I’ve been looking to add someone to my team and I’ve decided to spend some days with Paul Annacone. As Paul winds down his responsibilities working for the Lawn Tennis Association, we will explore our relationship through this test period. Paul will work alongside my existing team and I am excited to learn from his experiences.
See you soon
I thought this was great news, but as you can see nothing is certain yet. He did the same kind of thing with Darren Cahill and it never worked out. This time however I think there is a bigger urgency from him to change something, and it’s good to see he’s been thinking in similar terms than I have. Here is what Annacone had to say way back in April 2009 when Federer was going through that difficult period:
“There are definitely some parallels,” said Paul Annacone, Sampras’s longtime coach, in an interview this week. “Just as it was for Pete, it’s a particularly interesting, challenging time in Roger’s career. But I would look at it with Roger in the same way as for Pete. For guys like that, it is daunting but not that daunting. They are so skilled, they can adjust, but a lot of the adjustment is mental.”
“We are all creatures of habits,” Annacone said. “Roger has won a lot a certain way, and when you’ve done that for four or five years and then in year six or seven, that shot that used to be a winner isn’t a winner anymore, the tendency in human nature is to overplay a little bit. And that’s what’s happening. His couple of patterns that used to be very dominant are still successful against 95 percent of the guys — just not against that last five percent.”
“I always feel in an individual sport, it’s up to the guy on court, but as you watch the evolution of careers, it’s good to have someone you trust and who understands you and what you’re trying to do and also your game and the history of what’s gone on,” he said.
“He may choose to keep doing what he’s been doing and not tweaking, and that’s his choice as a champion,” Annacone said. “But for me it would be a shame. If you have a lot of weapons in your arsenal and choose not to use them, what’s the point in having them? It’s a matter of managing them a bit differently than he did a few years ago.”
Here Annacone just echoes what I’ve said about a thousand times in my blog. So for anyone who still doubts that Roger is having a hard time changing and that he can do better if he is willing to adjust, here is more confirmation. Annacone has worked with the best and he knows what he is talking about. He is also the best possible coach that Roger can hire right now. He made his opinion very clear here and stated it in no uncertain terms. It is a mental adjustment that needs to be made first of all. Roger needs to face the fact that the way he used to dominate is not good enough anymore to dominate that 5% of guys which he needs to dominate to win slams. These guys are of course the big hitters Del Potro, Berdych, Soderling, etc. I have always thought Roger does not use his skills at the net enough, and that is pretty much Annacone’s speciality.
Roger has more weapons than he is willing to use, and this is purely out of habit. The tendency to slug it out from the base line with the big hitters is an obvious mistake, but the force of habit is so strong that even the greatest of all time can’t change it on his own. This is where he needs someone like Annacone. Luthi is not a recognized coach and he was more like a convenience if you ask me. Annacone is the real deal and it is clear from his statements what he wants from Roger. I have always said that I think Roger can win more majors if he is willing to adjust and manage his weapons better. It is great to see Roger has now realized this himself. He would not have initiated this whole thing if he wasn’t thinking about change. If he ends up hiring Annacone, which I think he should do as soon as possible, the poor form of late may end up being a blessing in disguise.
I don’t know exactly when they will begin working together. I assume the test period begins immediately. It would be great if Annacone can be around at Toronto, Cincinnati and the US Open. But even if they are not successful immediately, I don’t think that should matter. It takes time to change old habits, so Roger shouldn’t be thinking quick fix. For a long time I have thought that Roger would benefit from playing more like Sampras, especially when facing base liners like Nadal and Murray. He tends to stay in that comfort zone on the base line too much for my liking. But now with a loss of speed and power it is hurting him against more players than just Nadal and Murray. So this is a great time to make a change. This gives me new hope, because it could make the difference between Roger winning more slams and fading away fast, the way he has been doing of late.
I really hope this turns into a permanent and lasting relationship between Roger and Annacone.