Tennis writer Steve Tignor had something to say on Federer’s recent performance in contrast to Nadal and Djokovic. I paste a part of his post below. You can read the full thing here.
As the most painful downtick in the very slow but inevitable decline of Roger Federer
His semi with Nadal may have been the worst I’ve seen him play. Rafa was very good, and very solid when Federer showed a few tiny signs of life midway through the second set. But Federer looked confused from the beginning, unsure of how to approach the slow conditions and the fast man across the net from him. He tried forehands with more topspin than normal, which didn’t work. He tried the crosscourt backhand, but it wasn’t there the way it had been at the World Tour Finals. Finally, he just tried slicing his backhand over the net, and that didn’t work, either—the ball went into the middle of the net instead.
We’ve talked ad nauseum and beyond nauseum about what strategy Federer can use in this situation against Nadal, but what about his emotional approach? The commentators when I was watching thought he should have shown the fans, who were obviously ready to help, some more life, some energy, some sign that he still thought he had a chance. It’s something I’ve mentioned in the past about his matches with Nadal; he lets the Spaniard take up all the positive energy in the building. This time Federer tried out a couple of modest fist-pumps in the second set, but that was it. I doubt it would be a game-changer, and it doesn’t fit Federer’s no-phony-baloney persona (in that he’s a lot like his seeming opposite, ), but I don’t think an attempt to change his body language would hurt.
Still, we’re duty-bound to add caveats: Federer is only losing to Nadal and Djokovic at the moment. But the surfaces he’s likely to win on now seem to be shrinking; the slow hard courts in Melbourne aren’t going to get easier for him…