The Secret Sauce of Federer

Roger Federer, a genius who made tennis look effortless, is not a legend. He is a legend whose games are still remarkable.

No player can beat Federer in a set but it is not out of his character. He is an artist who creates magic out of the simplest of moves. His forehand and slice serve are so difficult to answer that no one has managed it on hard courts for decades, not even Michael Chang, Pete Sampras, Andy Roddick — who have gone on to win more than 1,000 Wimbledon titles — or Juan Carlos Ferrero, who won the 2008 and 2009 Australian Opens.

You want to look for the secret sauce that is Federer?

“He plays with a lot of heart and a little bit of finesse. He knows how to make his shots look easy, which makes him a very difficult opponent to beat out there,” said former player Boris Becker. “When it comes to pure accuracy and timing of his shots, he has a really good feel for how to hit a forehand or a serve. When he goes for it, it’s really hard to compete.”

The fact that Federer is the best of the great players on the tour, that he has won a staggering 56 Grand Slam titles, is not often in doubt. He came close to equaling John McEnroe’s record in 2004; then-American John Isner won at Wimbledon. But in 2010, at the age of 33 and ranked No. 6, he was a victim of a major scheduling quirk. He played the Australian Open instead of the French Open. That, and his injury history, could have easily swung the Grand Slams. But he had already qualified for the Australian Open through his victory in Melbourne.

So the Swiss, the best tennis player in the world, had an Australian Open title to go by and he was very much in his element down there.

On Friday night, Federer beat Tommy Haas of Germany 6-3, 7-5, 6-4 in the fourth round of the Australian Open. It wasn’t a great performance, but it was better than the quarterfinal the Swiss missed by beating Joao Sousa of Portugal.

Federer is ranked No. 1 in the world and he has just gone 20 months without losing a Grand Slam match. He has won all four of his Grand Slam quarterfinals and he has beaten the top four male players in the world. This week at the Australian

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