I asked tennis’ most consistent overachiever over the last 15 years, retired American Todd Martin, what he would do to beat Roger Federer.
His answer: “For me, as somewhat limited as my game was, there’s only one option: to be as aggressive as I can—to get him on the first hit as often as possible. In order to do that there has to be a variety of attacks or an attack that makes Roger as uncomfortable as humanly possible.”
What advice does he offer today’s players?
“You have to understand that the most unique thing about our sport is the way we score. You don’t have to win more points than him. You don’t have to win more games than him. You have to just win them at the right time. If you want to break serve against a better player—and he’s better than everyone else—you have to accept losing games where you don’t make him play. Then hope you’ll win four out of six points, or five out of eight points and so forth. All you have to do is do that one time a set if you serve well.
“Sometimes you’re gonna look silly cause he’s more athletic than you and he’s more skilled than you. But you have to defend your serve and figure out a way—string a couple of points together here and there.”