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Roger Federer has added new weapon to his repertoire

Roger Federer looks for a serve from John

Roger Federer looks for a serve from John Isner during the fourth round of men's singles at the U.S. Open tennis tournament on Monday, September 7, 2015. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

So: One more major-tournament championship final for Roger Federer Sunday. This makes 27, a record.

One more chance for Federer, at the advanced tennis age of 34, to further enhance his record of 17 titles in Grand Slam events. One more opportunity for a sixth U.S. championship in the open era (begun in 1968), which would be a record.

One more showdown with Novak Djokovic, who in recent years has slipped past Federer to the top of the world rankings but still is a tick behind Federer in head-to-head matches (20-21) and at the Open (2-3).

And just to add spice to what has become tennis' best long-running rivalry, Federer now has one more arrow in his offensive quiver to make opponents quiver -- a charging, short-hop return of second service.

It could be argued that Federer's deployment of that Geronimo! leap, which reasonably could have been considered service-return suicide until Federer demonstrated otherwise in successfully unveiling it last month in Ohio, already has won Federer some crucial matches.

Specially, Federer rattled Djokovic by pulling off the so-called SABR -- Sneak Attack By Roger -- in the final of that pre-Open tune-up tournament. And quickly put Stan Wawrinka back on his heels with the shot early in Friday night's Open semifinal.

"For me, if it makes sense, and I think it does, I'll use it in the finals," Federer said. "I used it to great effect against Novak in a tough situation in the breaker at Cincy. It's got to be the right point, right frame of mind. I hope I'll have the opportunity."

Such an audacious, daredevil tactic stirs the crowd into an anticipatory buzz with the first step of Federer's rush forward, and has been the topic of discussion among his peers. "I haven't spoken much to other players about this," Federer said, "but it's players coming up to my coach, Severin [Luthi], and talking about it."

It turns out that, before 41st-ranked Frenchman Benoit Paire made a bit of news by upsetting 2014 Open runner-up Kei Nishikori in the first round of this year's tournament, he had a significant role in the birth of SABR.

"When I arrived in Cincinnati, I don't know what time it was, I went for a hit," Federer said. "It was Benoit Paire and he had an ear problem. I was tired from jet lag, he was tired, but Severin said, 'Play a few games and get used to the conditions.'

"I said, 'Whatever.' I wanted to get off the court soon. That's when I started to run in and hit returns. I hit a couple for winners. They were ridiculous. He laughed, I laughed, Severin laughed."

But Federer decided to try the shot again in his next practice, at which point Luthi suggested he attempt it in a match. "I was, like, 'Really?' " Federer said.

By the end of the tournament, against Djokovic, the shot was part of the ever-changing repertoire Federer believes necessary at this stage of his career. Especially against the likes of Djokovic, whom he describes as "so athletic."

Wawrinka, Federer's Swiss countryman and his Davis Cup teammate who defeated Federer for the first time in five major-tournament matches at this year's French Open, marveled at how Federer has become "really, really aggressive" this summer.

"He came back to Cincinnati at a completely different level," Wawrinka said. "Here, also. Not a different player, but more aggressive, that's for sure."

Djokovic, by the way, said he is "not considering" such a swashbuckling service return for himself. "It's an exciting shot for him," Djokovic said. "For the player opposite side of the net, not so much."

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