Why Federer’s Footwork Hurts Tennis

In almost every sport, there are a couple of athletes, at the highest level, that can do things no one else can do or should.

In tennis, Roger Federer might be one of the greatest movers on the court of all time. He is so fluid and makes it look easy.

That’s part of the problem!

Federer has a footwork pattern very specific to him. When he hits a backhand, he will often use a footwork pattern called a “cross-behind” to begin his recovery back into the court.

This is not common- but it is for Roger!

The thing is, he makes it look so effortless and routine- like we all should be doing this. However, there’s a problem!

When a cross-behind is used, it lacks in many qualities we want our players to have when recovering.

  • It doesn’t allow a very powerful push-off.
  • The distance that can be covered is very small due to the biomechanics.
  • It turns the hips away from the direction of travel.
  • And it lacks the smooth transition from lateral run-step into a shuffle.

Again, he can pull this off because it’s almost as if it’s part of his DNA. Just like Stefi Graff’s footwork for working around her backhand- it’s totally owned by her.

The concern comes when tennis players try to emulate this cross-behind pattern when it clearly lacks the athletic qualities we want when recovering. Of course, there may be times when it only falls into place for a player as a source of coordination at that moment… but not to practice it and use it all the time.

If players want to be efficient, they have to follow efficient patterns of movement. They have to execute based on the forces that allow them to accelerate the best, recover the best, and transition into the next movement the best.

Crossing behind doesn’t “cross” any of these boxes…

Although Roger Federer makes the cross-behind look so easy and so normal, we have to look beyond some athletes’ greatness and thing logically- what gives players the best chance to move most efficiently.

I am all for creativity and movement patterns that grow athletes’ coordinative abilities. Still, I am also for fundamental truths of movement that give athletes the best chance to succeed.

What do you think?

The CTSS was designed to disperse information of fundamental and biomechanically sound principles of tennis movement. I love the specific patterns tennis bring out… but I also understand there are the outliers like Federer who can make the not so common look common.

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