One of the most overlooked aspects of Federer's game is his footwork. The balance he displays throughout his body - the balance which is the foundation of every play he makes on the court - starts with his feet. Roger Federer is a near-perfect case study of the graceful and efficient use of footwork in tennis.
Never a Wasted Move
Whether he's on the attack or the defensive, Federer has a unique way of positioning his body to make the most out of every step. When he is returning with a forehand, for instance, his split-step occurs the moment he sees his opponent strike the ball. He moves to the right with a seemingly light bounce, but as he pushes off with his left leg and lands on his right foot, he's already setting himself up for the return to open court. When he hits his forehand, his body is almost straight - not only the perfect posture to strike the ball, but also the ideal position to pivot and return to his left, to the open court.
This efficiency of movement not only puts him in the perfect position to recover, it also conserves his energy. And any player of tennis knows that when a game goes into extra sets, fatigue and strength are just as big factors as technique.
A Chess Player In Motion
Unlike many players, you never catch Federer scrambling across the court to chase down the ball. One of the keys to his success is being able to anticipate the trajectory of the ball and reach it with maximum efficiency. But it doesn't end there. He also is able to anticipate where his opponent will hit the ball next. Like a great chess player, Federer is always a few moves ahead of his opponent.
But many players have this ability. In fact, I would say most avid fans of tennis have the ability to watch a game and play out a point a few moves ahead. But Federer has the footwork - and this is his unique contribution to this era of power-house tennis - to move across the court fluidly and artfully. He's always aware of his position and the position of his opponent, and especially that of the ball.
Take Federer's backhand: when he reaches the ball, his footwork has already put him in a position of perfect posture for both power and control. But when he strikes his backhand, his body moves upward in an almost exaggerated way. This stops his sideways momentum. His left foot never moves past his right foot and this technique results in a faster recovery.
Roger Federer may not have the fastest serve in the game or the most powerful net game, but there is a reason the Swiss is a perennial top-ranked player. Next time you watch him play, do yourself a favor and watch his secret weapon: his footwork.
Robert Boyd, Managing Director of SportsEquip and an expert in the equipment & surfaces used by elite sportsmen & athletes. Robert has been in the industry for over 25 years providing football goals, tennis nets & cricket equipment to schools, clubs & the general public