Roger Federer advanced into the quarterfinals in the bet-at-home Open in Hamburg, Germany on Thursday with a 6-4, 6-3 win over Czech Jan Hajek. Up next is the German Florian Mayer, who has a funky and stylish game but may not have enough to hurt the Swiss Maestro.
Federer never really found his range until halfway through the first set. He gained a break early but gave it right back, and then wasted 4 set points at 4-5 until he finally converted on the 5th. In the second he finally got the break in the 5th game. At 2-5, Hajek saved 5 match points but the next game Roger served the match out in style, flicking an ace to win the 907th match of his career.
It was hardly a great match from Roger but he got over the finish line with little trouble and that is all you can ask for in the early rounds of any tournament. Hajek played pretty decently and handled himself well in the big points.
Of course, the big news this week is Federer's change of racquet from a 90 square inch frame to a 98 square inch frame. It is the biggest switch of Roger's career - in 2002 he changed from an 85 to a 90, which he used for 11 years before this week.
The eight extra square inches on the racquet allows Roger to hit with a little more power and gives him a little more margin for error on the many fine-tuned shots he likes to play. Some say that the racquet will eliminate shanks from his game, and that won't be the case at all. Shanks and mishits are a byproduct of bad timing which is caused by not being in the exact position to hit the intended shot. Think of it this way - he rarely ever mishit the ball in his prime years when he had elite movement and could get in position to every ball - usually hitting very aggressively and with high risk. Nowadays he is a step slower and doesn't get in position as easily as he used to.
Without a doubt, this week in Hamburg and next week in Gstaad will be tournaments where he tests out the new frame to get all the kinks out. He is still figuring out how to balance the added power with the same control. In the long term, when he gets fully used to it, I believe it will pay great dividends to use a modern racquet, especially when he plays the top guys and needs to handle their power (Berdych, Tsonga, del Potro) or needs to be able to hit through their defenses a little better (Djokovic, Nadal, Murray).
From my observation in the Hajek match, many of the mishits were caused by hitting a little early - swinging through the prime point of contact before the ball actually arrives. I assume the 98 is lighter than the 90 was because the head is bigger. If that is the case, then part of the adjustment process will be to get used to swinging a lighter frame and getting the timing right with his backswing and hitting point.
It's great to see Federer back in action and it's nice to see that he has a willingness to make such a drastic change at this point in his career like changing racquets (especially when its an 8-square inch difference). The loss to Stakhovsky could have been a blessing in disguise if this new frame helps him out against the fellow top players and helps him hide his weaknesses and strengthen his strengths.
This is my tennis blog, Lefty Advantage. Tennis is my biggest passion in life and I started this site to discuss the great game. I mainly follow the career of Roger Federer, but I truly love watching all tennis, whether it be the final of a Grand Slam or a junior tournament on the other side of the world.
I have played tennis for 13 years. If you ever met me, I could talk your head off about all things tennis for hours on end if you would let me. Welcome, and enjoy the writing!