World #8 and 20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer dismissed Denis Istomin in an hour and thirty-two minutes on Court Philip Chatrier on Monday. The Swiss looked sharp, dominating rallies and making Istomin run from side to side, putting him on constant defense. More so, Federer brought out a new–or perhaps old–tactic from his bag of tricks. He used his drop shots and short slices in a lot of the important points and moments in the match.
Federer used a similar tactic in the 2009 French Open, the only time he’s won the tournament. During the course of his majestic seven matches, fans and analysts witnessed a new tactic. Federer began by pushing his opponents deep into the court before slicing the ball short and denying them the opportunity to attempt a shot. One of the main reasons for the new game plan was that Federer had been consistently overpowered and overplayed in previous matches by opponents like Tommy Haas, Juan Martin Del Potro, and Robin Soderling, all of whom had strong baseline games.
Using his touch and finesse, he was able to disrupt his opponents’ rhythm by varying the shots he used. Fast forward to Monday’s match. Federer was able to execute both strategies flawlessly, putting Istomin on the defensive and ending points with a short slice. This strategy caters to Federer’s preferred point length–short with a potential net finish.
So far this tactic has proven to work for the Swiss “Maestro.” However, the dynamics might change for his next opponent, big serving Croatian Marin Cilic. Cilic is known for his court coverage and net play, just like Federer. The two have played ten times, and Federer has dominated their matchups with a 9-1 head-to-head record. If Federer can use this strategy as his match template and disguise it with some variety, there is no doubt that Roger Federer can make a deep run in the tournament.