How Federer plans to win 18th grand slam

By on December 28, 2015

SEVENTEEN years after his first full season on the ATP Tour, Roger Federer sets out next week in Brisbane to ink one last Grand Slam full stop to the greatest men’s tennis story ever told.

Federer’s addition of Ivan Lujubic, in place of Stefan Edberg, to his team of coaches is a latest tweak to find something extra to beat Father Time, Novak Djokovic and the other 126 opponents who turn up at every major.

The 34-year-old winner of 17 Grand Slam titles will probably win an 18th only if he can plot a path through or around Djokovic, his conqueror in their Wimbledon and US Open finals in 2015.

Just as the most likely way for Lleyton Hewitt to win a third major title became for someone else to firstly beat Federer, increasingly Federer would benefit from another player eliminating Djokovic over the best-of-five-set distance.

A close look at Federer’s head-to-head matches against Djokovic, which now stand at 22 wins each, tell their own story.

Federer won three of their eight matches in 2015, but the only two encounters at Grand Slams resulted in four-set finals won by the Serbian.

Djokovic is now a winner of 10 majors, largely because he has won six of his past eight Grand Slam matches against Federer since the Swiss star won their 2009 US Open semi-final.

Yet when Federer headed to his Dubai training base for pre-season preparations, he insisted he would not frame his improvements around tactics and refinements to address Djokovic.

“I feel like I need to work on my overall game that is going to have an impact against most of the players,’’ Federer said in London after losing his last match of the year — to Djokovic — at the ATP Tour finals last month.

Roger Federer playing in the International Premier Tennis League tournament.

Roger Federer playing in the International Premier Tennis League tournament. Source: AFP

“I used to work more precisely towards Rafa (Nadal as an opponent). With Novak, it’s more straightforward.

“It seems like there are not many guys that can hang with him, or dare to go forward because he’s so good on the return. He’s perfected his game on the hardcourts, no doubt about it.’’

Djokovic’s 82-6 season, including three majors and eight other tour titles, was the best on the men’s tour since Federer’s 92-5 campaign in 2006, which also reaped three Grand Slam crowns.

“It’s hard to play at this pace all the time,’’ said Federer, who has a first-round bye as top seed of the Brisbane International.

“Margins are small at the very top.

Novak Djokovic celebrates beating Roger Federer in the 2015 Wimbledon final.

Novak Djokovic celebrates beating Roger Federer in the 2015 Wimbledon final. Source: AP

“That’s why this year of Novak’s is amazing. Rafa has been there. I’ve been there. We both know how hard it is to back it up, year after year.

“But it’s not the first good year of Novak. Clearly he’s going into next year with massive confidence.’’

Federer indicates he, Ljubicic and head coach Severin Luthi will be intent on refining the net-rushing game which gave him such variety and success at the age of 34.

“I’m able to beat the best players regularly,’’ said the world No.3.

“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.

“There is definitely consolation. It’s been a great stretch all the way for many months now.’’


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