Jose Higueras, Roger’s most recent high-profile coach (not counting Darren Cahill, of course) spoke to Spanish newspaper, Publico, recently about Roger Federer’s slump. His conclusion: change or die.
I’ve translated some excerpts, but please click here for the whole thing (in Spanish).
On what it’s like to coach Roger Federer:
“He’s exceptional, he feels the game like nobody else, it’s instinct and that’s why working with him is very different. In spite of everything, he would benefit by having a person to help open his eyes at certain moments.”
On deciding to leave Federer to join the USTA:
“I would have stayed with him longer, even passed on the job offer that I have at present, but Roger only offered me 10 or 12 weeks a year to work with him, which wasn’t enough time to make any changes that would be evident on the court.” (Higueras is now Director of the USTA’s Elite Player Development program.)
On Roger’s current problems:
“When you stop improving, you deteriorate; in tennis it’s always like this” says the coach, who was prohibited by contract to speak about the Swiss last year. “But Federer continues just as before. His backhand, which today seems weak, is good, but the players have grown accustomed to it and that’s why it’s less effective, now it seems to play worse.”
Roger’s immobility contrasts with Nadal’s aptitude for reinvention. “In two years, (Nadal) is a completely new player, he has improved and changed his style. Federer keeps on being the same: now others can attack him. He has stagnated.”
On changes that need to happen:
It’s not only a problem of competition, but also of philosophy. “Tactics always work better if they win – it’s a question of confidence. Federer can improve his style of play, he doesn’t always use the most appropriate style. When I was with him, he played two brilliant matches, the semifinals and final of the US Open.”
“He was aggressive, he approached the net well, he was very fast, that’s why he won, this is the way he always has to be.” Higueras says on Federer’s current game, which has problems of strategy when he doesn’t cover the backhand, his worst shot, to optimize his resources. “The backhand has always served him well, it is a big shot, but the players know it. His forehand is more devastating and more difficult to defend,” says Higueras
Couple things: 1. In Google translate, Higueras turns into “fig trees” which adds a pastoral feel to all this tennis talk. 2. Mr. Fig Trees’ statements make me sad. It pains me to think of Roger as some kind of obsolete electronic device, surpassed by newer, smarter models. 3. I wonder if we’ll hear more, now that the Federer camp’s “gag order” has expired.
Is it too late for an upgrade, Roger?