Roger Federer

Federer’s Fitness Coach Reveals Extent of Rebuilding Process After Knee Surgery

René Stauffer spoke to Pierre Paganini in an exclusive interview ahead of Federer's comeback

The last 12 months have been all quiet on the western front when it comes to news surrounding Roger Federer.

Apart from a few social media posts to fulfil endorsement deals, the Swiss has kept an exceptionally low profile.

Videos of him practising have been non-existent, and updates on his progress after double knee surgery both vague and sporadic.

However, thanks to the Swiss tennis writer, René Stauffer, we have finally had some more information after he interviewed Roger's legendary fitness coach, Pierre Paganini, for the daily newspaper Tages-Anzeiger. (German/Paywall)

This was the first interview Paganini has given in over a year, and he revealed both the level of work required to get back to the tour and what Roger is expecting of himself when he steps back on the court.

The Interview 

paganini

The interview was extremely considered as you'd expect, but Paganini did reveal plenty of tidbits about the injury and Federer's road to recovery.

Interestingly, Federer's knee woes were not something out of the blue, and Paganini revealed it was a persistent but manageable problem over the years until it finally required surgery.

This knee had been causing him problems for several years. But you could have them under control, with adapted planning and specific exercises. He and the whole team had been working on it for a long time. The fact that a player who has played over 1,500 matches has several construction sites on his body is part of everyday life. Pierre Paganini speaking with Tages-Anzeiger

Can The 2017 Resurgence Be Replicated?

federer ao 2017 champion

All fans would like a repeat of 2017, but it doesn't take a world-renowned fitness trainer to realise that will be unlikely given the seriousness of the two surgeries and the length of time away from even basic fitness training.

The big difference is: When he paused to Australia after Wimbledon in 2016, his muscles were actually always there. Now we had a total interruption in which the muscles deteriorated considerably. There was a long time between the first operation and the moment in July when we said we could slowly start working progressively again. His muscles were no longer in the same condition at all, the imbalances were extreme. His muscles could no longer work immediately and needed a longer recovery time. When I started working with him, we were at the bottom. That means: You try to do everything that is possible. At the same time, you have to do it several times so that the body learns to endure repetitions at a certain level. And then you have to pause and see how the body reacts.

Roger only plays when he knows that he can play well again. Now we all have to see how the body reacts. It is important to protect him. You have to have done a lot by now if you want to get back on the pitch. It's really not comparable to 2016. Roger is already celebrating a big win if he can go back on the pitch, play and then say: Hey guys, I played, I was fine, I'm looking forward to the next match. Or, if he lost, to the next tournament.Pierre Paganini

What Level is Federer at Currently?

federer paganini

Given that Federer's comeback is now just a couple of weeks away, you'd be hopeful that he's able to train normally.

According to Paganini, that is the case, but the real test will come when pre-exhaustion type training which so far they have not done a lot of.

He actually trains almost normally. If you were to watch you would say: he is not hurt, everything is fine. But one must not forget: Only when all the stages are over do you begin to work on reactivity in pre-exhaustion. This is very important in tennis. We haven't been working on that for very long, and that's where you can see if the puzzle works, in all variations. Here we are now. We are so far that one says: Wow, this is real fitness and tennis training, you sweat, you don't have to think about your knee every second. You prepare everything, and then he can fire again. That is good for him, because it took an incredible amount of patience to get to this point. It's crazy when you think about all of this. Paganini on Federer's current training regime

The full interview can be read here: Er war richtig stolz, über die Hürde gesprungen zu sein which in English means “He was really proud to have jumped the hurdle”

Although it is unfortunately paywalled and in German, it's a great read, and while not a ‘tell all', there are plenty of bits of information you can piece together.

Rather than the platitudes that can be drawn from the article about never giving up, staying positive, live for tomorrow, follow your passion yadda yadda yadda, the most interesting for me was the process involved. 

Roger started from almost zero, and Paganini revealed he had to start doing exercises that a 70-year-old would find simple. 

That highlights that without someone in your corner who knows what to do and when to do it, there is no way back (or if there is, it will be ten times longer). You need a roadmap out of there and thanks to Major Paganini, Private Federer gets another shot on the battlefield in Doha.

As always, let me know your thoughts on the article in the comments.

Jonathan

Huge fan of Roger Federer. I watch all his matches from Grand Slam level right down to ATP 250. When I'm not watching or writing about tennis I play regularly myself and have a keen interest in tactics, equipment and technicalties of the sport.

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32 Comments

  1. Wow. Roger is so fortunate to have Paganini throughout his career. Here we go again, his knee was an issue for ages and no one knew about it. Glad he waited until Doha to begin his comeback. So exciting, eh?

  2. No way should he have attempted to come back at the Aus Open, then. He obviously wouldn’t have been ready.

    Jon, I’m getting a 404 error on the TA link.

    Can I say how nice it is to come into the office and find *3* different notifications for this blog?!

  3. Wow indeed. “Roger started from almost zero…an incredible amount of patience to get this point.” – Now we know why we didn’t hear much about him almost year. All I care is that he’s happy and enjoys playing.
    Thanks for the post, Jonathan.

  4. Great read and good insights from you Jonathan.

    I’m grateful to see Roger compete in this next season no matter the results.

    (Of course, hoping for some great results!)

  5. Terrific read, Thks for sharing. Pierre has been incredible throughout. I find it interesting yet again how little Fed talks about his injuries on Tour, especially having to endure 2 weeks of Novak’s abs and Nadal’s back….
    some things never change….

  6. Great read …. thanks a lot.

    Just to see Federer playing again will be a treat. The talent that he is, he should be able to get his touch and feel for the ball very quickly. I remember Murray once commenting about it, as to how long it takes for most top pros to get going after a long layoff, and how Federer is unique and special in that regard.

    Lets enjoy his tennis without any expectations. GOAT

  7. Just because Fed makes it look easy doesn’t mean it is, even for him. Knees seem easier to rehab than the back.

    He is my GOAT and that will never change. Paganini is a genius in his own right too. Enormous patience and skill.

  8. Federer says he will not participate in the Miami Open so that he can train more. Still scheduled to play Doha and Dubai, though.

    1. Makes sense – I think it’s a lot to travel to the US for one week w the pandemic and w just no IW.

      W clay around the corner I can see him wanting to rest up after Dubai and get plenty of training for whatever the pre Wimby clay will look like .

      He’s not really playing for points anymore. I don’t think.

      1. Without collecting some points you fall in the ranking and get more difficult draws. This season points will be deducted and not playing tournaments which were points-giving in 2019 means falling deep. Do you think, Federer will play clay season with intensity? To put Wimbledon and Olympics (if they happen at all) at risk? Hmmm … who knows?
        First of all I think, before Doha and Dubai he has no clue about his real potential. I don’t see him playing to risk early exit in anything lower than a slam. On the other side, he will need some competitive tennis before Wimbledon+Olympics.
        You may have training with intensity and this does not mean, you will be able to play real matches with intensity.
        We may imagine, he will play now for fun only. But will he have fun without crowds and with early exits?

  9. I guess after skipping Miami and including another training block with P.Pagannini in April our man is going to play
    – (maybe) Estoril ATP 250
    * Madrid ATP 1000
    * Roland Garros (to test his BestOfFive match fitness for Wimby)
    – (maybe Stuttgart) ATP 250
    – Halle ATP 500
    Wimbledon
    Further forecast doesn’t make sense, even this schedule is already more far ahead than the one from Fed

    1. We may speculate but I think Fed doesn’t. Simply go for Doha and see, what is possible. Then Dubai and the same. What, if these are two early exits? Or (hopefully not) a setback with the injury (like 2016)?
      Knees are not so forgiving, rehab is long and results can be first tested after strong testing.
      Of course it’s theoretically possible (and we all plus Fed himself) hope for at least 2 finals in Doha and Dubai.
      But I understand, fans cannot live without speculating, especially so long their God is still not playing.

  10. Tomorrow the draw ceremony set to 03:00pm (not sure if it’s local time) Tomorrow Fed could hit practice court with Thiem, who just landed there.

  11. What exactly did he have done to the knee? I ask because I have an arthritic knee defect, and I’m interested in surgical options short of TKR.

      1. It must have been what typically occurs in tennis players. A destructive injury based on wear and tear, not age-related biological degeneration (not this age, I guess).
        Yeah, they never tell details of the issue or details of the treatment. Some treatments they use, are certainly not available for “regular” people.
        Would some conservative therapy not help Martin?

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