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By A m a r Pat e l

STROKE OF GENIUS

insight

PHOTOGRAPHY, MAIN: GETTy. NICK BOLLETTIERI PORTRAIT: COURTESY OF IMG ACADEMIES

Legendary tennis coach Nick Bollettieri analyses Roger Federer from cranium to metatarsal TO reveaL why he may just be the greatest tennis player of all time Last July, after more than four HOURS on Wimbledon’s hallowed centre court, Roger Federer became the first player ever to win 15 Grand Slam titles, and was widely acclaimed as the greatest of all time. But what is it about the 28-year-old Swiss that elevates him from great to greatest? His stroke play blurs the line between artistry and athleticism. His humility and professionalism are world renowned. But being the greatest demands something more. Federer has played in the semi-finals of the last 22 Grand Slam tournaments, an extraordinary level of consistency over five years. It makes him clinical, according to Nick Bollettieri, coach of 10 world number ones. ‘I recently had dinner with Tommy Haas [who lost to Federer in the 2009 Wimbledon semi-final] and he said something very interesting about Roger,’ Bollettieri explains in a raspy voice from his tennis academy in Florida. ‘He said, “He sees the moment, seizes it and converts it.” Only a handful of people can do that, whether they’re an athlete or a salesman.’ The dying moments of last year’s Wimbledon final were a perfect example. After four hours and 16 minutes of tortuous play, during which Roddick made 70 per cent of his 127mph first serves and fired 27 aces (setting a new tournament record of 187), Federer broke his opponent’s serve for the first time to win the match. He’s also set new levels of efficiency. ‘Some machines can be smooth and powerful in one area and then falter when they have to downshift,’ Bollettieri explains. ‘Federer’s machine does not falter.’ Federer may be the world’s greatest tennis player today, but with Rafael Nadal currently leading 5-2 in their Grand Slam showdowns, tennis fans hotly debate just how long he can stay there. ‘Nadal is one of the few guys that actually thinks he’s better than Federer,’ says Bollettieri. ‘Beat the man of the generation and no one can dispute that Federer’s the greatest.’ Nick Bollettieri is one of the most influential and charismatic figures in tennis. He has coached everyone from Pete Sampras to Maria Sharapova and, at 78 years of age, his deep passion for the game is infectious. nickbollettieri.com

‘He sees the moment, seizes it and converts it’

EYES ‘Not only does he see the ball early, he reacts in the same split second that he sees it hitting the opponent’s racket. He can track his return, anticipate his opponent and make the necessary movements before the ball even reaches the other side of the net. That’s exceptional.’

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Hands ‘He’s also got very soft hands. They work in harmony with his great lower-body foundation and nimble feet. His volleys are technical and his shot selections are effortless; that’s because he has complete control of himself. He can do anything.’

Head ‘Federer’s facial expressions would make him a championship poker player. He rarely breaks down and he hardly ever gets tired. He controls his emotions and moves so effortlessly that he can make good decisions, even after the long points.’

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4 Shoulders and legs ‘Federer’s machine is perfectly balanced; all parts are in sync and that’s where the power comes from. He generates from the legs up, he knows how to increase racket head speed and he keeps his shoulders level, with very few extra body motions.’

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Feet ‘Federer moves without moving. He knows when to come to the net and then, just as the opponent begins to take the backswing, he does this beautiful split step to defend. I don’t think there’s been anybody that has played better, defensively or offensively, in the history of the game.’

LEXUS MAGAZINE 13


ROGER FEDERER – ANALYSIS BY NICK BOLLETIERI