Roger Federer is 37 and still going strong - but why? Craig O'Shannessy talks about the transformation of his body and his game.
Tennis strategist Craig O’Shannessy reckons Roger Federer got ahead of the curve on looking after his body and that’s why he has had such longevity at the top of the game.
Federer is still ranked No 2 in the world despite having failed to make the semi-finals of the last two Grand Slams after shock defeats to Kevin Anderson at Wimbledon and John Millman at the US Open.
And O’Shannessy, who founded Brain Game Tennis and is at the forefront of the analytics movement in tennis, reckons those results are anything but a sign of a slowdown.
“I don’t see his body giving up,” O’Shannessy told the Love Tennis Podcast.
“One of the big things with the top players at the moment, we’re looking at these guys and saying well how come they’re playing so good deep into their 30s?
“I contribute a lot of this to the physios that they have full time on their staff. Roger’s had a guy with him day in day out working on his body for a decade.
“And what that does is completely slows down the aging process. It completely minimises the injuries they have, they’re taken care of a lot better.
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“The sport science behind it, the nutrition, the recovery and just the work on the body – back 30 years ago, no one had a physio with them on tour.
“All these players now at the US Open, they get access to the physios on site, but when you have a guy like Roger that every single day his body is getting taken care of, his body is getting worked on, it literally slows the aging process.”
Even though he no longer sits atop the world rankings – great rival Rafael Nadal holds that distinction – Federer is the oldest ever man to reach No 1, having last been in the position at the age of 36 and 320 days.
He has since turned 37 but struggled to hit top form in his 38th year, in which he has the loss to Millman and a comprehensive defeat by Novak Djokovic in the Cincinatti Masters final.
But O’Shannessy, who helped mastermind that defeat, reckons Federer’s tactical renovation has been just as important as his physical one.
“Roger has a game style that has such little stress on his body, he floats around the court, he keeps the points short, he’s still so quick,” O’Shannessy added.
“A lot of the time when we look at the speed of the player – I think we look too much at this – you only really need speed on defence when you’ve got to run for a ball, and very rarely do you find Roger on defence.
“His anticipation, his ability to go cross-court and not recover to the middle of the court is a major advantage.
“Too many young players don’t understand that dynamic, they’ll hit a shot, recover to the middle and then all of a sudden they’re running to the spot they were just at.
“So they’re covering more metres on the court.
“Roger will hit a ball, know the percentages, know it’s a very low percentage for the guy to go down the line, so he actually stands in the part of the court that entices the low percentage shot, shuts down the high percentage shot and that anticipation has also elongated or lengthened his career considerably.