Australian Open 2014: Roger Federer drawing from the Stefan Edberg effect ahead of semi-final with Rafael Nadal

The Swede has worked with Roger Federer for just a fortnight but has already helped him get back close to his best – and, the former world No 1 tells paul newman in Melbourne, that involves more than volleying

Melbourne Park

There are still two matches to be played in the men’s singles here at the Australian Open, but one contest has already been won. At the start of the tournament there was speculation as to who would emerge triumphant from the battle of the new breed of coaching legends, but the award can already go to Stefan Edberg. His man, Roger Federer, may not even be through to the final yet – to achieve that he must beat Rafael Nadal on Friday – but such is the former world No 1’s remarkable improvement that the relationship with Edberg is clearly working.

As far as the celebrity coaches go, this has been a non-contest. Boris Becker’s charge, Novak Djokovic, failed to reach the semi-finals for the first time in 15 Grand Slam tournaments. Ivan Lendl saw Andy Murray, rebuilding his game after back surgery, fail to make the semi-finals here for the first time in five visits. Goran Ivanisevic, Michael Chang and Sergi Bruguera watched Marin Cilic, Kei Nishikori and Richard Gasquet go out in the second, fourth and third rounds respectively.

Edberg will work with Federer for just 10 weeks of the year and has barely spent a fortnight with him after an initial trial week in the off-season, but both men are enjoying the experience. Federer, nevertheless, stresses that Severin Luthi, Switzerland’s Davis Cup captain, is his coach.

Luthi, incidentally, will face an interesting test of loyalties if Federer reaches the final. Last night he was in Stanislas Wawrinka’s corner as the Swiss No 2 beat Tomas Berdych 6-3, 6-7, 7-6, 7-6 to reach his first Grand Slam final.

The ice-cool Edberg is much less animated courtside than his old sparring partner Becker, but not as stone-faced as Lendl. Watch him on the practice court and it is as if he has barely been away. It has only been recently that Edberg has started to play on the seniors tour, but in the years when he was off working on his business affairs he clearly kept himself in good shape.

The automatic assumption is that Edberg, one of the all-time great volleyers, has encouraged Federer to get into the net more, but the Swiss points out that he has always been keen to move up the court.

“I used serve-volley against Sampras in 2001 at Wimbledon,” Federer said. “That was like 13 years ago, man. It’s not like I’ve been standing way back in the court like some clay-courter. I’ve always tried to come in. I was actually coming in a lot at the beginning of my career because I didn’t feel I was good enough off the baseline against the great baseliners that were still in the game in my time: Hewitt, Ferrero, Safin, Nalbandian, Agassi.

“Eventually in 2003 I probably realised I could actually also hang with them from the baseline and beat them. That’s when everything changed. Conditions got slower. I improved from the baseline. My movement got solid. I was fit. It was then when I went on a run. But I’ve always enjoyed coming to the net.”

 

Federer sees Edberg as a voice of experience in his corner. “It’s just a different perspective,” Federer said. “You can take so many things from his experience. I want to say maybe try out a few things that worked for him, try out a few things that he thinks would work out for me this time around.

“He’s here now more for just support, making me feel comfortable, giving me the right advice, pre-match, post-match, discussing it with Severin, my coach. We’re still going through the motions a little bit here. We’re still trying to get a feel for how we want it to be exactly.”

Federer won only one minor title last year – his least productive season since 2001 – and struggled with a back injury. His physical recovery has been the most significant change this year. Federer’s lightning movement around the court and ability to get into position to play his shots was always one of his greatest assets – and those qualities have been visible again here over the last fortnight. Some of his defensive work against Murray was outstanding as he chased down balls he would have struggled to reach last year.

The other significant change has been a new, larger racket. Throughout his career Federer has framed a lot of shots – because he hits the ball with such little margin for error – but he has been striking the ball particularly sweetly here.

Roger Federer of Switzerland trains in a practice session as his coach, Stefan Edberg watches Roger Federer of Switzerland trains in a practice session as his coach, Stefan Edberg watches  

“I do believe I have easier power with the racket on the serve,” he said. “It might help me on the return, as well. I hope it is the case. I still need to put many more matches and hours on it, but so far  so good.”

However, he added with a smile: “The racket’s not going to do the running for you. I definitely think what I used to do so well was the transition game from defence to offence. I definitely sensed [against Murray] that I am back physically. I’m explosive out there. I can get to balls. I’m not afraid to go for balls. At times last year I couldn’t do it.

“I’ve been feeling really well. Physically I know that I can do it. And then because I’m feeling good physically, I can really think about tactics I want to play, how aggressive or how passive I want to play. I have all these opportunities now. I’ve been hitting the ball really well for some time now.”

During Federer’s mediocre year in 2013 there was increasing talk about his retirement. He still insists he has no plans to give up the game. “Things don’t get easier, but at the same time they might become more enjoyable,” he said. “Maybe I can play with less pressure. Maybe I just love it. I still love competition. I still feel maybe there’s something big around the corner.”

Suggested Topics
News
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
football
Life and Style
health
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own