Roger Federer surprised opponents with half-volley returns in Cincinnati, but says the striking shot started as a trick in practice.
“I did it in practice more as a joke, and I tried it again and again and again, and it just seems like it's not that hard for me to do,” he said following his semifinal victory against Andy Murray. “Plus, you know, it makes you play very committed.”
The 17-time Grand Slam champion hit the precise return during his first three matches once he had established a lead, with his winning effort against big-serving Kevin Anderson in the second round becoming a prominent highlight:
He then displayed it during some key moments against Murray, and then again at 3-1 in the first-set tiebreak of the final against Novak Djokovic. Serving at 1-0 in the second set, Djokovic hit three double faults to drop the game and eventually the set.
“It can break somebody's rhythm. Maybe can play with the mind a little bit,” Federer said. “Plus, if the success rate all of a sudden is more on the plus 50 percent...you know, why not use that quite often as well.”
Federer indicated that he intends to keep using the unorthodox shot.
“I’ve still got to understand when I can do it when I should and shouldn't do it," he said. “But I'm happy that when I'm doing it I'm not looking ridiculous up there. It's fun for me to do.”