Novak Djokovic Says Roger Federer’s Backhand Is Better Now Than 5-6 Years Ago
by Tom Gainey | January 26th, 2016, 7:59 am

After straight set wins today over Top 10 foes, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer will meet for a 45th time Thursday night in Melbourne at the Australian Open.

Djokovic and Federer met eight times last season with the Serb taking five including wins in the last two Grand Slam finals. And here we go again in the new year.

“He’s trying lately to come to the net more, kind of shorten up the rallies,” Djokovic said after a relatively easy win over Kei Nishikori. “He definitely has the game for that. He’s got a great variation from the backhand side with the slice, short slice. He’s got great defense, amazing offense. He’s very complete. He puts constant pressure on the opponent. You have to be aware at all times. You got to be tough. You got to be concentrated.

“I think his backhand is better than it was maybe five, six years ago. So, you know, he’s playing some terrific tennis, as I said, on the hard court. This is going to be a big challenge for both of us.”

Federer, who has only lost one set all event, talked about going to the net against good returners like Djokovic.

“In my opinion, Novak and Kei are some of the best returners in the game,” he said. “Also good in defense because they have a very strong left arm on the double-hander, which allows them to flick it really easily, like Murray has as well.”

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15 Comments for Novak Djokovic Says Roger Federer’s Backhand Is Better Now Than 5-6 Years Ago

skeezer Says:

Nole is right about he BH. His ROS also. His fan base also, its bigger than ever.
Win or lose this match, Fed has made another all time milestone GS semi final. The all time unbeatable records continue to grow along with his global fanbase. Best. Ever.

Ben Pronin Says:

12th semi in Australia. 5-6 record, though, losing his last 4 since the 2010 title. Nonetheless, that’s a ridiculous amount of semis at a single tournament yet alone his “third” best slam.

RZ Says:

Here’s an interesting Fed factoid courtesy of Carl Bialik via Twitter:

Federer has won 75% of his matches against the Top 10 since the start of 2014. He won 56% vs. Top 10 from 2008-2013.

SG1 Says:

There has never been a 34 year old tennis player than the 34 year old Roger Federer. Of course that was true at 33 as well. Roger has evolved, embraced a new racket, introduced different strategies into his arsenal. I don’t think there’s ever been a more talented player. You can see how difficult it’s been for Rafa to adjust to age and injury. Other than a funky 2013, Roger has maintained an incredibly high level for so long and also held onto his passion for the game. You never sense he’s out there for the money (…although he obviously is to a degree).

SG1 Says:

There has never been a BETTER 34 year old tennis….


SG1 Says:

He’s changed coaches too. And he just keeps on winning.

I’m not a big fan of Federer but it’s hard not to respect what he’s done and what he continues to do. He’s one of the all time elite athletes in sports history…like a Jordan, Babe Ruth, Jack Nicklaus, Pele, Lionel Messi etc.

SG1 Says:

I don’t think Roger beats Novak. He’s just too good right now and the surface is too slow. But, I wouldn’t right him off.

jane Says:

rz, interesting. fed’s been playing better than ever since 2014. certainly better than that other stretch of years? it’s tough to know if, for example, 2013 skews those numbers a little though?

elina Says:

Better than ever. Period.

Queue the Rogerator.

RZ Says:

@Jane – I think there are a few key factors to the numbers.
1) Fed hasn’t played Rafa as many times in the last couple of years as those previous years, so there are fewer losses (though arguably, more matches against him in 2015 when could have further boosted Fed’s record against the top 10).
2) Murray used to have a really good record against Fed but since coming back from his back injury, he hasn’t been able to beat Fed.
3) Despite Djokovic’s overall dominance, Fed still manages to win some of their matches, which help his numbers.
4) The top 10 has had some guys come in and out who really aren’t that strong (sorry Gasquet) which again helps Fed’s numbers.
5) Fed has had more unexpected losses to guys in the last couple of years (e.g., Gulbis at the French, Seppi at the AO), but those guys weren’t in the top 10.

madmax Says:

Some really nice respectful comments from both Roger and Novak about each others’ game.

An understanding and a completeness about how important their rivalry is to each other and to the sport.

Really nice.

lapinroyal Says:

Who’s the single vote for “I don’t care”??? Wow…

Michael Says:

I am not sure about that as to whether Roger’s back hand has improved. But Novak knows that better having played against him many number of times.

Despite the improved back hand, why Roger is not able to dominate the sport as he did in his prime years ? Is it because the competition has improved or is that he is finding it tough to ward off the No.1 player ? Is it due to the age factor ? Well, Roger is not showing his age on court by his reflex movements on the court. It is the younger players who seek the help of Medical time outs even today while Roger always stays away from it and looks athletically very fit and still raring to go.

danica Says:

This is what I always say to Fed fans who try to belittle Nole’s accomplishments by saying that the field is weak if the #2 or #3 player is 33-34 years old. However, I look at this fact from a different perspective. To me, this does not show that other guys are bad, because they are not, it shows how great of a player Roger is. This statistic is a testament to his greatness and prowess. If Nole played in 2015 like “out of this world” or “tennis from another planet”, what can be said of a player who beat him the most times and was the strongest challenger? You can just say, kudos to him!

skeezer Says:

Rafalina is still posting undermining Fed, bitter that Rafa is fishing once again in his prime and monfils is out once again and is better suited for the Circus.
So typical. You can que Rafalina anytime Fed is doing well and Rafa can’t buy a first rd win.

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