Excerpt from Roger Federer: Back On Top due out Oct. 31,2012.
Roger Federer went through a few coaches for a bunch of different reasons, before locating Paul Annacone, including Peter Carter, Darren Cahill, Jose Higueras and Tony Roche.
But perhaps it was out of necessity – or a bit of desperation – that Federer and Annacone attempted a relationship.
Of course, people might define “desperation” differently. At the time Annacone was hired in a “test period,” as Federer said, Federer had won Wimbledon six times, the US Open five times, the French Open once and four Australian titles.
But in 2010, he lost at Wimbledon in the quarterfinals to Tomas Berdych and to Robin Soderling in the French quarters, dropping Federer to – gasp – No. 3 in the world. It was his lowest ranking in seven years.
And so on came Annacone, 47 at the time as Annacone worked out the remainder of his contract as men’s head coach at the Lawn Tennis Association in Great Britain.
Annacone was no stranger to coaching. He was the former coach to Pete Sampras and British great, Tim Henman. In the days that followed Annacone’s hiring, let’s just say Annacone seemed more excited about the opportunity.
“I’ve been looking to add someone to my team and I’ve decided to spend some days with Paul Annacone,” Federer told his website.
Annacone, meanwhile, told the New York Times, “Sometimes, I wake up and go ‘Wow’, and I do feel kind of blessed to have had this opportunity. But I think part of my good fortune, I hope, is because of my work ethic and personality and the perspective that I view the game with and the history I have soaked up as a bit of a sponge in the last 25 years.”
Annacone was ranked as high as No. 12 in the world during his playing days and was subsequently put in charge of player development for both the United States Tennis Association and the British Lawn Tennis Association. Big jobs.
Yet Annacone’s hiring on the Federer team was historic. It made him the deli meat in the sandwich of two of the most significant eras of tennis in the history of the game. He got to work with Sampras and Federer, after all, who won Grand Slam events like the Yankees win the World Series.
Annacone was a net-rushing player before a herniated disk in his back cut short his career. One of the characteristics in both Sampras‘ game and Henman‘s game was the ability to move forward, thereby giving him an appeal to Federer at the time. Clearly, Federer wanted to end points sooner as he pushed past 30. That was never more evident than at Wimbledon this year and especially in the final against Murray.
“It’s important to question yourself, and that’s what I’ve always been doing since I got to world No. 1 in 2004,” Federer said after losing in the French Open in 2010.
It was nothing new to Annacone to prove himself. He took over as Sampras’s coach on an interim basis in March 1995, when Sampras’ coach Tim Gullickson became ill. Sampras was already No. 1, but with Annacone’s support won eight more Grand Slam titles.
Annacone told the author that Federer and Sampras have more in common than not. He called both, “immense talents and objective evaluators of winning and losing.”
So far, so good for the relationship.
Will Annacone be his most influential coach? Maybe. He will have to go far to outdo Carter, originally from Australia. Carter coached Federer in his formative tenn years and worked with him on his serve volley and slice. He also served as Swiss Davis Cup coach before dying much too young in 2002 at 37 in a car crash. his loss had an enormous impact on Federer.