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Rediff.com  » Sports » McEnroe urges Federer to change tactics

McEnroe urges Federer to change tactics

May 28, 2009 19:50 IST

A devil-may-care style of swashbuckling tennis failed to deliver John McEnroe from the most painful defeat of his career but the former world number one is convinced Roger Federer must adopt those same tactics to succeed in the Paris arena where he failed 25 years ago.

"It would be a good idea ... for Roger to change his tactics and play more aggressively," McEnroe said Thursday, counselling the Swiss to shorten the points and head to the net at Roland Garros.

Federer could be forgiven for dismissing the American's advice given that McEnroe can hardly claim to know the secret of success in the French capital.

In truth, however, McEnroe's capitulation from two sets up in the 1984 final was more about his fragile state of mind against an Ivan Lendl he despised than any lack of tactical nous or proficiency with the racket.

Nevertheless, the serve-volley style he employed throughout his career has rarely been effective on the red courts of Roland Garros.

Time and again over the years the aggressive all-court player has been confounded by the patient counter-puncher in France and so it has played out in recent years as Rafa Nadal has picked off Federer from the baseline in the last three finals.

The Swiss Federer, chasing a record-equalling 14th Grand Slam singles title, simply must do something different to alter the course of recent history, most pundits say.

Trading blows from the back of the court will not deliver the only Grand Slam title to have eluded him.

McEnroe feels that still may not be enough, however.

"I have to go with Nadal to win his fifth straight French Open title," the former world number one said of the Spaniard.

"Last year's Wimbledon final was the greatest match ever and for our sport," he said of the five-setter in which Nadal stole Federer's grasscourt crown.

"Let's just hope that they keep it going for a few more years. Already, it is one of the best rivalries in sport."

Certainly the winner of seven Grand Slam singles titles is not looking outside a small circle for the Roland Garros champion.

"I don't think you're going to see any big surprises. The best-known players are going to come through.

"If Gael Monfils is healthy he can make a run. I don't think you're going to see a Gustavo Kuerten come out of nowhere as we've seen in the past," said McEnroe who will be working as a television analyst for US broadcaster NBC.

The American also believes the field of true contenders for the women's crown is equally exclusive.

"Dinara Safina is the favourite with the most confidence on clay but it's certainly wide open," he said.

"There are only a handful of players who believe they can win including the Williams sisters, particularly Serena, who won a tough first-round match."

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