Roger Federer is still hitting a ton of forehands, and nobody seems to be able to stop him.
As the one-time French Open champ, 20-time Grand Slam winner and often-considered GOAT finally comes back to Roland Garros, you’d think people would attack the backhand. Instead, Federer was allowed to play his own game in an easy-to-predict straight sets romp over Lorenzo Sonego 6-2, 6-4, 6-4 at the first round of the 2019 French Open.
After all, Federer uses one hand on the backhand wing, which is supposedly a liability on clay. High balls to the backhand of a one-hander produce errors, right? Heavy topspin is a single-hander’s nightmare, correct? Then why did Sonego let Federer get away with hitting his forehand at a rate of nearly two-to-one from the baseline?
Stats from charting the Federer – Sonego match reveal that the Swiss hit 98 forehand rally balls to only 54 backhand rally balls. A rally ball is considered a shot taken from the baseline that is not a return.
The Italian Sonego is a big hitter, and he may have hit himself right out of this one, committing 26 unforced errors to Federer’s 15. That’s the sign of someone who’s trying to overpower his opponent, rather than using tactics to put the ball in the right spot.
Asked about his first match at Roland Garros since 2015, Federer casually said, “It starts with are you in the mood to play it,” meaning he had to ask himself if he was up for preparing for the the grind of the surface.
When your opponent makes it easy on you by hitting to your preferred stroke, it can certainly put you in the right mood.
Federer also said he studied the Italian’s patterns and “amount of risk-taking” beforehand to get a feel for what his first round match on the new Court Philippe Chatrier might bring.
The 2009 French Open champ likes the feeling of being an underdog here at Roland Garros, because clay-court king Rafael Nadal and World Number 1 Novak Djokovic would be considered heavy favorites above him. “I really don’t know how far I can go in this event,” he said.
Roger Federer can go very far if his opponents keep hitting to his forehand so much.
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