Updated: Jul 9
The king is back! As it happened last year, Roger Federer, at 36 years old, shows the world how it has to be done in tennis. A magic player? A talented player? A workaholic? Is there a definition for such a successful career? Probably a little of magic, lots of talent, and most of all, lots of work. In an interview, more than a decade ago, he said that he would only take a couple of days off through the whole year. Also that he would just end a game to immediately look for the video of it to analyze it. I am sure it does not work that way now. He is married, has some twins to take care of, a house, and a spectacular wife who understands tennis, commercials, events, etc. But he is keeping his high level much farther than anyone could ever imagine. How can that be?
The way we see it, according to Daniel Kahneman, Ph.D. in Psychology and Nobel Prize in Economy, in his book "Thinking Fast and Slow", we find some answers to his performance related to the way he developed his game. As Kahneman says, primitive knowledge on anything will survive any changes you make by any rational method. That means that when you can not think or you do not have time to think about an action, your primitive knowledge will overtake any rational action that you might have. Difficult? No! Bringing that to tennis, if the forehand you learn as a kid is flawless, that movement will be your primitive movement. When in a situation where you can not rationalize your action, the primitive comes in an automatic mode. And that is what happens with Federer, everything seems very easy, very automatic, he does not seem to have any doubts about his fundamentals and they flow like the easiest thing to do in sports. And that is a fact in all sports. Michael Jordan once said that when his game was losing effectiveness, he would go back to court to practice his fundamentals. His game would come to court and seem very easy. The same with soccer players, baseball players, etc. They all seem effortless.
That brings us back to our last post. Tennis should be taught by the analytical method. To ensure that the player has on automatic the fundamentals he first learned and that these fundamentals are the right ones.
So Federer is the player with the best technique on the circuit, he is not the best by chance. He uses less energy than everybody else because he moves better, and he has better strokes overall. The huge difference for all other players comes from the extra high quality of his fundamentals!
TEXT BY GABRIEL PIMENTEL AND PAULO CÉSAR PIMENTEL