Watch Roger Federer's Footwork in Slow Motion
Tennis great Rod Laver said, while at Roger Federer's fifth WImbledon championship, "Fans should take the time to just watch his feet. Ignore the point and the ball, just watch his feet. Federer's footwork is beautiful."
Note: Use the "four arrow" icon to enlarge to full screen, if you want.
This is a great point for examining Federer's footwork because he is on defense, moves from side to side, up and back, and suddenly bursts forward, instantly converting defense to offense to hit a forehand winner, so you see a wide range of footwork -- pivot steps, cross-overs, shuffle hops, the "walking forehand" drive, and, of course, split steps.
It's break point for Federer returning serve from Victor Hanescu, a 6 ft 6 in Romanian with booming serve and forehand. The first thing that struck me is how Fed uses his split step to leap both forwards and backwards, or move sideways off one foot. On TV, in real time, it always looked as if he split in place. Later in the ciip you see him, splitting while jumping backwards more than a foot. I've never seen that by anyone before. I think of the split step as a way to prepare to move, but Fed and other pros move during the split.
As the point starts, Fed moves into the serve, only to get jammed on a 125 MPH body serve, which forces him to hit a defensive, chop-block return.
Look at how he immediately retreats off his pivot foot -- during the return. Fed steps toward the center and backwards before he's even finished his follow-through, anticipating an aggressive shot from Hanescu because his serve has earned a weak return.
After retreating, Fed does a split-step presumably as Hanescu is about to hit -- jumping backwards, then pivoting immediately as he lands. Then one quick cross-over. Even though Fed has to run from side to side repeatedly to hit four shots, I only saw three cross-over steps in the full point. All his other movement was on hop-steps, shuffling, or stepping into his stroke.
Fed's driven far into his forehand corner, hits a reverse forehand ala Pete Sampras (not to add top-spin, but because he can't follow through across his body while retreating), and lands in a pivot step to immediately drive off his back foot back to the anticipated shot to the open court.
A solitary cross-over step, a split-step, a shuffle and he's returned to his backhand side.
This time, Fed rips over the backhand, lands on the outside, left foot and immediately drives forward anticipating a weaker return. A large, forward leap on his split step and he immediately turns defense into offense, pushing forward off his left foot as he lands from the split step.
Note at 1:38 in the video, how Fed is driving hard forward as he swings, but has his right, or rear foot, in front of his left as he starts his swing. His body is twisted back, coiled to leap into the ball, with his trunk closed, but his stance open. He uncoils, leaping forward into the court, driving the ball with both legs, and his body twist.
Break point won.
Next time you play, try "hopping" constantly the way Federer does here. Unless you're in better shape than I am, you'll be tired in a few minutes.