Monday, June 25, 2018

Roger Federer vs David Nalbandian 2004 Australian Open Quarterfinal / How to beat a counter puncher

 Serve as a Weapon
Federer utilizes a full shoulder tilt on his serve to get the maximum pace and direction. He isn't content to hit an easy serve with a low toss and zero power. To beat the counter puncher you need a powerful serve. Spend time developing your serve into a true weapon. Around 35 minutes Federer is down 5-5 15-40  and he hits two aces. So while the counter puncher is jogging, the champion practices their serve for these crucial moments.

Physical Conditioning
To beat the counter puncher you must be in great shape. You may have to be in better shape than the counter puncher because you have to move your feet more to play superior offensive tennis. Federer stays the course with this strategy, keeping his play consistent knowing his superior offense will win the match. He is not intimidated by Nalbandian's physical play because Federer is in great shape. Federer knows he can take the ball early and make Nalbandian run more than he has to. When two players are equal whoever does the most running usually loses. He will win this physical war. Federer pumps his fist after each successful play.  You need at least equal defense to the counter puncher to succeed. Your own slices and defense pay off against counter punchers. You should be happy drawing errors from them. The more consistent your offense the more errors they will make.

Down 4-3 in the second set;  Federer is brilliant by playing great defense forcing a counter puncher to play offense in a tight spot of the match Nalbandian can't do it. 15-30. Take them out of their comfort zone. They would prefer to counter punch. Take them out of that.  Federer then crushes the ball up the middle. Again forcing the counter puncher to create offense. Plays a great point where he takes offense and wins the point. Bewildering Nalbandian who launches a ball high in the sky.

Dealing with Bad Line Calls
When you encounter the problem of your opponent jipping you on calls you must counteract this by continuing to play your game and let the calls fall where they may. If the call is egregious Ask if they are sure? Stay focused and convert close to 100% of your game point chances. As you are at a disadvantage with the counter puncher cheating you on line calls. A perfect example of this is when Federer hits the ball on the line at 28:39. Nalbandian wants to call it out, but lucky for Federer the umpires are there to call it good. Another awful display of cheating is that of the Wake Forest players in their recent NCAA championship. Absolutely disgraceful that they call clearly in balls on the right sideline and baseline out. If a player like Nalbandian played for Wake Forest he would win all his matches. But you can't cheat with line calls at the pro level.

Develop a Complete Game
The other thing you must have to beat a counter puncher is to have a complete game. Offense, defense, variation and knowing when to play what. And of course being able to execute this. Federer has taken the time developing his game in this way. He therefore can expect to make a withdrawal during the match. Federer stays ahead in the score and plays defense with an eye towards finishing the point at net with a simple angled volley. This takes time and there are no short cuts. Keep your eye towards long term success in tennis.

 World Class Offense
       On another point Federer's defense forces Nalbandian to play some offense himself. And of course this counter puncher is not entirely built for it. Federer wins the set 7-5 after a long cross court backhand rally ended on an error by Nalbandian. Federer utilized his variety with a short slice up the line. Federer hits some great drop volleys. Expect to make some great shots at net if you want to beat a counter puncher. You simply have to finish off the points by making overheads and volleys to beat them. Rise to the challenge!  And Nalbandian sets the point up beautifully finishing with a volley.

       Lots of deep cross court shots forcing Nalbandian to cover the whole court. No one can. Then Federer is firing backhands down the line. He is very confident and very deliberate with these big shots. As you must against a pusher. Still its not just ripping every shot it is patiently waiting for your openings to then pull the trigger. If your game relies too much on the other playing missing you will never be number one in the world, that's for sure. You must have offense and defense to reign supreme. All things equal the man with superior offense will win.

Personal Experience
I once lost a match 0-6, 3-6 to Miles Holman when I was controlling the offense but he got everything back.I played another guy Max Epley who had beat Miles and lost 0-6, 0-6. This guy blew me off the court with offense. He told me Miles went for too much and the way to beat him was to play good defense. He seemed unaware he was a much better player than me and my matchup with Miles was different. 

Be Opportunistic
1:05:00 You want to keep the ball out of the middle but you can try for the middle to get your timing refined. If you try to hit it down the line sometimes you will hit it well wide. 4 consecutive unforced errors from Federer means 0-40 for Nalbandian.  But Nalbandian shows his true colors and chokes. He is just trying to tap the return instead of hitting it. Now Federer plays one of the most versatile points you will ever see. Defense then splendid offense to claw back to 30-40. But Federer makes the error 4-3 Nalbandian second set. You must hang in the match at all times. But the winner of the match is the person that rises up and steals the game points. The loser is the one who does not. Do you want to lose closely or not so closely? Or do you want to win closely or not so closely? How you play those key points will determine this plain and simple.

       Nalbandian has his nerve back. A run around inside out forehand from Federer is counter punched up the line by Nalbandian for the winner. This is what Nalbandian does best, feels comfortable doing.  4-4 all second set. This ninth game is the most crucial in the set. The loser will feel like every point down 4-5 is a set point. Do all you can to win the 4-4 all game.Federer does that in style. He is completely refreshed and reset his serving approach. He forgot all about the last game when he got broken, he is focusing on something new. Fed hits 4 straight huge serves to save energy and move on to the next game. Something a counter puncher can't do. Federer dancing like a ballet artist with quick strike tennis 0-15. Federer playing some good defense. Anticipates a drop volley from Nalbandian and doesn't panic. Calms his adrenaline and hits a finesse angled shot for a winner. Nalbandian proves me wrong with a big serve.
Federer wins the second set. Nalbandian launches another ball into the seats as the umpire talks to him. Federer leads 7-5, 6-4. Surely Nalbandian will not go gently into this good night.

With those principles in mind. Here is the conclusion of the match: Here is the play by play with commentary: 

1:19:00  Federer leads 7-5, 6-4
 Federer looks so composed on the change over just going over his game plan and mentality.

In the 2nd set statistics there is not one stat where Nalbandian is superior to Federer. Impressively, Federer has more winners and less errors. He goes for a lot with his game and makes it.

They are showing the 2nd set highlights, these two produce an exciting brand of tennis, I'll give them that.

I cannot over emphasize how important the first point and first game are to start the crucial third set. In Federer's position he can put the match away by winning this set. He avoids rallies by slaying some monster serves. Federer is in a relaxed frame of mind and is just feeling the ball. It seems like a basketball to him.  But Nalbandian  is hitting some of the most spectacular shots I've seen. I think Federer expects to run through this set but with Nalbandian's shot making that might not happen. And now Federer feels the pressure and is just off on his put away forehand. Keep the ball going over the net, stay aggressive no matter how well the counter puncher plays. You have a shot with your offense, defense combo. Note the order. Come out and try to play offense each point. Play defense to stay in a point gone wrong. Then retake control.

That is the main difference between Federer and Murray. They have similar games but whereas Murray comes out each point playing defensively and maybe hitting an aggressive shot here and there. Federer comes out aggressive each point, and only plays defense if he has to steal a point. Slam totals Federer 20 Murray 3. And those 3 titles was when Murray played much more aggressively under the tutelage of Ivan Lendl. You want to go out and win your next match? Or participate in a boring push fest?

Nalbandian's counter punching is like a snake striking. Look out! Nalbandian earns several break points. But he is inefficient on conversion. Despite several Federer errors, a bad call in his favor that stopped Federer's momentum.Nalbandian cannot convert and throws his racquet. Forcing Federer to attempt to hit 3 straight aces to get out of ad out  and win the game.

1:38:00  Federer leads 7-5, 6-4, 2-1
Hitting on the run is a must against counter punchers. You need your racquet back and feet prepared to step into position to hit offensive shots on the run. Get into the groove Federer is in. I think rain is affecting the players. They may close the roof which would favor Federer. He needs more precision with his offensive shots. Nalbandian is slightly less precise on his shots. But more precise than a retriever who simply gets the ball back.

Federer not going for fast winners but playing Nalbandians game hitting the angles getting him moving all over the place. Wearing him down even if he doesn't win the points. this makes winners easier to hit. Although Nalbandian is superbly fit. Nalbandian losing his mind lol. Federer is staying on the baseline and just hitting them on the bounce making Nalbandian hit on the run.

Never hit a drop shot in the center of the court like Nalbandian did. Hit your approach shot to one side. Follow the ball to that side. Then hit the drop shot when they are on their heels. Give them the opportunity to hit the down the line shot wide. My explanation on approaching the net is below:

If Nalbandian could have consistently played like the 2:05:00 point he could win many majors.
Nalbandian earned that break. He defended all of Federer's shots and punished the short ball! 


Federer leads 2 sets to 1            7-5, 6-4, 5-7

Its not lost on me how talented Nalbandian is. He needs to be more offensive from the beginning. Nalbandian often doesn't set his alarm to mid match when he picks up his level of play. Federer can play great defense with the slice. All Nalbandian can is try to fake Federer out to miss the pass.

This 4th set is not as routine as Federer is making it look. He has to keep up this quality play. He needs to keep his foot on the gas with good offense. Federer closes out the match with two big serves. Nalbandian wanted to call the 30-30 serve out. But the umpires don't allow it. Gotta keep those rec players honest. When they call the lines bad, call the next shot they hit in the middle of the court out. Set the tone.

Federer wins the match 7-5, 6-4, 5-7, 6-3 in two hours 41 minutes

Biggest difference in the statistics. Federer 20 aces to Nalbandians 5
Federer 50 winners to Nalbandians 26.
Federer net points 23/29 to Nalbandian 13/23

Federer controlled the match as you must against a counter puncher. To get this match email me at If you comment with a question and I don't answer email me at to remind me to comment on your question or statement.

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