Michael Stich says he’s surprised more players are not attempting to change tactics and take the game to Roger Federer when facing the Swiss great.
Federer in January won his 20th Grand Slam title at Australian Open 2018; since the beginning of 2017 he’s won three of the four major tournaments he’s entered.
It’s a level of dominance all the more surprising given that Federer is 36, an age at which such success is unprecedented.
Stich, the 1991 Wimbledon champion and a former world No.2, believes players need to throw caution to the wind when facing Federer.
Yet he laments the fact that none of them seem to.
“We’ve seen odd matches like Stakhovsky beating Federer one year (at Wimbledon in 2013), where the guy’s played serve-volley all the time and kept putting pressure and pressure all the time,” he told Jon Wertheim during the latest Beyond The Baseline podcast.
“I have not seen any of the top guys these days hitting passing shots over five sets. I think they won’t.
“I have a philosophy. If I lose a first set let’s say 6-2, and I see that my tactics don’t work, well I try something different. Because it doesn’t matter if I lose 6-2 or 7-6 – as long as I lose, it’s a bad result. So I might as well try something and give myself the chance to come out as a winner.
“When players came off court losing against Roger and saying ‘it was a pleasure to lose against Roger Federer’, that’s where I feel like, wow, please. That’s not the competition you want to have on the tennis court.
“No matter how good the guy is … just take some risks. Try to get away from your comfort zone and try something out. If you lose, well, make it better the next time.”
Stich knows a thing or two about producing his highest level against the game’s best; he owned a winning 5-4 record against Pete Sampras, the greatest player of his generation.
All of those matches came between 1991 and 1995, a period when Sampras was playing some of his best tennis.
During the podcast, Wertheim recalled Stich’s guest-written column for a British newspaper during Wimbledon one year, when the German said he felt he could have beaten Federer when playing at his highest level.
He would have done so by employing the Stakhovsky method – ceaselessly serve-and-volleying and attacking to put a pressure on Federer that the Swiss is currently unaccustomed to facing.
“Obviosuly I’ve never played on the grass the way it is right now. And everyone tells me it’s so slow, and you can’t play serve-and-volley,” Stich said.
“I do not believe that. Because it’s not all about power the speed – it’s also about placement and using the surface for your advantage. If I just stick to the baseline on grass every time (and play with topspin) obviosuly the ball is bouncing much higher these days.
“But if I play chip-and-charge and play slices to the service line, well then I’ll challenge my opponent. He needs to step away from his comfort zone. He needs to get into different positions.”
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