Hello everyone, Mats Wilander here. I hope you enjoyed the first day of the 2011 Australian Open as much as I did. If you didn’t see Federers’s match against Lukas Lacko then call the Tennis Channel and have a videotape sent to you! I have never seen Roger or anyone ever play better than he did in the first two sets winning both 6-1. Lacko just recently lost to Rafael Nadal in three sets and actually won one set 6-0 so he can play and will be top 30 in the world before the end of the year. So what’s different about Fedrerer’s game now compared to the last eight in which he has won 16 majors? Well, first of all he’s playing tennis for the right reasons. For one he’s having fun. Second, he’s trying to get better and not just maintaining what he has. I remember watching him practice at Wimbledon a few years back, when he was getting beaten by Nadal not only on clay but other surfaces too. I was surprised that he wasn’t “working” on the things he needed to improve to at least play the “right” way and give himself a better chance to win. He just wasn’t aggressive enough. Those days are long gone. Over the last 6 months he has transformed his game into the most aggressive player of all time, sorry John McEnroe and Stefan Edberg. Federer is taking the ball “earlier”, he’s coming to the net more often, coming “over’ the backhand more, hitting dropshots at the right time from the right part of the court (inside the baseline) and on top of all this he believes in this new way of playing! If we had “world records” in tennis he broke all of them except the number of service aces in two sets. The question is can he keep it up? Most probably not the level of execution, but it doesn’t matter, he doesn’t have to play as good as he did against Lacko to beat Nadal, Murray, Djokovic or anyone. In fact if his level drops 10% he still wouldn’t lose a set ever again! Now, it’s impossible for anyone now or in the future to be as perfect as he was yesterday. One day there will be player who is better than Federer or Nadal, not while they are still playing at the highest level but maybe in 20 years or maybe not. Everything is relative. But no one will make it “look” as good and as “easy” as Roger does at the moment. Is he the favourite to win here in Melbourne? Not really. He has never tried to play the way he’s playing now against Nadal in a 3 out of 5 set match before. We saw glimpses of it at the ATP Finals in London last year ( Federer beat Nadal 2 sets to 1) but there’s a big difference in doing it over a five set match and to go into the match knowing that if on the day in question ( the final against Nadal hopefully ) you could also “lose” your “rythm and timing” because the margins are very small at that level and then not to retreat to the “old” way , the way that has Nadal ahead 14-8 in matches! Do your self a favour and “call in sick” when Roger plays his next round ’cause it’s a treat at the moment and no one knows how long it’s going to last, not even Roger Federer himself. Be safe and take a lot of chances, I am Mats Wilander in “the land down under”.
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