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Hungover Roger Federer tells tennis’s next generation to attack old order

The Guardian logo The Guardian 17/07/2017 Kevin Mitchell
Roger Federer celebrated winning his eighth Wimbledon title in a bar until 5am then called on young players to play more attacking tennis. © PA Roger Federer celebrated winning his eighth Wimbledon title in a bar until 5am then called on young players to play more attacking tennis.

Roger Federer, hungover after partying until 5am to celebrate his eighth Wimbledon title, had enough lucidity on Monday morning to throw down a challenge to the next generation to play more attacking tennis if they want to dislodge the old order.

The 35-year-old Swiss could easily return to No1 in the world and win his third slam of the season in New York next month after coming through Wimbledon without losing a set. He won in Melbourne, too, in vastly different circumstances, and he looks and sounds as content as when he was dominating the game alongside Rafael Nadal, then, in recent years, competing with Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray for supremacy.

Related: Graceful Roger Federer transcends statistics to rebuild mystical aura | Kevin Mitchell

“Yeah, my head’s ringing,” he smiled. “I don’t know what I did last night [after the Champion’s dinner at the Guildhall in central London]. I drank too many types of drinks, I guess. After the ball we went to – what would you call it? I guess it’s a bar – and there were almost 30 to 40 friends that were there. We had a great time. Got to bed at five, then woke up, and just didn’t feel good. The last hour or so I’m somewhat OK again. I’m happy with that.”

He is happy, too, with his game, which has returned to its stunning best since he came back on the Tour in January. Federer can fairly be regarded as the best player in the world right now and maybe for a while to come, regardless of sitting behind Murray and Nadal in the rankings – and three places ahead of Marin Cilic, whom he beat 6-3, 6-1, 6-4 in the final on Sunday.

But Federer is less content with the mindset of the younger contenders, who still have not been able to remove the 30-plus elite from the top of the pile.

“I know you can easily get sucked into that [attritional] mode when you don’t want to attack but, if you can’t volley, you are not going to go to the net. Almost every player I played here wouldn’t serve and volley. It’s frightening to me, to see that at this level.

“I look at the stats and,whatever round it is, I see that the guy I’m going to face is playing two per cent of serve and volley throughout the championship. I’m going, OK, I know he’s not going to serve and volley – which is great for me.

“And the grass was playing fast this week. I wish that we would see more coaches, more players taking chances up at net, because good things do happen there.

“I do believe the depth in the men’s game is as great as it’s ever been but, because of the way they play, maybe not super-fast like they used to back in the 80s, the margins are bigger because of the surface speed, the ball speed and the racket technology. You have to hit a lot of good shots to come through a Murray or a Djokovic. Over five sets, it catches up with you and it’s favourable for the top guys.”

Federer also thinks the points system does not favour younger players. “Since my generation and Rafa’s generation, yes, the next one hasn’t been strong enough to push all of us out. A young guy, if he wants to make a breakthrough, he can beat me or any top player, but, if he doesn’t make a run to the final or win the tournament, he’s not making any move in the rankings.

“It’s not so easy to win five straight matches [in Masters and lower tournaments]. The consistency that’s required by the young generation is quite complex. Because of our different playing styles at the top – put Stan [Wawrinka] in there, put Cilic in there and then the big four – it’s hard for young guys to make a run through that.”

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He added: “I grew up with bonus points, believe it or not, back in the 90s. I remember playing Pat Rafter on Suzanne Lenglen in Paris and I was playing for double points in grand slams. I think it was 45 to beat a player [ranked] between two and five. It was like 90 points just to beat Pat and then take the points of the round.

“Of course sometimes you couldn’t defend those points the following year, so it was complex. But it was great for a big-court player to play a big guy and beat him there.

“What I feel is a bit wrong in the rankings system is, if you have a great run and play a quarters, like Andy did, for instance, fought, loses in five sets, walks away with 360 points. I walk away with 2,000 points. I feel the gap’s too big. It’s only been like this since a few years. To win eight 250s to make up for a Slam, I find it too much.

“That’s why, by playing little and making so many points at slam level, it puts me in a totally different situation. I can really start picking and choosing my moments when to attack [the rankings].

“But it is how it is. The good thing is that the best player in the world should be the one winning the biggest tournaments. That’s an aspect I understand: that we have a lot of points in Masters 1000s, slams and then the World Tour Finals.”

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