2013 was a disappointing year for Roger Federer and his legion of fans. Throughout the year, Federer looked like a shadow of his former self — the serve wasn’t as accurate, the forehand not as precise or decisive, and he no longer played with his normal panache.
But a fruitful off-season, a new coach in all-time great Stefan Edberg, and a change in racket seem to have finally stemmed the rot. This past week, Federer won the ATP 250 event in Dubai to continue his extremely strong start to the year. He reached the finals at the Brisbane International Open and the semifinals at the Australian Open. Roger Federer, once again, is a name to be reckoned with in the world of tennis.
Among a string of impressive results last week in Dubai, Federer’s win over top seed Novak Djokovic was the most striking. A year ago, confronted with a one-set deficit against one of the most dominant players on tour, he would likely have crumbled, but not anymore. The confidence is back, and the aggression has returned. At key moments, Federer is prepared to take risks by coming to the net and stepping higher in the court to make an attacking shot.
In his match against Djokovic, facing break point, he rolled back the years with some stunning shots to first deny a potentially decisive break. He then pressured the Serb into uncharacteristic mistakes and leveled the match at a set apiece. In the deciding third set, Federer appeared to have sealed the victory, as Djokovic seemed as powerless as a supporter in the stands.
A title victory early in the season could be exactly what the doctor ordered for another remarkable season for Federer. For a good portion of the last 18 months, Federer has not been able to compete consistently with the top players, but a victory against Djokovic this early in the season (coupled with his convincing win over Andy Murray at the Australian Open) will give him confidence heading into Indian Wells, Miami, and the start of the clay court season.
Even though the season is still only in its infancy, the signs bode well for Federer. Tennis, like most other sports, is oftentimes decided in the head, so if Federer can keep up his mental resurgence through the next couple of months in the season, the results will surely follow.