Roger Federer, the code breaker

I long for the days when I was on the road, following tourneys week after week; if I wasn’t on the road, I was planning my next trip. Following tourneys via the web or news bulletins is just no way to live. If Tennis Channel could figure out a way to deliver live coverage of matches beyond the Masters and Slams, I’d probably be able to deal with my downtime without feeling like an addict who decided to go cold turkey.

To get by, I soothe myself with memories of last year’s outings while I await my trip to Indian Wells.  At the Cincy ’09 tournament, I was watching Federer play Djokovic when I was struck by a realization that may be obvious to more knowledgeable fans but suddenly stood out like flashing lights: this guy approaches his opponents’ game like a puzzle to be solved or a lock to be opened, once he secures the key, it’s like the ending scene in the Matrix, all he sees are falling codes. I would never have had that realization if I had not tried to watch Fed’s matches in a new way.

I am guilty of looking at Federer like a super-human player who should be able to slay his opponents in one fell swoop; he should be done in straight sets with scores like 1, 0, 0!  Like many of his fellow fans on twitter who go into a complete meltdown as we watch his matches, I was continually frustrated with his failure to nail every shot, convert every break point, and read every serve. Ridiculous, I know!  On this day, I decided to simply watch, without the angst, and that’s when I fully appreciated Fed’s thoughtful and meticulous style of play. He didn’t go for broke on every occasion, he picked his spots when his aggression would pay dividends. Sure it would be nice to see him break his opponent’s serve every time, but Fed did not always seem in a hurry to do so. I wonder why?

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