Expert analysis: How Federer won AO2017

Published by Craig O'Shannessy

Dissecting Roger Federer's run to the Australian Open title. Photo: Getty Images
We all know Roger Federer won Australian Open 2017, but do you know how he won the title?

Roger Federer’s 18th career Grand Slam title at Australian Open 2017 serves as a global blueprint for coaches to teach and players to copy.

His game feels both the magnetism of the baseline and the net, focusing on high percentage  primary patterns run about eight times out of 10 that he can rely on in the big moments. His less used secondary patterns of play allow for creativity and the element of surprise, particularly when he is ahead on the scoreboard.

The secondary tactics are used sparingly, and sometimes just the threat they exist creates a mental advantage.

The following five elements of his game are broken down to provide a better understanding of the metrics that powered the Swiss maestro to a fifth title Down Under.

1. Rally Length
Tennis is easier understood when you break it down to the following three rally lengths, comparing the tournament average to Federer’s body of work.

Rally Length Nickname Men’s Tournament Average Roger Federer
0-4 Shots First Strike 68% 71%
5-8 Shots Patterns Of Play 21% 21%
9+ Shots Extended Rallies 11% 8%

When you see our sport cut up like this, it’s easy to see how “front end loaded” it is in the first four shots. Almost seven rallies out of 10 at the Happy Slam only required each player to hit a maximum of two shots in the rally (serve and return are included).

Federer played 71 per cent of his points in the First Strike category, which was three percentage points higher than the tournament average. He was exactly the same in the mid-length Patterns of Play category, and slightly less in extended rallies, playing just eight percent of points there.

2. Where The Winning Happens
Federer played a lot more of the short points, and his winning performance was much better there as well. He won 106 more points than his opponent in the 0-4 Shot range, providing the lions share of his competitive advantage.

Rally Length Points Won/Lost Point Advantage Percentage of Advantage
0-4 Shots 637 /531 106 78%
5-8 Shots 178 / 164 14 10%
9+ Shots 70 / 54 16 12%

3. Losing Record At the Baseline
Federer used a clever mix of baseline points, approach and volley, and even some serve and volley to win seven matches and take the title. What’s amazing is that three of his seven victories were in straight sets, yet he still could not generate a winning record from the back of the court.

Strategy Tournament Average Federer
Baseline 47% 49%
Net 64% 72%
Serve & Volley 64% 70%

4. Groundstrokes
Federer’s forehand was what he relied on most to hurt opponents with from the baseline. His backhand did over-achieve in Melbourne, especially in the 5th set of the final against Nadal, where it contributed eight winners. Overall, Federer’s forehand contributed 61 per cent of his baseline winners (120 to 61), while committing 16 more errors than his backhand.

  Winners Forced Errors Unforced Errors Winners Minus Errors
Forehand 120 129 117 -126
Backkhand 76 122 108 -154

5. Federer Serving

Strategy Tournament Average Federer
1st Serves In 61% 63%
1st Serve Points Won 72% 78%
2nd Serve Points Won 50% 55%
Unreturned Serves 32% 37%
Service Games Won 79% 88%
Break Points Saved 62% 65%

As you would expect, Federer was above the tournament average in every single serve category. His ability to hit his spots is unparalleled, helping drive a nine percentage point advantage in service games won over the tournament average (79% to 88%) – winning 117 service games and losing only 16.

One of the beauties of our sport is the remarkably wide range of playing styles players can employ to achieve greatness. You would be hard pressed going past the all-court brilliance of Roger Federer if you were picking a model.

Share this: 
  • Most popular articles

21 September 2017

Gallery: Laver Cup wows Prague

It's true: the talk in tennis at the moment is about the Laver Cup. More specifically, wil... More

24 September 2017

Laver Cup: Federer, Nadal shine to put Team Europe in contro...

Team Europe has taken a commanding 9-3 lead over Team World in the Laver Cup, thanks large... More

19 September 2017

What’s going on with Kristina Mladenovic?

“My progression has been steady and that’s what I like about my path. For a lot of gir... More

12 September 2017

Woodbridge: Federer, Nadal & the GOAT question

After Wimbledon, I thought that the greatest of all time (GOAT) debate had been settled. R... More