reactive brakes—scissor kicks—Jumpman
not sure if its related at all to his 'floatiness' but Fed has essentially perfect posture when he's just walking around off the court too. so maybe the guy is literally never off balance, without even really thinking about it.
Really interesting on that last paragraph "But I think Federer’s footwork and overall technique were best suited to offensive tennis, especially on the forehand. The scissor kick helps to promote a linear swing at the expense of topspin or a quick recovery. It is rewarded if you are moving up the court toward the net, and as the game’s conditions slowed and pure athleticism came to the fore, Federer’s rivals took tennis movement to its final form by mastering the recovery and ability to change direction."
It reminded me of my coach who used to work with Sam Groth and Nikoloz Basilashvili, and when I asked him why out of the many people he coached there were certain people like those two going to end up on the tour he said many reasons that differ but usually the best players have the physique, temperament and game style perfectly suited to their success.
For example Groth was a big guy about 6'5" and 100kg. He said Groth was not shredded and quite tubby but he was a behemoth and he was as a person quite a gambler which reflected onto his very classic game style of serve-volley. His best weapon which was his serve was the perfect weapon he could have had for that specific game style and his physique enhanced his serve to levels sometimes unplayable. Of course the temperament of him being a gambler back then gave him the "all in, win or lose" mentality which was again perfect for serve-volley as you need commitment and bravery to approach the net constantly. Coach said he was more happy to either win or lose the point just serve-volleying and he would never be interested in 20-30 plus lung busting rallies, his physique and mentality just didn't allow for him to express his game at the back properly. But his approach to tennis married just as well with his approach to life off the court so he played the best tennis for himself possible.
For Basilashvili coach told me he had quite a liking for chaos/panic and loved the adrenaline rush. There was a story of how he went on the train with my coach to Wimbledon a few years ago and didn't understand why people desired the train system to be so organized/time arrivals. He wanted chaos, he wanted not knowing which train to take and to be all frantic about it. He didn't like the calm. He also left stringing so late that he'd had a bunch of his racquets with his strings broken and didn't tell coach until just before his match which if they weren't strung on time he might not have played. He told me more stories but you get the idea by now Basilashvili is a thrill seeker kind of guy which meshed perfectly with his tennis style he is a bish-bash-bosh the tennis ball kind of player and when he is bothered enough and his heart is racing there is no one that finds his shots playable. But that happens once a blue moon with him doesn't it? He'll beat someone like Federer and then win the tournament only to not be seen winning anything for like the next 10-20 tournaments but that kind of personality and tennis although is so unreliable is just such a Basilashvili way to play and it got him to big heights for such a uncontrolled game style.
So when you mentioned that paragraph about Fed which then reminded me of what my coach said about Basilashvili and Groth it got me thinking is the top echelon of players success more nuanced than just "talent"?. Off court factors, different biomechanics, racquets, temperaments and physiques? could it be that the top 0.1% have a certain/specific thread of order connecting all of those individual unique ingredients that when pulled off with hard work and dedication as a pre-requisite produce the certain spectacles that are alike Sampras, Agassi, Nadal, Djokovic and Fed? Is it also that trying to play akin to someone else such as Dimitrov dittoing Fed's game or Rajeev Ram mimicking Sampras puts a ceiling on ones own capabilities even though the examples they have based their tennis on come from some of the greats? If so why would that be the case if the players literally copied off highly successful players in tennis history?.
Thanks again for the great read, look forward to the next one.
P.S. - Please check my reply to your reply on the death of forehand part 2, thanks.
Watching alcaraz on grass, i felt like his game and movement looked a lot more aesthetically pleasing than on clay or hard. I think your write up pinpoints what i found so pleasing. Considering federer is the GOAT on grass and that alcaraz modeled his grass movement off of federer/murray, maybe the next/new gen should learn a few things from fed’s footwork
Hugh, As a retired kinesiology professor of 40 years, I know qualitative movement analysis and you are very perceptive. Although your plate is probably full, I would love to see you devle into pickleball analysis which shares many characteristics of tennis. Pickleball has great momentum with high participation rates rooted in a senior culture, marketing technology, pro tour and sponsorship money in the wings, etc. It remains to be seen if it traces the path of racketball or gains a permanent foothold.
Great spot on tribute to Fed. I certainly agree with your comparisons, athletes we all love to watch that are just different, that stand alone. Ali and Jordan a great comparison to Fed. No boxer his size has ever moved like Ali, hands and feet. Erving my favorite basketball player, but Jordan took overall movement and explosiveness to another level. Fed will be studied for a long time, his movement, his forehand, backhand, and serve. All a thing of absolute beauty. He kind of merged world class dancing and tennis, the Baryshnikov of tennis.
Amazing write up! I’m loving all the analogies and extensions to other sports and everyday life.
Wonderful analysis as always, uncovering a bit of Fed’s magic.
Maybe you keep it for the future parts, but do you have any ideas of youngsters (or players in general) who mimic Fed’s pieces of footwork, apart from let’s say Dimitrov and Alcaraz from that example? Additionally, could you list a few players top off your head whom footwork/movement is a big weakness ? I Always have a hard identifying it when it’s not blatantly obvious