Way back in August 2010 Roger appointed Paul Annacone as his full time coach. It was the first time since 2007 he'd had a proper coach and even then Tony Roche was only working on a part time basis. Roger had briefly flirted with Darren Cahill and Jose Higueras but nothing clear cut materialised.
At the time a lot of tennis pundits such as Simon Reed in this article along with lots of tennis fans thought Annacone could add a new dimension to Rogers game (me included), re-motivate him and provide him with the tactics to beat the type of players he was repeatedly coming unstuck against.
Since it's now approaching 2 years since the Federacone partnership started, the focus of this article is on whether or not we can class the relationship as a success, in other words can we safely say that Roger is in a better position now than he was 2 years ago? Let's take a look…
Federer with Annacone
- Grand Slams: 0
- Masters 1000 Titles: 3
- Masters 500 Titles: 4
- Masters 250 Titles: 2
- Year End Championships: 2
Federer without Annacone
- Grand Slams: 16
- Masters 1000 Titles: 16
- Masters 500 Titles: 8
- Masters 250 Titles: 18
- Year End Championships: 4
Looking at the above as a comparison is slightly flawed because prior to Annacone, Roger had played on the tour for 12 years and gone through a period of what is widely regarded as his prime. So matching titles isn't going to be a fair assessment of the role Annacone has played. However we can look at it to see what he as brought to the table – Roger has added 3 masters 1000 titles to his collection and now is joint all time leader with Rafael Nadal. He's also won 33% of his Masters 500 titles under Annacone and is actually winning 2 ATP 500 tournaments per year, compared to 1.5 every year prior to their partnership.
He's only won 2 Masters 250 tournaments with Annacone but he's only played 2! So he's actually operating at a 100% strike rate.
I guess the one column that stands out is that since 2010 Roger hasn't been able to win a Grand Slam. It would be easy to jump to the conclusion that because of that Annacone hasn't actually helped Roger that much. However, I disagree. Firstly because Roger's slam drought hadn't actually started when Annacone came on board, it was only 8 months after his victory in Australia, and secondly I still believe their partnership is in it's early days.
How do I think Annacone has helped?
- He's solidified the backhand drive.
- He's forced Roger to take the backhand on the rise more frequently.
- Roger is defending better and able to transition from defence to attack more smoothly.
- He's made Roger stick to an aggressive game plan.
- He's helped Roger trust his instincts more at the net.
- He's made Roger believe he can dictate play and be aggressive on the return.
- I believe he's also made Roger serve better and find the spots more freely.
Although you might think that's quite a long list, I don't actually think any of these changes have been dramatic, in fact they are more based around Roger reverting to how he played when he was younger and beleiving in himself just that little bit more. It's not like Annacone came straight in and tried to change Roger from the off. I think he's smarter than that, he's been employed to coach the greatest player of all time, a total student of the game, so approaching his job like a bull in a china shop would have totally been the wrong way to go.
I actually believe it took about 8-10 months for the partnership to start showing some positive results and Annacone approached it in a way whereby he looked at what Roger was doing well, and what he could do to get better. From that he slowly introduced a number of small and subtle changes. He's made Roger believe he can be more aggressive and given him the mindset that he must dictate play no matter what.
Between 2004-2008 Roger was just so much better than anyone else that he could afford to rally from the baseline because ultimately he'd just have that bit extra. But as other players got better, losing 1 or 2 crucial points often cost him matches because the margins got much smaller. His stubbornness, which is a good asset to have, actually cost him here and he still very much believed he could still beat players in the same way he always has. I think Annacone helped make Roger see the light so to speak and realise that he must make certain changes if he wanted to maintain his position in the top 4 with a view to winning more slams and climbing his way back to the top of the rankings.
So do I think the Annacone and Federer partnership is a success to date? Yes. But I also believe that for it to be a true success then Roger must win another slam, otherwise many of the improvements will have been in vain. I do however believe that Roger is continually making little improvements to his game and it's the little things that make all the difference, and ultimately make the difference between winning and losing in slams.
What do you guys think? Is the partnership between Roger and Paul a success? Let me know in the comments below…