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When you beat an opponent around five times in a span of around 5-15 years, you know how to beat them, you know their game and how to expose their weaknesses.

When you beat an opponent around ten or fifteen times, it’s fairly certain, even on a bad day, you can still beat them; note this does not mean the matches are easier, but it usually means you can beat them playing great, average, even poor, etc.

Yet when you beat an opponent TWENTY times? Very few professional players can boast this record, as to beat an opponent twenty times; this suggests that you dominate them? Yet this is rare; Nadal is considered a good match-up against Federer, yet he has lost more than five times to the Swiss, Henman (and Sampras to an extent) had a bad record against Hewitt, yet they were never dominated by the Aussie.

However, Federer has complete and total domination over Roddick. This post will look as to how such a brilliant player as Roddick (1 Major, several finals, several Masters trophies, top 10 ranking, etc) struggles against a fellow brilliant player (Federer). It is rare at such a high-level for a match-up to be so extremely one-sided, thus making the research on it just more interesting as to explaining why it’s so one sided.

1. To beat Federer in a Major or a Master’s trophy, or even events like Basel, any possible competitor must have a solid backhand and forehand, otherwise you simply stand no chance, as Federer will just hit to your weaker, unstable shot, time and time again. Roddick’s backhand isn’t a bad shot; it’s just horribly suited to Federer. The way Roddick hits his backhand takes any pace he has (movement, momentum) completely off; add this to the fact that he rarely hits any winners on his backhand, essentially, after hitting a backhand against Federer, Roddick is surrendering a point, as he loses momentum due to his backhand stance “glueing” him to the spot; it’s not technically flawed, but it gets ruthlessly exposed against players like Federer, Tipsarevic, Safin, Haas, Nalbandian, all hard-hitters who can move directions of the ball exceptionally well. Reason 1 is Roddick’s backhand isn’t hit DTL enough (unlike the Wimbledon 2009 final, which he did often, and almost won), when he hits against Federer cross-court…

Federer uses his backhand exceptionally well

Federer’s backhand can be an enigma; against Nadal it was brilliant during the Madrid 2009 final, against Murray it was brilliant during the Australian Open 2010 final, yet against the same players, his backhand wasn’t very good against Nadal at the French Open 2008 final, nor against Murray in the Toronto 2010 final.

Yet, against Roddick, his backhand is always a weapon, regardless of the type of court, court speed, temperature, etc.

This is because Federer has Roddick on a “grid-lock” as it’s called, Federer can move him anywhere with his backhand; he can move Roddick from right to left by hitting a deep cross-court shot, he can hit DTL to cause a forced error (Roddick’s forehand squash shot has never been his biggest tool), hit a low slice to force Roddick to come into the net, which 99% of the time, is absolutely suicidal as neither his passing shots or volleys are good enough.

Federer’s return of serve

3. Federer is one of the best returners in the game, regardless of what the statistics say about his break point conversion, etc. He reads Roddick’s serve brilliantly, yet this is half the battle, Federer has developed a “block” return, on both his forehand and backhand, which completely negative Roddick’s big serves.

Roddick’s volleys

4. Roddick isn’t a natural volleyer; it is admiring to see him and try and go to the net and mix it up, and several times, has been a successful tactic against Federer. Quite simply, Roddick’s volleys aren’t good enough to beat Federer’s passing shots. Often he misses volleys with any height to them (Wimbledon 2009 final set point in set 2), from the baseline Federer is a better player, from the net, Roddick doesn’t stand a chance. This is important to realize because Roddick’s biggest strength, his serve, is a weakness against Federer, because Federer often blocks back the serve mid-court, forcing Roddick to hit an approach shot cross-court (which isn’t very good) and get passed, or hit a risky inside-out forehand or backhand approach shot, which is more riskier, and thus results in bigger errors.

Federer is fitter, faster and a better tactician

Federer has always been a fitter player than Roddick; Federer’s legs (especially his leg abductors) are used a lot more in his tennis game than Roddick’s, allowing Federer to add more spin and more direction to his shots, where as Roddick uses his body (the reason why he’s always glued when he hits his backhand is here), Federer uses his legs and body. A physical advantage helps, always.

Federer is the better tactician too, he understands he needs to bring Roddick in with his backhand slice and expose poor movement from there. Roddick lets Federer do this; the better tactician usually wins, why not force Federer to come in by giving him a low slice mid-court? Roddick needs to employ Federer’s tactics against him to neutralize what Federer is doing to him and to get a message across: “I know what you’re doing”.

One last reason. I also believe Roddick’s coaches have given him wrong tactics to play against Federer in the past, Stefanki gave him the right tactics to work with in Wimbledon 2009, yet he couldn’t execute the large plethora of set points he had.

Jimmy Connors, Brad Gilbert and Dean Goldfine in particular strike me as coaches who have given Roddick the wrong tactics against Federer. Connors greatly helped Roddick with his backhand, yet Roddick was brushed aside in the 2006 US Open with Connors as his coach and was completely destroyed at the 2007 Australian Open against Federer with Connors watching. Gilbert and Goldfine have issued Roddick to have an “attack” mindset against Federer, which at Wimbledon and Australian Open, have caused disastrous results; Federer’s defense is just as brilliant as his offense due to his brilliant movement. From losing so many times, Federer has a complete mental advantage over Roddick. Imagine facing you’ve lost to, time and time again, and again. Not a nice sight.

Roddick’s best chance of beating Federer is to feel complete confidence in his ability; in several matches against Federer, Roddick, such a determined fighter himself, has understand that only Federer was going to win the match. Today at the Basel semi final, he has up 2-0 in the second set, yet ended up losing 6-4; we all knew it was going to happen.

See the videos below, for how Federer returns Roddick’s serve, how he uses his backhand slice and how often Federer’s movement is just a different class to Roddick’s. The third clip is just brutal, Federer absolutely destroys Roddick, his movement being on a different planet.

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