Fitness coach Pierre Paganini in an exclusive interview
„It sparkles in Roger’s eyes“
The back pain is gone. Federers Fitness coach thinks Roger is capable of doing something great again soon
By Christian Bürge
Mr. Paganini, how fit is Roger Federer at the moment?
Pierre Paganini: At the moment he is superfit. We are practicing nearly for 2 weeks meanwhile. The holidays have been good for him.
In Wimbledon he complained about having pain. Where did those pains come from?
In principle these pains are normal. You are playing 60-70 matches in a year. Then you are going to have those matches where you care carrying a little injury with you and where you are feeling your back. Especially on grass. He didn’t felt that well and that means you play with lesser selfconfidence, which already disturbs the puzzle. On this level already little things have a big effect.
How important is fitness for Federer?
Of course it is the best when everything works. As a person, as an athlete, as a player. But the reality is that Roger just like many others sometimes doesn’t feel 100% well in matches. He knows that he can beat most of the players, even when a little detail is missing, but he also knows that it can become dangerous than for him.
Roger is going to be 29 years old next week. How do his performance parameters these days look like compared to former times?
He is exactly as fit as 6 or 3 years ago. I don’t name any exact numbers. But the measured values which you can have regarding explosiveness, speed or specific stamina, are where they must be. Adding to this Roger has more maturity because he has practiced all these years very disciplined. Fact is: You can’t really show each day what you are having in your suitcase.
So age isn’t a problem?
You are not old when you are 29 or 30 years. But at this age you already have done a lot and this is the huge difference. It isn’t your first practice or your first match. He has nearly 900 matches in his legs and x-thousand practices. You are going to feel this. What is changing now is not the quality of an athlete, but the planning is different. You have to give your body a little more time to make certain things.
The statistics of many former topplayers show that especially with 29 years mostly a decrease in general performances happens.
It’s different with everyone. Agassi had a long period like this in between. Important is the willingness. What delighted me in the last 2 weeks: Roger comes to the practice with a vigour in his head as he would be a junior. I’m really fascinated. It sparkles in his eyes. When you say to him: You are going to have 1 ½ days off he says: Maybe it’s beautiful tomorrow and one can practice.
That shows me that he has the mentally right attitude.
So Federer ticks differently?
Maybe others were less in love with tennis. Roger loves ballsports. That’s why he plays. Everything which he has done so far took a lot of energy out of him. You have to respect this. Roger practices as much as before. It also has to be divided differently. The same quantum, only arranged differently.
What do you think when people say that his time is running out slowly.
When someone at the crackerbarrel with a beer in his hand is saying something like this he should say it. You can’t be mad at him as he doesn’t know it better. What irritates me are the so-called specialists who talk about the end after every loss. When you are going to feel tennis you should come to another conclusion.
Q: That costs energy. Doesn’t that influence his game ?
A: Sure, but I think only positively. Federer takes also strength from the family, it also distracts him. Other players had much more problems with the adjustment. But Mirka does an incredible god job. She empathize with Roger.
Q: So Stress with the kids is not harmful for the performance ?
A: Not at all. There are many positive sides. How many people are unhappy with 29, because they don’t feel a sense in life ? Roger is happy. His privat life guarantees, that he will play a long time.
Q: Has the new coach Paul Annacone a clear opinion, what he wants to add Federer’s game ? He was a serve-and-volley specialist.
A: Annacone is here since two days and is thrilled of Roger’s commitment. Basicaly it is Roger, who creates the game. You cannot impose anything to him. It is a dialog. Roger is much more open than five years ago. That with s-a-v specialist I would not see it too narrow. Annacone played like that. That doesn’t mean, that he wants to impose this to someone. Everything is much more complex.
Q: How demanding is the trainingprogram of Federer in Zürich?
A: We are training just under two weeks. Until August 5 we will have done between 15 to 17 conditioning units of 1 to 2 hours. And 18 to 24 hours on the court. The training partners Stefan Koubek and with immediate effect Philipp Kohlschreiber are training also.
Q: How long can Roger win Grand-Slams ?
A: Today I would say four to five years. Also if certain physiologic wearing will add. But what concerns his abilities, enthusiasm and athletic, he can keep up with the others a few more years without any problems. We plan long-term right now for the next five years
A special thanks to LaRubia and Rogisilam10 for translating this at RF.com. I’m sure you will agree that this is a pretty uplifting interview as far as Roger’s future goes. I just have a few of my own thoughts to add. Firstly it is obviously nice to see that Roger is thinking long term and that he is not thinking about quitting anytime soon. Since Roger’s latest stretch of bad form I’ve seen too many people saying this is the end for him blah blah blah. I myself had thoughts that the end may not be far away, but that was IF he did not make some kind of change, which he seems to be doing now. Therefor it is also good to hear that Annacone and Roger seems to be clicking already. I think they can make a great partnership and add some more majors to Rogers resume, because they are both so professional and Roger can really do with a high class coach.
As you can see it’s not a question of Annacone imposing his own game on Roger, but the fact that Annacone was a s-a-v player himself is an important factor in coaching Roger. It has been apparent for a long time for me that Roger needs to take advantage of his volley skills more, so Annacone will be ideal for that. Roger has problems with all kinds of base liners these days, because he plays too much into their comfort zones. Annacone will help him to shorten the points and make these players more uncomfortable. Paganini also says that Roger is much more open than he was 5 years ago, and I think that has to do with the fact that Roger has suffered so many losses of late. That is what suffering will do to you. It will make you more open. You can see that the losses he has suffered since the Australian Open has by no means been a waste.
It has helped him to make what seems to be a new beginning. It seems everything happens for a reason. Speaking of the Australian Open, the people who claim that Roger is done conveniently overlooks the fact that Roger has won a grand slam in very dominant fashion just about 6 months ago. Also, Roger’s injuries have not helped. But the holiday looks to have done him good and he is now training just as hard as before but only smarter. You know the thing that the critics doesn’t get and never will get is that Roger loves tennis immensely. When he says he wants to keep playing for a long time, he actually means it, and he will do whatever is necessary to make that possible. If it was someone who loved the game less, they would almost surely have given up the ghost by now. I mean Roger has achieved everything there is to achieve.
Why keep struggling? Because this is not all about winning but also about the love for the game. In this way Roger is the best possible role model. He plays for all the right reasons. That is clear by the enthusiasm he still brings to the court. It is amazing that after all these years he hasn’t lost a stitch of his enthusiasm for the game. That is maybe the most positive thing of all that comes out of this interview. It’s also great to see that his family life is so good. As I well know, tennis can cause you to have regrets because it is not a normal life. But since Roger has a good family life he is not in danger of this. It will help his tennis because he will not get distracted, thinking there is more to life. As far as Roger’s age goes, it’s great to see the Federer’s camp attitude about this. Roger is now almost 29, which really isn’t that old.
The only problem is the mileage he has in his legs. Agassi played until he was 36, but there was long periods when he lost interest in the game, so he didn’t do the same mileage as Roger at a similar age. But even more important that the mileage in a players legs is their enthusiasm for the sport. Paganini is a smart fitness coach and as you get older you just rest more in order to get more out of your body. So I don’t see his age as a big issue. Roger is now as fit as he ever was according to Paganini, and I’ll take his word for it. Maybe he is a little slower, but that is where Annacone can help him. If he plays more at the net and hangs around the base line less, he does not need to be as fast. For me it is important that Roger becomes more offense orientated, and that is what Annacone is for. Offense equals shorter points.
This will result in less wear and tear on Roger’s aging physique, and it will take the base liners out of their comfort zone. I really like the sound of all of this. The fact that Paganini says Roger can win slams for 4-5 more years makes me excited. Once again this will fly right in the face of the critics. They were thinking Roger should retire at the end of this year or next year. They wish! Just to hear that Roger has a five year plan and knowing what the critics must think of it, gives me a kick. Here’s to many more slam titles!