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Is the Federer Annacone Partnership Successful?

Is the Federer Annacone Partnership Successful?

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…

About Jonathan

Huge fan of Roger Federer - I'll pretty much try and watch all his matches from Grand Slam level right down to ATP 250. When I'm not watching or tweeting about tennis I play regularly myself and use this blog to share my thoughts on Fed and tennis in general.

20 comments

  1. Good analysis! Yeah, slowly changes and small improvements to his already great game. I think the most important parts have been his mindset and his game plan. Paul has definitely given Roger a new way of looking at things. And four eyes are usually better than two..

    No doubt he’s being more aggressive on the returns, which also makes him play more aggressive. In particular since the USO 11. Now, it’s “only” a matter of making these small improvements count in the latter stages of a Slam.

  2. First off, I think Annacone is a great coach and has helped quite a few people, Sampras being one of them. I like his attitude and his professionalism. He brings a lot of experience and knowledge of this ever-changing game to the table. Clearly Annacone loves the game as much as Roger and I believe he made a good decision hiring Paul. Being as good as Roger is it must have been difficult to ask for some guidance and have someone analyze his game and point out his weaknesses but that only go to show how much Federer wants to to win and stay in the upper echelons of the game. I think over the last seven months Fed’s mental and physical aspects of his game has improved and six tournaments out of eight is pretty telling of this. Yes I was disappointed in the Aus. semi’s against Nadal and the U.S. Open 11 against Novak but like anything it’s a working progress and only time will tell if Roger has what it takes to win a grand slam again. I believe he will win again and maintain his winning form throughout the year and even if Annacone can’t guarantee a slam it really doesn’t matter as long as he can still motivate and guide Federer to play the best he can and try to create as many opportunities as possible to keep winning.

    • Thanks for the comment Dave.

      Agree with everything you said, Annacone has a great CV in rejuvenating players like Henman and Sampras.

      It must be tough to coach someone like Roger when he’s achieved so much. Even though Roger is stubborn in his ways, he’s intelligent too so I’m sure he was receptive to Annacone as he knew deep down he had to make some changes, even if it was difficult to comprehend at first.

  3. I enjoy your website Jonathan. I agree…Paul Annacone is a great fit for Roger. Not just for the tennis but personality wise too. Keep up the good posts.

  4. Whether their collaboration can be called a success depends on the goals they have set for each other.
    If the objective of their engagement was to make Roger Federer win another slam, the goal clearly hasn’t been achieved yet.
    If the objective was however to make Federer improve substantially on his disappointing results obtained during the fall of 2009 and the first half of 2010, the objective has only been achieved partially, because we get a mixed picture when we look at Federer’s results since the recruitment of Annacone (and compare them with the results before his recruitment).
    On the one hand we have a very positive trend in Federer’s results during the hard court spring season (Dubai, Indian Wells and Miami) and the hard court autumn season (Basel, Paris, World Tour Finals), and a moderately positive trend for the results obtained during the clay court season 2011 (Rome, Madrid and Roland Garros).
    But on the other hand Federer’s results during the grasscourt season 2011 are not any better as those of the grass season 2010, whereas his results for the summer hard court season (Canada, Cincinnati, U.S. Open) do show a negative trend during the last three years.
    Therefore in my opinion the recruitment of Paul Annacone can only be considered a real success if he also manages to make Roger Federer play better during the summer months, i.e. make Roger particularly play better at Roland Garros and / or the US Open.

    • Hi Wilfried,

      Thanks for posting your thoughts. I think I’ve seen your name in the comments before on Ru-an’s blog?

      I guess when you look at it like you have then it’s a series of peaks and troughs…

      Good French Open, Average Wimbledon + US, Good winter, Average Australian Open 2012, Good after that, Loss in Miami. What happens next…

      I think if Roger wins another Wimbledon then it will be an outright success. As of right now it’s teetering on the edge, I still class it as a success because he’s still winning tournaments but a winning a slam has all the answers.

  5. Yes, I write sometimes a comment on Ruan blog, a blog which I like a lot by the way. I agree fully with you that another slam title for Roger Federer could be considered as an outright success and would be due to his collaboration with Paul Annacone. But it is still a tall order as Ruan says on his blog, because the marginal effort required to improve on a final appearance is a lot bigger than the marginal effort required to move from a quarter final result to a semi final result or improve on a semi-final to a final. Anyway, I’m hoping for another WImbledon title or another US Open title because Roger has won these events multiple times, and he has been playing great lately.

  6. Cool thought so man! Me too, Ru-an’s blog was probably the main motivator for starting mine.

    With Djokovic and Nadal around winning a slam is definitely a tall order, but he’s making ground I think on those 2 I think.

    Small changes, changing how he plays just ever so slightly could well be the route to success.

  7. Annacone has helped Roger with his serve and confidence to play with more aggression on his shots. We’ve seen better backhands from Fed since having Paul under his wing, the serve. I think it has definitely helped him. He has improved, but Djokovic and Nadal have gotten better and are now in their prime. Roger just hasn’t been able to perform 100% in Grand Slams since halfway 2010. I think he definitely should of won the French Open last year, the semi with Djoko was the perfect way for him to enter the final with complete confidence, since Djoko had beaten Nadal on two clay finals. He lost confidence in the final and Nadal exploited that, as he usually does. Federer just needs ONE slam right now, to get him to complete confidence to winnning slams again.

    • Hey man, missed this comment for some reason.

      Great points man, it really does just boil to down a loss in confidence and Nadal/Djoker getting better.

      What you reckon? Good shout for Wimbledon?

  8. Looks good so far. I’m thinking if he plays well, it might be French, Wimbledon and US Open he wins this year! But he will have to fight hard. Seems like he’s not in the draw for MC. Still, five weeks of rest will do him well. Should the majors one at a time. It probably be a good thing, as last year, Djoko was playin tournaments non-stop and eventually had painful injuries to his shoulder, which led to a very poor performance near the year end.

    • Haha 3 slams, pretty optimistic! I will be happy with just one.

      Yeah Roger is the master at managing his schedule, I’m sure he will still be fresh for post US Open…interesting to see if he plays Shanghai.

  9. He reached the final in Shanghai back in 2010 and got crushed by Murray didn’t he? I remember he destroyed Djokovic and Soderling up to the final…

    • If Roger wins one slam this year it would be hats off to the man and I don’t really care which one but Wimbledon would be a great way to finish his career and even the U.S. Open which is one of my favorite tournaments would be cool too. Roger is up against a lot this year and needs to manage his energy extremely well and keep focused. I hope that Rafa and Novak wear themselves out going into Wimbledon which is very possible giving Roger more of an opportunity to bag number 17.

  10. I do believe that Paul Anacone has had a very positive effect on Roger’s game. His confidence level, definately his backhand and net play have vastly improved. Roger is such a pleasure to watch. No one plays with such elegance as Roger, he introduces such variety into his play, he is coming to the net more and I like his attitude. I believe that Roger can win another slam, he is fit and has been relatively injury free throughout his career. I would like to see Roger log up more career wins before he retires from the game and when eventuallywhen he does, his presence on the court will be sorely missed!!

    • Thanks for the comment Irene!

      Agreed, confidence is definitely up and he’s hitting the backhand on the rise. Probably because he knows he has to.

      Once he does retire then I think tennis will suffer big time, going to take a long time for someone else to come along that plays the game like him.

  11. Surprised to see no post after Roger’s Wimbledon win. To me the partnership with Annacone was already a success. Now if he can add a Olympic gold medal that would be peRFect.
    I am a huge RF fan, I wish he keeps playing for few more years.

    • You mean comments on this post after his win? I think everyone was more wrapped up in enjoying 7 17 287 to care about this one haha.

      The partnership was a success before, but this has just solidified it and a Slam was the one they were working towards.

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