With his 8th title at Wimbledon, Roger Federer not only continues his excellent year of renaissance, but also continues to play maybe the best tennis of his life at almost age 36. Fortunately for him, he received a little help from other players in that he did not have to face any of Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, or Andy Murray in the tournament. However, he did not drop a single set all tournament, and played at an exceptionally high level all tournament. When he lost at his first warm-up tournament, the critics must have been out again, saying that he has now lost his edge on grass in his older age. He rebounded from that by winning Halle, and now by winning Wimbledon. It is safe to say that skipping the French Open paid off.
Could this strategy of periodic resting become the norm?
Last year, Federer decided to skip the rest of the season after Wimbledon. He came back at the beginning of the year out of nowhere, and captured a fifth crown at Melbourne. Then he went on to win both the Miami and Indian Wells Masters. Federer seemed rejuvenated; full of energy, and much more dangerous on the backhand side.
Noticeably, Rafael Nadal did a similar thing and missed the second half of the season too. He came back strong as well.
While Rafael Nadal reaped the benefits of his additional rest during the clay court season, Roger Federer decided it was best that he skip the entire season to better prepare himself for the grass court season.
The move paid off for Federer since it allowed him to avoid the most physically taxing surface in clay, and gave him plenty of rest for the grass court season. Now owning eight Wimbledon crowns, Federer has taken a different approach to his preparation for tournaments. While he may have been healthy enough to play both the clay court season and the grass court season, the toll taken on his body would have meant that his level of play would see some drops by the time Wimbledon came around.
Basically, the method being employed here is a selective hand-picking of the schedule. In effect, Roger and his team are deciding which stretches of the schedule are the most difficult, physically taxing, and provide the appropriate times to rest.
By employing this method, Federer ensures that he is at his best in every tournament he plays. While Federer might be able to reach the semi’s or quarter finals at most tournaments in these stretches, he would rather skip these tournaments and win one title than reach the semi’s at three tournaments. The strategy pays off because at his age, he would wear himself out over the course of the long season and eventually either succumb to injury or fatigue.
Other players should take note of this. When times are tough sometimes all one needs is some time off to rest and reset.
Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray could use this
Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray could both follow in Federer’s footsteps and use this technique. Both battled injuries throughout Wimbledon and have been quite mediocre to this point in 2017. For Djokovic, this has lasted a full year now, so I strongly suggest that he takes some time away from the game.
Djokovic is just a mess right now. Every time he looks like he is turning a corner, he has an upset later on. Whether he has a mental collapse or an injury, he always seems to disappoint these days. Combine this with his adjustment to family life too, and he may need the time off not just for physical reasons, but for mental reasons.
For Andy, it may not be as necessary, and would be more difficult since he has many points to defend in the second half. However, should his mediocre play continue late into the second half, perhaps shutting things down early for a few months might be the best option available.
The tradeoff is clear: play more tournaments and perhaps win a few, or skip a few months or tournaments, but come back much stronger. While skipping tournaments entirely is always a tough decision to make, I am sure that champions such as Djokovic and Murray would much rather skip a few months and return to dominance than continue to fight and achieve mediocrity. They’ve seen the results; now they must decide if it is for them too.