Roger Federer lost the Shanghai Masters final against Andy Murray in straight sets after playing brilliantly throughout the rest of the tournament.
Unquestionably the 'Annacone' version of Roger is a good deal better than the previous one, but I am worried that the player is not going far enough.
While I agree that he now seems more determined and offensive, I would like to point out certain flaws in the theory that he is a new player.
Shanghai must be put into perspective
We have to take a step back from what he did in Shanghai. His match against Robin Soderling was a good one, but the victory was made easier because the Swede never entered the game at all.
In his semi-final against Novak Djokovic, Roger produced strong and confident tennis; but curiously the Serb's tactics were way off.
He offered speed, a lot of flat shots and directional changes - all things that the Swiss adores playing against. In the past, Djokovic had won against Roger playing less shining tennis, but more efficient.
So in the end, I would d say that Roger is playing good tennis, but not as inspired as it was in the summer.
Even if it is fair to state that Murray played a great match, it is also obvious that Federer didn't look comfortable in his footwork during the final.
It has to be said that the setback was due to one factor alone: the Scotsman. Unlike Djokovic, Andy played perfect tennis to counteract Federer's game: using a lot of topspin with higher balls and deep shots, and not opening up the court with down-the-line shots unless he was sure he'd get a winner there.
He forced Roger to stay in long rallies so, in the end, the Swiss also lost his legs. As I've said before, Federer needs to win the point before the sixth shot or he loses both spontaneity and efficiency due to exhaustion.
That is exactly how Rafa Nadal found a way to end Federer's domination, showing others the way to beat Roger.
The great mindset he showed this summer is already gone and he must evolve his game to prevent his main rivals using that knowledge of how to beat him. It is not easy for them, but the Nadals, Djokovics and Murrays are well capable of playing the kind of tennis that throws Federer out of his comfort zone.
Murray and Nole share common skills with Nadal, even though the Spaniard remains the undisputed master of them: a great defence and ability to handle long rallies while putting a lot of topspin on to your shots.
Once Federer is taken out of the routine of his natural offensive game, he makes more and more unforced errors - and his game fades away. It's now up to him to find an answer to this.
That is probably an all-attacking approach; but Roger is getting older, which makes it more difficult for him as his fitness isn't as good as before. If his aim is to stay at the top for as long as possible, he must save his energy. Tiring himself out with long rallies on the baseline, which he now often loses, is not the way forward.
Can Annacone leave his mark on Federer's game?
Let's hope that American coach Paul Annacone is given enough power to really influence Roger's game. If he succeeds in transferring some of Pete Sampras's skills to him in order to end points more quickly, Federer will again be able to win the main titles.
He must use serve and volley, as much as chip and charge, on his second service more often; he must take every chance to attack his opponent and come to the net.
The issue is known, the answer exists - and the doctor is in place to fix it. But everything is up to Roger in the end: will he agree to change his game?
- Roger Federer
- Andy Murray