Roger Federer says his switch to a bigger racquet is helping his backhand.
Federer appears to be going for more off his one-hander, particularly in his back-to-back meetings with Rafael Nadal, having more success with the shot than in previous encounters with the Spaniard.
Federer switched to a 97 square-inch frame in 2014, which he describes as more powerful, but also tougher to control.
"I think the backhand has gotten better because I have been able to put in so many hours onto the racquet now," he told reporters following his fourth-round win at Indian Wells. "And since this year, I feel super comfortable with the racquet, and I think I have gained confidence stepping into it.
"I think it was the work that I had in [the offseason]. You never play 10 backhand-to-backhand shots, but in practice you practice those a ton and eventually they are ingrained in the system. You need good footwork, because if the footwork is not good, you won't be on top of the ball."
The change also helps him hit more topspin backhand returns, he added, which has helped him take charge of more points when the left-handed Nadal is serving to that side. Federer has won both his meetings with Nadal this season, and all three since switching to a bigger racquet, though Nadal has won a significant majority of their encounters.
Nadal said that had not altered the way the two play each other, attributing his two-set defeat partly to his own lack of performance.
"It was obvious that I didn't have the right answer for his returns,” he said. “I needed to neutralize the points. I needed to neutralize his first two balls, and I didn't. I didn't play my best match."
Federer is also getting more used to the new approach. In the past, he found that his backhand led to too many errors.
"I think all my coaches through my career have told me to go more for the backhand," he said. "Maybe deep down I didn't believe I had it in the most important moments. But I think that's changing little by little, which I'm very happy about."
Federer, who is returning from a knee injury, is No. 10 in the rankings.