LONDON (Reuters) - Roger Federer proved that an old dog can learn new tricks when he served and volleyed as his coach Stefan Edberg urged him to do during his Wimbledon campaign.
Federer fell at the last hurdle, beaten by Novak Djokovic 6-7(7) 6-4 7-6(4) 5-7 6-4 on Sunday in the tightest of thrilling finishes.
The seven-times champion threw everything at the Serbian top seed after a tournament of sustained brilliance in which he dropped only one service game until he reached the final.
With a record 17 grand slam titles to his name the 32-year-old had little room to improve his game but with time catching up with him, Federer had to find a way to end points sooner and reduce the demands on his body.
The appointment of Swede Edberg, a former world number one and six-times grand slam winner, as his coach in December last year hinted he might adopt a more attacking strategy, a tactic that has paid off after a difficult 2013.
“Stefan is clearly a piece of the puzzle,” Federer, explaining how he would find new ways to extend his glittering career, told reporters after reaching his ninth final at the All England Club.
Last year Federer was beaten in the second round at Wimbledon, his worst performance at the All England Club since 2002.
Claiming the title at grasscourt event Halle last month had indicated the effectiveness of Federer’s new strategy, a change the Wimbledon champion acknowledged.
“He’s coming to the net more often,” Djokovic said of his opponent who scored 44 points from the net during the final.
”Those were particular changes in his game that I noticed before coming to this match. I paid attention to it and I was ready for it.
“Sometimes he played incredible volleys. At 4-3 on breakpoint on second serve he came in and played a half-volley winner. That’s why he has been winning so many grand slams, because he feels confident to play these shots at the important time.”
Djokovic has taken on Edberg’s great serve-and-volley rival Boris Becker as coach, but the German’s love of the net has yet to rub off on the Serb.
Federer holds the record of most Wimbledon men’s titles, at seven, with Pete Sampras and William Renshaw.
He plans another shot at making it eight next year, he told his adoring fans on Center Court as he accepted the consolation trophy - a modern-day champion trying to win in an old-fashioned way.
Reporting By Sam Holden; editing by Clare Lovell