It stands for “Sneak Attack By Roger,” referring to the play in which Roger Federer sneaks up on a player’s second serve and takes the ball on the rise just after it bounces, then rushes into the net. It has proven to be unnerving to opponents. Perhaps the biggest example of Federer using it is against Novak Djokovic three weeks ago in the Cincinnati Final, which Federer won; artful Roger used the tactic twice, both times winning the point and both times sending a message to his opponent.
In this article, we hear Federer respond to Boris Becker, a tennis legend himself and Djokovic’s coach, who claimed that the tactic is “‘almost disrespectful.’” Federer responded by saying “‘No it’s not disrespectful. Pretty simple.’” The article proceeds to describe Federer’s puzzlement at critics of the tactic with Federer saying that he had faced returners whose return tactics on second serves produced similar effects. The only difference between this tactic and the others is that this one is by far the most innovative. The article then claims the critics of “can sign another one prohibiting Ivo Karlovic from serving so hard, or Rafael Nadal from using so much topspin.”
I might be a little biased, considering my blog name is lizardrf97, and RF 97 is the name of Federer’s racket, but these criticisms are ludicrous. The opponent has already tossed the ball when Federer moves forward, so it doesn’t affect the players’ toss. If critics claim that it interferes with the server’s motion, that is also ridiculous; players often run around during the toss to hit a forehand, a tactic which could also be criticized to intimidate the opponent but never has received any criticism at all.
This new tactic can only be a symbol of Federer’s genius and willingness to change. Federer has long been attacked for being too passive on second serve returns by being content to just chip the ball back. But why should he have changed his tactics during his prime if it is those tactics that have him 17 Grand Slams? After all, it was the short chip return that gave former world no. 1 Andy Roddick nightmares, because Roddick had no idea what to do with it. When he has needed to change, he has demonstrated that he is more than willing to do so. Initially in his career, he would serve and volley very often, a tactic that never worked against Lleyton Hewitt. Therefore, he adopted and revolutionized the baseline game. Late in his career, he realized that his Wilson Pro Staff 90, the racket he had been using for years, was out-of-date, and he needed to change. So, he experimented with prototypes of the Wilson Blade and eventually created the Pro Staff RF 97. Also, in recent years, he has decided to bring the serve and volley game back a little bit into his game, to serve as a sort of change-up.
Here is a link to the article referred to above: