In a sport where 28 is considered old, Roger Federer seems to defy all odds as he pushes 30. Maintaining a level few (including myself) thought would be possible this late in his career. While not in his prime, THE MAESTRO still dazzles us with some amazing shots. Who would have thought this would be the case with Roger Federer after seeing his amazing run at Wimbledon come to a screeching halt? It should be noted that Federer has never really played with a full-time coach. Some have questioned why this was the case. With such talent, a counter argument could be made as to why Federer would need a coach.
A coach, could bring a fresh set of eyes, a few ways to tweak some weaknesses that opponents exploit. They say great champions typically have a certain stubborness about them which makes them who they are. With a quarterfinal loss at the French Open in 2010(a tournament he won in 2009), a quarterfinal loss at Wimbledon on his preferred surface, and a series of losses in some Master’s series events, culminating with a loss in the US Open semifinal even after having a match point, Federer was about to break rank with the “stubborness” the great ones have and seek a new set of eyes.
In comes Paul Annacone, the man credited for turning Pete Sampras’ career around during the latter stages of his playing days. Paul is known for keeping points short. Simply put, “The Serve and Volley” style of playing. This form of play in tennis is a rarity as the game has evolved into a baseline, power hitting game. Very few players serve and volley, and those that do are not successful at the highest level. Putting the emphasis on serve and volleying for Roger Federer made sense. It shortens the points, keeps him fresh, but most importantly it prevents him from getting into extended rallies with some of the younger players, who also happen to be his main rivals.
The marriage between Annacone and Federer started bearing fruit, with the biggest victory being a win over Nadal at the year end tennis event at the O2 Arena in London. This was a win Federer desperately needed over his main rival to give credence to his union with Annacone as well as boost his confidence heading into the 2011 season. So far the season has started off well for Federer, winning in Doha, and now competing for a 5th Australian Open title as well as a 17th grand slam. Looming in the horizon are the usual suspects (Djokovic, Berdych, Murray and Nadal), but Federer playing at a high level is good for the sport. We can credit Annacone with giving Federer’s game an added dimension. Federer is making 30 look like the new 27 in tennis, and what is interesting is that this book is still unfinished.