand to backhand rally, it caught Novak off guard and generated a weak reply. This is one of the reasons Wawrinka matches up well with Novak. He’s really good at hitting his backhand DTL with depth and pace. (It also raises the question of why Murray doesn’t employ his own backhand DTL against Novak but whatever, I guess).

James Says:

Its tough for someone who is 34/35, close to retirement, to just start doing things better. racket change along with coming forward courtesy Edberg is quite creditable in itself – which is why Fed is still the second best player (No, Murray is not, never was). What else can he change? At his age, he can’t last in peak form more than 60-90 min. After that, he is tired and toast. He HAS to try to blast it away for the first hour or 90 min, and hope that he is in form, if he has to beat Djokovic. As he has done 3 times this year. Just that in important matches, Djoke comes that much more zoned in. Tough ask for an old man, beard or no beard.

Tennis Vagabond Says:

Ben and Skeeze, I agree. It would be idiotic for Fed’s coaches not to study Novak encounters like crazy. And for Fed not to take that focus seriously would as well.
There are a few small things that often work for Fed: bringing Novak to net and lobbing; wrong footing him.
These aren’t things that can become bread-and-butter in a match, but if you work on them and can recognize the situations, maybe you get a few extra points in the match. I’m sure there are other areas, these are just top of mind.

Like Skeeze says, one-hand topspin bhdtl is very hard, especially considering the pace and spin Novak is combining. I was actually impressed with how successful Fed was with this last match.

madmax Says:

Federer’s game is so unique, so elegant it is unmatchable visually. Without question, Novak is a different athlete, deserved World No. 1 but I really don’t think that Federer has to do much in terms of changing his game.

Other factors will be outside of Fed’s control, mostly that Novak is just firing on all cylinders, in every department, plus he is a better returner, reaches those shots that seem unreachable, but then Roger too, can do the same, he is just not as consistent, but it is there. Roger’s shotmaking is still sublime. The shots are there and when he is on, Fed is as majestic as ever.

He doesn’t have to change a lot in his game. I am perfectly certain that once he has rested, the VTs will come out and his coaches will go through each Novak shot, reel by reel, in slo mo – the analysis side of things will be incredibly helpful. Yet, on the day, things can turn so quickly between these two. Even having a game plan against the other can change on court so quickly.

Rafa has struggled with his confidence recently, and this is where Novak surpasses everyone in the field. His confidence must be through the roof.

I am pleased to see that Roger still wants to continue to try and beat Novak and the rest of the field. Boy, is this guy still hungry or what? Unbelievable.

I think too that Murray and Stan can still do tremendous damage “on the day”. May be it is the baby syndrome, and having a son, Novak needs to do this for his son, be proud and show him what his dad can, and has achieved. It’s a lovely thought.

It’s a powerful drug too – to achieve something, not just for himself but for his young son – and baby Stefan is adorable.

With Andy becoming a father next February? I think it will spur Andy on, fire him up, that pride feeling.

Fed’s rivalry with Novak is truly amazing in my view. So close. A hair splits them in terms of matches won. Fed can take great comfort from the fact that he has been the only man this year, who has beaten Novak more than once.

This unstoppable force, (Novak); Let’s give Fed some credit here, he has been the one standing in Novak’s way, and it is that ability (Fed, putting himself in with a chance for another win), that makes me very proud of him. He fights to put himself into a position to beat Novak. He has something to aim for. Still.

When they play each other, their match results have been relatively even. You can’t say for sure at the outset of the match who is going to win, but what you can say – with confidence – is that Roger always has his chances against Novak. Always.

This year though, Novak has been a hard act to beat but I feel certain that with Fed’s instant resolve to continue to improve (I find it amazing that he still has that drive), then he puts himself in there with a chance against the World No. 1.

Go Fed!

Ben Pronin Says:

I don’t think Federer needs to change his game against Novak. The challenge he poses is very different to the ones Nadal poses. So I get why Federer says he had to specifically change his game to counter Rafa.

But beating Djokovic will still require a lot of work. I don’t want to say Djokovic tanks or anything but the way he played the RR match almost seemed like he was experimenting (before completely fudging up the second set). But in the final, he was focused and composed and executed perfectly. The RR win, even the Cincy win, are creating a false sense of hope in Federer. The matches aren’t as straight forward as they used to be. Djokovic has done a tremendous job in filling up holes in his game. It’s basically Federer’s turn to do the same.

In 2013 I thought Federer was on his way to retirement. The way he played this year, at 33/34, tells me he can still do some things to improve. Perhaps he should go the Agassi route: forget about reaching and defending balls, just blast away from the center of the court and move forward accordingly.

J-Kath Says:

James – Whether you like it or not Murray has proved to be the 2nd best player this year. I’d rather believe the rankings than someone’s preference.

Tennisfan Says:

Why all this debate about who is number 2? This year was all about the world no.1. If the year was more competitive then maybe the no.2 would’ve mattered. That being said, Murray still earned the ranking so congrats to him.

Wog Boy Says:

At the end of the year Andy will have two masters and DC, plus one very consistent year and higher points score than Roger, that has to be better than one masters one would have thought. Just because Roger beat Andy more times this year doesn’t make him #2 player this year same as Nole beating Roger in so many finals doesn’t make Nole overall better player, not yet, there is time for that too:)

Chrisford1 Says:

It is tough to “game plan” a foe that is experienced and has the edge.
In the last 5 years, Djokovic has won 21 MAsters 1000 titles, 4 Year End Championships, and 9 of the 20 Slams played.

Wog Boy Says:

Do you remember that finger waving in Paris in 2011, this new version, have look:

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