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Room Service for Two 07/27/2010 - 1:44 PM

102545975 by Pete Bodo

The pool of specialists at the apex of any field is relatively small, so it's hardly surprising that Roger Federer has made an aggressive move to address his declining fortunes by hiring Paul Annacone, the coach best known for shepherding Pete Sampras through his glory years. I felt this was a good fit two years ago (feel free to check out my original post on the subject, based partly on an extensive conversation with Annacone), and I still believe that if there's a right guy for Federer, it's Annacone.

A lot can change in tennis in a few years. Annacone finished with Sampras not long after Pete played—and won—his last major in 2002. Annacone went on to coach Tim Henman and work in the developmental trenches for both the USTA and British Lawn Tennis Association. But developing youngsters and dealing with bureaucrats never seemed to be the best use of Annacone's talents, among which the most valuable one might be his grasp of a thoroughbred tennis champion's way of thinking. As he told me two years ago:

"I honestly felt Pete was the best player I ever saw. I felt like the biggest thing I could do was figure out what I wanted to say, and find the way he needed to hear it. Because the great ones are tricky that way. They need the support and reassurance, because they live with a tremendous amount of self-inflicted pressure. But they also like to have that pressure alleviated, without feeling that someone else is doing that for them."

The aspects of Annacone's personality and methodology that ought to make this a good fit aren't based on evolving theories of tennis technique or strategy. Federer is a fully formed player and a consummate professional, closer to the end of his career than the beginning. He's done the heavy lifting of career already (16 Grand Slam singles titles). Clearly, he wants to squeeze the last drops of juice out of the orange, a task that ought to be a relatively easy undertaking. But it's never that simple for the Federers and Samprases of the world, because of the pressure they feel—can't help but feel—as the chorus of critics grows more and more voluble. And as the currents of age erode the bedrock of their talents.

It drove Sampras nuts, near the end of his career, when all anyone wanted to know was, "When are you going to retire?" Sampras was convinced that his well of greatness had not run dry, but he grew quietly desperate. He couldn't banish the voices of those critics and pundits from his head. He ended up firing Annacone and thrashing around with a few other coaches (ironically, Jose Higueras, a former part-time coach of Federer's, was one of them) before he swallowed his pride and re-hired Annacone to make a final, successful push.

Federer isn't in such desperate, late-career straits. But we can assume from his decision to revisit (for what, the third, fifth, ninth time?) the issue of whether or not he needs a coach that his recent inconsistency and failure at the last two Grand Slam tournaments has cut deeper than he originally let on.

So, does Federer need a coach? Absolutely not.

Will Federer's life be easier and the frustrations and obstacles be made more navigable if he has a coach?  Absolutely.

Annacone was not a coach cum travel agent cum bag carrier cum pizza runner. Pete Sampras was not a player who needed or wanted a valet masquerading as a coach. Theirs was a relationship of mature men, committed to a common purpose—Sampras's pursuit of greater glory (I'm confident saying that, having been Sampras's co-author on his autobiography, A Champion's Mind). Annacone's job could just as appropriately be termed "wingman." It's valuable to feel like you've got someone watching your back when untold legions are trying to stick a knife in it.

The independent-minded, self-starting, semi-control freak Federer never really needed a wingman when the times were good. Oh, he had plenty of help along the way early in his career, starting with the late Peter Carter, who coached Federer through his formative teenage years (Carter was killed in an automobile accident at age 37 in August of 2002). But Federer achieved greatness and fulfilled his potential as something of a savant and loner. And once the times became good for Federer, they stayed good. That helps explain why none of his coaching relationships after Carter's death really seemed dynamic, or especially productive. Now, his smooth road has become bumpy.

Great players often have to re-invent themselves, in their own minds if not in a way that's conspicuous to most fans. Federer's new identity is likely to have a slightly harder edge; he won't be seen as floating above it all, but as a veteran grappling with the assorted frustrations, challenges and setbacks that accompany the aging of a player. Annacone will certainly help him understand and deal with those; he'll prop him up in those moments when Federer will be tempted to feel bitter, or self-doubting. What Federer is really saying, with this hire, is that he's in it for the long haul. We should all be glad for that, because he could just as easily have decided to play out the string quietly, thinking, Who needs this? Who needs to keep hearing, Federer is finished, or, What's wrong with Federer?

85275044 It's somewhat eerie that Annacone himself was hired after Sampras lost Tim Gullikson, who, like Carter, died an tragic and untimely death (Gullickson, who brought Sampras to the threshold of greatness, died of brain cancer in 1996). It's one of those things that will bond coach and player together, even if it's discussed rarely, in a quiet moment over a room service dinner for two.

Which brings up another, slightly mundane aspect of Federer's decision: His children will be toddlers soon, and I doubt that Federer's wife, Mirka, will want to be dragging them around the globe, dropping them off at the tournament day care center while she sits in the player guest box, playing with her Blackberry. Federer seems dedicated to spending a fair amount more time on airplanes, and in hotel and locker rooms. He's likely to become a dad who goes to work every day and travels a fair amount, while his wife and children build a home life. It will be good for him to have a companion on the road.

It used to drive Annacone slightly batty when Sampras would choose to play on an opponent's terms, rather than his own, just to show that he could do it and still win. Before Pete played a guy like that, Paul would gently remind him, "Just go out and show him you're Pete Sampras, and he's not. Shut him down."

In the coming months and years, Federer will likely need to be reminded from time to time that he's Roger Federer and the other guy is not. Annacone is the right man to do that reminding, for he knows what words to use, and what those words suggest Federer do when it comes to the X's and Os of the game. About which Annacone also knows a great deal. 

Check in tomorrow for more on this development by TW contributor—and Federer expert—Andrew Burton.



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Posted by VE 07/27/2010 at 01:54 PM

First!

Posted by Adam 07/27/2010 at 01:57 PM

first?

Posted by Ram 07/27/2010 at 01:58 PM

I guess it is too early to speculate about the changes Annacone might bring in Federer's play. We might have to wait for a couple of months, or may be even till Australian Open to see if there will be improvement in Fed's play, provided thatthese two will stick together till that time.

Posted by Jamaica Karen (WTA Rules) 07/27/2010 at 02:03 PM

Fantastic write up Pete and thanks for the analysis. Having spoken to many Fed fans privately we are all happy that he has found another pair of eyes and ears. We were of the view that Roger's patterns of play had become predictable and there were other aspects of his game that he really did not need to change, but perhaps beef up a little bit.

We felt that he needed to deal with his second serve, placement of the first serve and most importantly how to neutralise the so-called big hitters. We know that he can do it and we are of the view that Fed still has quite a bit more left in the tank.

You bring up a very interesting point regarding the Mirka and the children situation and it will be interesting to see whether Mirka and the children will stay home while daddy goes off to work. My take: that is not going to happen. Perhaps what will happen is that Mirka will not be a constant in the player box but she will be there right by his side. Federer has never struck me as the kind of man who would want to be separated from his children, especially given how much of a control freak he is reported to be.

Anyway as a Fed fan I am happy for these developments and I hope that it will see the Federer that many of us fans have come to grow and appreciate.

Looking forward to reading Andrew's take on this as well.

Posted by CL 07/27/2010 at 02:04 PM

Guess this belongs here - was for CWATC on the previous thread.

CWATC- I would be more inclined to agree with you except for the not so distant memory of the AO, where Roger FLEW around the court, anticipated the hail out of everything and had long stretches of TMF-ness. For instance, because I was vacationing I missed the Tsonga semi. Reading the board here, it seemed like Tsonga played a horrible match and Fed didn't do or have to do anything special to beat him. But when I actually saw the match I saw something very different. Tsonga played quite well... VERY well actually...for a set and 3/4s, but Roger was in FFF mode. Just amazing stuff from him. Speed, power, depth, precision..it was all there. Sure there we some less than TMF matches...the DavyD first among them, but mostly that AO was Roger Federer playing superlative tennis...being Roger Federer.

Now you COULD argue that he lost a step and anticipation in the 7 months between the AO and Wimby, but the fact is that he was already stumbling by IW. And I just don't think that he slipped that far, that fast. I think the lung infection simply tore up his schedule and some funky losses tore up his confidence and it was basically one misstep after another until here we are. I think PA's most important potential contribution will be to help Roger see not only the patterns that HE has fallen into that give his opponents opening, but the patterns THEY have that provide him with the same. That and some first rate scouting and assorted tweaks may... I hope...right the good ship Federer.

Posted by CL 07/27/2010 at 02:11 PM

"I doubt that Federer' wife, Mirka, will want to be dragging them around the globe, dropping them off at the tournament day care center while she sits in the player guest box, playing with her Blackberry."

Hmmm...well, I guess only time will tell, but Mirka and Fed seem quite determined to keep the circus on the road. And Mirka is,I think, a very determined and in some ways a very underestimated woman. With children of course, things can and do change more quickly and intensely than ever, so she may indeed opt to stat home as a Swiss Haus Frau w/fab jewels and bags, but I wouldn't bet too heavily on it. And of course, since Fed keeps saying this is a 'test', I'd say PA's days as a traveling companion are not guaranteed either. Though I for one very much hope they both pass the test.

Posted by CL 07/27/2010 at 02:13 PM

Math is not my long suit...so HOW many slams has Fed won since Pete's 2007 post?

Not that there is anything wrong with that!!!!

Posted by CL 07/27/2010 at 02:14 PM

Ram - if PA can 'improve' Fed back to where he was at the 2010 AO I will be thrilled.

Posted by evie 07/27/2010 at 02:25 PM

Hysterical for Federer to be called a "loner" when he spent 24/7 with Mirka for seven years. No one ever credits her as the reason he was able to go without a traditional coach (before even Severin), but it's clearly the truth.

Posted by rafanabolic 07/27/2010 at 02:26 PM

Unfortunately what Roger is missing in relation to some of the competition comes in a bottle and is administered with a needle. You can't "coach" that.

Posted by evie 07/27/2010 at 02:28 PM

CL -- totally agree with you. Until the kids need to be in a school (assuming they don't just bring a homeschooler with them), Mirka will be traveling with Roger and the kids. She's at least as obsessed with tennis as Fed. And it's a virtual guarantee she will be in his box constantly through August 2012.

Posted by Pete 07/27/2010 at 02:29 PM

Evie, "loner" doesn't need to be taken so literally, and if I were a betting man I'd lay money on the fact that Mirka and Roger discussed how to beat del Potro a grand total of zero times.

Posted by evie 07/27/2010 at 02:31 PM

Pete -- in recent years, she's obviously stepped back. But he was not alone during the 2003-2007 dominating period.

Posted by vetmama 07/27/2010 at 02:42 PM

Pete -

When are you going to understand that there is no way Mirka is going to stay home.
Roger said that, after she had the babies, she was bugging him about the next tournament.
"Are we going to go? Are we going to go? Are we going to go?"
The woman is like a Laborador with a ball. She would go stir-crazy at home.

Also, Roger is a guy that lived with his parents into his 20's because he "would have been lonely" if he lived on his own.

Roger and his wife are not anything close to normal in this way.
There is just no way there will be a room-service for two, unless it is Mirka and Rog when the nannies have the kids.

Otherwise, I think the article was great.:)

Posted by lilscot 07/27/2010 at 02:48 PM

Great post Pete. I totally agree. Annacone is a perfect fit for Roger. And how appropriate for today's GOAT to have the previous GOAT's coach on his team. There have always been many similarities between Roger and Pete and their respective careers. This just seems like the right thing to do.

Posted by Master Ace 07/27/2010 at 02:53 PM

CL,
Roger Slams(6) : 2007 Wimbledon(Nadal), 2007 United States Open(Djokovic), 2008 United States Open(Murray), 2009 French Open(Soderling), 2009 Wimbledon(Roddick) and 2010 Australian Open(Murray). During that stretch along, if he did not win 10 before then, he completed the Career Slam earlier this year at AO.

Posted by CL 07/27/2010 at 02:54 PM

Vetmama and evie - very much agree. I don't necessarily think people..some of them but by no means ALL of them guys...quite 'get' Mirka..and don't quite 'get' Mirka and Fed either.
(FederMir?)

But yeah, other wise, a good take on the potential of FederPaul.

Posted by thebigapple 07/27/2010 at 02:58 PM

Good move..Fed. (well, maybe)

Posted by FoT 07/27/2010 at 03:02 PM

I am happy that Mirka is still traveling with Roger. When I listened to Roger's speech at the 2006 (or 07) Year End when he beat Blake, the crowd started saying #1, #1, #1, etc. Roger said something like "I need Mirka, to be #1" (something like that). He said she was with him when he had zero titles, and she's still with him now. So I don't want her to stay at home with the kids. It has worked for them with her traveling with him all these 10 years, so I say - let it continue. They have plenty of time before the kids start school and I know Roger has said he wants to spend as much time as possible with the kids too.

I think this is a good move (or at least I don't think it will hurt). He is sending a message to the other players that he still wants to improve and be around the tour and wants to do as much as he can to stay near the top. Good for him. I hope it will work out. And I hope Roger keeps his zeal for tennis and stay around for a while because I love watching him play tennis.

Those who say they don't like Roger and hope he leaves the game, etc., I think they will be in for a surprise when Roger does leave tennis because he will be missed by his fans and even those who don't really like him. He has brought too much to tennis to not be 'missed'.

Posted by Andrew Miller 07/27/2010 at 03:07 PM

If it works out, more power to Federer. His use of the "trial" procedure is jolting, kind of like "hiring a temp"

Posted by antoinette 07/27/2010 at 03:28 PM

Count me as one of those who don't see Mirka staying home with the Twins while Roger is on the road. This question has been asked and answered by Roger ad nauseum since the birth of the children. Mirka does not want to stay home with the children missing Roger and Roger does not want to be lonely on the road without Mirka and his girls. Ergo they are committed to making life on the road as a family work. Thankfully by the time they will need to stop in order to attend school Roger's playing days should be over or at least winding down considerably. Until then I think it is integral to Roger's continued success that he keeps his little travelling circus on the road with him. He needs Mirka as much or even more than she needs him, or that it how it seems to me.

Posted by Cupcake lurker 07/27/2010 at 03:30 PM

Hello all,

I hope this work out, Federer doesn't "need" a coach, he has won a lot without one, but the extra eyes and input is greatly appreciate IMHO.

On another note, I've stay carefully away from any tennis related news/blog/forum... since *it* happen, so I had no seen that pic before :'(.

Posted by antoinette 07/27/2010 at 03:33 PM

Following up on that thought, consider this as a couple they have not spent a night apart since they moved in together in 2002. Roger even spent 3 weeks sleeping in the same hospital room with Mirka before the birth of the Twins. That is an extremely intense powerful relationship those 2 have. I actually think it would be detrimental to Roger at this stage if Mirka stopped travelling with him.

Posted by Cupcake lurker 07/27/2010 at 03:41 PM

"He needs Mirka as much or even more than she needs him, or that it how it seems to me"

+1

One of the things that used to worry me about how close they seem to be was how horribly a potential a break up could be for Roger. Of course that was at the high of his career, pre-wedding and TMBs.

Posted by zenggi 07/27/2010 at 03:55 PM

Hello, everyone.

I've been one of the fans who has said that Roger doesn't need a coach and I stand by it.
I mean, what everybody understands that a coach does. Roger doesn't need to learn any new shot by now. The DHBH isn't going to happen no matter how often he tries in practice. His serves troubles aren't related to lack of technic. His FH is the best. His volleys are old-school beautiful. His BH has become very effective and so on....
What he needs is a first rate scouter and that's why I think Annacone is the only one out there not only because of his credentials as a coach, or as the person who follows and who knows the current ATP-players best but also because Annacone seems to have an affinity with Roger's character. The other potential candidates are too loud or too shy or too prima donna. I'm confident that this relationship will work.

And Mirka staying at home will only happen if the twins get real sick. Otherwise she'll be there with Roger.

Posted by Jamaica Karen (WTA Rules) 07/27/2010 at 03:58 PM

In really, really shocking news of the day. Andy Murray has parted ways with his coach Miles McLaughlan. More later. Wow. Just wow.

Posted by Jamaica Karen (WTA Rules) 07/27/2010 at 04:00 PM

Article re Andy Murray coaching situation. I say it again, just wow:
http://tinyurl.com/2e89yzu

Posted by CWATC 07/27/2010 at 04:06 PM

Hi CL!
No question Fed played some great tennis at the AO. To be fair, I didn't see the Tsonga or the Hewitt matches which were supposed to be great. The final was the best I'd seen in years, tho' even there we tend to forget both the first and third sets were tight; he only really dominated the 2nd (which he really should have won 6-2 or better).

IMO he's been seriously struggling since the 2009 USO; the AO is the only tourney won in this period so more the exception than the rule.

He can still play some great tennis from time to time. But some things I do think are just not as before, like reactions on the ROS. For the Wimby final to get to 16-14 was a sign of that; Roddick even commented it was the first time in years that Fed hadn't been able to read his serve. I 'member a Fed PC from maybe sometime last year where he thought he'd done great in picking up all his opponants' serves, he said sth like "it felt like old times."

I'm in no way trying to be negative; I'm no technical expert but that is my gut observation from watching Fed play for many years now.

--

Agree with all posters above re Rog/Mirka; I don't know what Pete was thinking. Rog did say he may consider going alone sometimes to some of the really far away places, like the Shanghai Masters, but sounded a bit sad about it commenting he's unused to being without Mirka. Certainly they plan to stay together the vast majority of the time, unless the twins stage a rebellion. :)

Lastly, can poor Peter Lundgren get ANY appeciation by tennis observers?? The guy coached Roger full-time from his arrival on tour through the end of his breathrough 2003 where he won his first GS and the TMC. Five years. How can he get no credit for helping Roger achieve his potential?

Posted by jim 07/27/2010 at 04:12 PM

Pete, you're a great writer and on the point. Thanks

Posted by zenggi 07/27/2010 at 04:14 PM

JK,
Isn't this a red meat post?
Anyway, I don't see Corretja staying very long with Andy. Maybe he should hire Smithy. :)
Where is Pspace these days?

Back to Roger. I hope that when Roger retires he can give Paul Annacone as much praise as Pete Sampras did. Don't forget the tears, Roger!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Ll-OzkOvSg

Posted by lilscot 07/27/2010 at 04:14 PM

Count me in as someone who also thinks Mirka will never stay at home. Those two just seem bound together. They seem to be not just wife/husband but also best friends, confidants, moral support, etc., for each other. It almost seems unreal to imagine not seeing Mirka in the stands.

Someone above brought up a good but scary point. Knowing how intertwined they are I hope and pray that they stay in wedded bliss.

Posted by lilscot 07/27/2010 at 04:18 PM

Wow, that is very interesting news about Murray and Miles, and Alex. I hope it all works out for him but it might not be the best decision. Only time will tell. It always seemed like Miles was a good fit for Andy but unfortunately we're never privvy to what goes on behind the scenes. No comment from Corretja yet is there?

Posted by Jamaica Karen (WTA Rules) 07/27/2010 at 04:20 PM

Zenggi, yes it is a red meat post but since it was sort of, kind of, hopefully is, related in some way shape or form to coaching I posted the Andy Murray news here.

Posted by Pete 07/27/2010 at 04:24 PM

Mirka fans, didn't mean to get your shorts all in a bunch for you, but I also think the reality of having two children, and their needs for stability, friends, rest, etc. may affect Mirka's travel schedule. Kind of stuff like that happens to parents, even regular lovebirds like Roger and Mirka. And to me family men can be some of the biggest "loners" of them all. It's easier to be alone when you have the comfort and insulation of family.

Posted by Pete 07/27/2010 at 04:25 PM

PS - but just to be clear, I meant that Roger is a "loner" in his professional life, a guy who minds and takes care and control of his own destiny instead of entrusting it to others or relying on a formidable team.

Posted by reckoner 07/27/2010 at 04:26 PM


hmm, this is written as if annacone has signed on full-time... i think federer used the term "trial basis" or "trial period" in his announcement, and historically speaking federer has been pretty fickle with some coaching arrangements in the past, so it might be premature to think coach and player are standing at the altar this time around... but im interested to see what transpires... nonetheless i think nadal wins in new york next month and federer probably doesnt take home another major until wimbledon 2011

Posted by Or 07/27/2010 at 04:31 PM

Don't see Mirka staying back with the kids. I don't see that working out for them at all, I think it would drive Roger crazy.

The kids would benefit a lot more from being around their daddy, than staying at home only with mommy. They are really young, they don't really need friends or school at this stage. When they are 4 years old, if Roger is still playing, maybe they'll have to reconsider that decision, but I don't see Mirka following Roger's matches from the TV At home.

Posted by zenggi 07/27/2010 at 04:31 PM

Pete,
Talking by my own experience. Children make friends when they start attending school. So they have at least 4 years of travelling all around the world. It will get more complicated as they start running but they are used to stay at hotels. I bet they don't know what "home" is. The stability is provided by the constant presence of their parents, grandparents, nannies and teddy-bears at this stage.

I think if push comes to shove, Roger would prefer to retire than to be 9-10 months a year away from his family.

Posted by CWATC 07/27/2010 at 04:33 PM

Hey Pete -
Since you're around, any love at all for Lundgren?

Posted by reckoner 07/27/2010 at 04:35 PM


for everyone fixated on what mirka is going to do going forward (and not to undermine her significance to federers playing career), the decision on whether to keep annacone on board full-time will presumably be based on *their* effectiveness as a pairing, and has little to do with mirka staying home and/or attending tournaments... i think theyre unrelated

Posted by TheMightyFunk 07/27/2010 at 04:38 PM

It's interesting and a bit amusing to see how this post is about the Fed/Annacone trial announcement yet a majority (it seems) of the comments are towards the Fed/Mirka relationship that Pete deveoted all of one paragraph to in his write-up! Going out on a limb here, but are most posters here female? Hope that's not an inappropriate question...:)

Posted by antoinette 07/27/2010 at 04:38 PM

I am a Mirka fan and my shorts (knickers) are not all in a bunch!! lol, just opining that I think it unlikely that while the Twins are still young that Roger will travel without Mirka and his girls. When they get older then other considerations such as the ones you mention will become more of a factor.

Posted by Jamaica Karen (WTA Rules) 07/27/2010 at 04:39 PM

Program Note: Tonight's Tennis Channel classic match will feature Roger Federer in his epic match against Andre Agassi. Start time 8 pm EST

Posted by zenggi 07/27/2010 at 04:41 PM

JK,
It's OK. No big difference between room service for two or for four. :)
I've been scouting the Spanish papers and there isn't anything about Andy and/or Corretja.

Back to Roger and Annacone. This is what Paul said about Pete Sampras during the HoF induction ceremony:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GAHzvO4el2E

Posted by BrooklynNY 07/27/2010 at 04:43 PM

Wait, if this happens and they do work together... does this make Paul Annacone 'The greatest coach of all time" Or does he still need to coach an extremely talented clay courter in order for that to happen?

haha just saying...

:P

Posted by CL 07/27/2010 at 04:44 PM

ah yes, as I said, some just don't get it...whether or not their shorts are in a bunch or if they have a bunch of short.

Pete- why, when anyone disagrees with you is your default position often to imply that they are somehow 'foaming at the mouth,' have 'their shorts in a bunch,' or are other wise mentally/emotionally incompetent? Maybe people JUST disagree with you??!! And have perfectly rational reasons for doing so.

T'is true..as the twins get older there will be more and different challenges facing FederMir...and we don't know how they will respond. However, going by the evidence so far, Mirka and Fed seem to want to keep their family intact as much and as often as possible. Even if it entails a lot of charges for extra bags and extreme schleping.

Posted by CL 07/27/2010 at 04:46 PM

reckoner - I reckon that if Mirka doesn't hit it off with PA he will not pass a portion of his test. Not that they have to become BFFs, but Mirka's input as been critical in virtually all of Fed's career decisions. Can't see why that would change in this situation.

Posted by zenggi 07/27/2010 at 04:47 PM

TMFunk,
I am (a female). And I see that you are speaking/writing as a male :)

Mirka is fundamental to Roger:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eFErRbOH7XY

Posted by Jamaica Karen (WTA Rules) 07/27/2010 at 04:54 PM

@Zenggi, LOL - nice :)

@CL - the name should be FeMir (get it femur - connections and all that) or we can call them MirFe with a silent e - as in smurf :)

@antoinette - 2 words - bigger knickers :)

Posted by CWATC 07/27/2010 at 04:56 PM

I think Pete likes to "get people's shorts in a bunch"! Why else would he be writing about Mirka in his comment on Fed/Annacone; two topics that are completely unrelated?

No one, including Fed/Mir, can be sure of what the future will bring; we can only guess based on past history. Given that they were on a jet plane w/ two week old twins immediately following the birth, they've so far followed a pretty unconventional path for married athletes; it's reasonable to assume that will probably continue.

Posted by Sherlock 07/27/2010 at 04:57 PM

I'm no Roger expert, but geez, you guys make him sound like an 8-year old mama's boy. :)

It's great that he and Mirka have a great relationship, but heading to Asia for 2-3 weeks by yourself isn't exactly the end of the world. A lot of husbands and fathers in the real world do it every day.

Posted by Pete 07/27/2010 at 04:58 PM

CL - see comment above by TheMightyFunk . . .But hey, you got a chance to dash in and bite my ankle again, so it's a net-plus, right?

Posted by CL 07/27/2010 at 05:01 PM

TMFunk - not inappropriate at all. At least not to me and my kick a** rock group, The Hermaphrodites. ;-))

I think what may be going on, just a bit, is that Pete is a bit late to the punch with this post. This PA news broke yesterday, and if you go back and read the threads, there has already been quite a bit of discussion of the pairing. As a matter of fact, Pete's earlier post on the subject...the 2007 one...was even included in the discussion. So, aside from some of the Sampras comparisons and history, the Mirka comment was kinda the only new news. Hence, some of the interest. Some. ;-)

Posted by zenggi 07/27/2010 at 05:03 PM

Sherlock,
Maybe the difference is that those husbands and fathers HAVE to travel for a living. Roger doesn't have to do anything he doesn't like anymore.

Posted by CL 07/27/2010 at 05:07 PM

"But hey, you got a chance to dash in and bite my ankle again, so it's a net-plus, right?"

To quote Emily Litella, "never mind."


Sherlock - think England and the US...it is a "special" relationship. ;-)

Posted by Sherlock 07/27/2010 at 05:08 PM

Zenggi, true. :)

I just have to wonder if Roger is as fragile as it sounds. I hope not. Besides, after a while, he may look forward to a bit of time away. :)

Posted by Pete 07/27/2010 at 05:10 PM

CWATC - Wait, I thought reading these comments that Mirka is so indispensable to Roger, and has played such an enormous role in his success, that she must be relevant, no? You can't have it both ways, you know. But in the big picture, my brief comments on the state of Roger's married life fall into the hypothetical realm.

And you know, the impact of long-distance travel on kids is tough. In all kinds of ways. Even if you go by private jet and dine on Kobe beef in the air. And it's easier on infants than toddlers. I suppose that tots have gone through worse, but I have to believe that even little things like air safety (more an issue of perception than reality, but an issue nonetheless)play on the minds of most parents. But perhaps Roger and Mirka are above all that. I suppose we'll see.

What I am sensing here is the kind of acute defensiveness about Roger/Mirka that is pretty characteristic of many of his fans, and I do find that tedious.

Eat. Pray. Love. Win no. 17

And all that. . .

Posted by antoinette 07/27/2010 at 05:12 PM

Why is the fact that Roger does not like to be apart from his wife and children make him a mammas boy? or sound like one? I don't get it, this is the way the man has conducted his life thus far and I would say it has worked out pretty well for him. I see no indication from anything he has said that he intends to change that aspect of his life, new Coach or not.

Posted by pj 07/27/2010 at 05:14 PM

Everyone saying that mirka will continue to travel with toddlers is kidding themselves

Posted by zenggi 07/27/2010 at 05:16 PM

Because tennis is an individual sport every player needs someone to be around while on tour. The married ones have their other halves, some travel with their girlfriends and the less fortunate travel with coaches or physios. The least fortunate travel with their parents. :)

What a bunch of fragile athletes all of them! :)

Posted by antoinette 07/27/2010 at 05:19 PM

What I find tedious is the constant sly ( and not so sly ) digs at Federer fans. All fans are defensive of and protective towards their faves, but it seems to me that Federer fans are often singled for ridicule in this regard.

Posted by CWATC 07/27/2010 at 05:26 PM

Pete -
I certainly never suggested that Mirka is irrelevant to Roger; simply that I doubt her hypothetical future travel schedule had anything to do with his decision to try out the services of Annacone. Seems to me Luthi can fulfill the function of companion should he need one in her absense; IMO Annacone has been brought in for technical tennis-related, not personal reasons.

Well, I appear to be the only one here who took issue w/ a different aspect to your article which was the complete passing over of the significance/productivity of the 5 year professional relationship w/ Lundgren, yet so far you only seem interested in responding to comments about Mirka. But maybe I'm doing you an injustice and it's because you're mulling over some profound thing to say about PL?

Posted by Jamaica Karen (WTA Rules) 07/27/2010 at 05:28 PM

Zenggi, I agree all athletes are fragile in some shape or form. Nadal still lives at home with his parents. Serena and Venus still have mom and dad travelling with them and coaching. Jankovic, mother, Ana, her mother, Djokovic - mother, Murray - mother. The list goes on and on. I do not think it is about fragility but more along the lines of trust. You have to trust the people that are around you and who better than family ... onwards

Has anyone else thought that perhaps the reason that Federer is on the search for a coach/consultant or whatever it is maybe because Mirka is no longer able to travel with the children on a tournament by tournament basis. Perhaps both Federer and Mirka have discussed it and have decided that now that the babies are 1 year old, and having regard to childhood illnesses, it may not be such a good thing to be travelling with them all the time.

Perhaps a further cutting of the schedule is in the works. One that does not involve so much travelling to far off tournaments. We do not know. Regardless of how close Roger and Mirka are I am sure that at some deep level when they were discussing having children and Roger's career, the discussion has arisen as to how to effectively deal with having children and having a job like daddy does. If they are responsible parents, I am sure that this discussion happened.

Posted by Arun 07/27/2010 at 05:28 PM

As a Federer fan, I think Pete generally takes some digs at Federer fans which I'm not happy about.

But.. this is a perfectly reasonable post. I have no idea how this transformed into Federer-Mirka discussion/argument.

Posted by Pete 07/27/2010 at 05:29 PM

Interesting that you say that, Zenggi. One of the trademarks of tennis players is that since you can't take your favorite reading chair, your kayak, your home wine-press or your motorcycle on the road with you, you take what you can of your life on the road. That usually means people, or, if you prefer, relationships (as well as jewelry). I do think it gets a lot tougher when kids are involved.

And pj, you must be a parent ;-)

Posted by noa 07/27/2010 at 05:30 PM

for me the most important aspect of this move is that it shows Fed hasn't given up on tennis and has no intention of leaving the main stage to the ass pickers and clowns.

IMHO it will all come down to the chemistry between the two. as a Fed fan i hope PA will inspire him to lose some weight, put some effort at the little events and be more aggressive like used to be in his early years.

best of luck to both of them...!

Posted by Corrie 07/27/2010 at 05:31 PM

I think rather than being an 8 year old mummy's boy, Roger is just a very besotted daddy. He's said he hasn't been apart from the kids for more than threee days and that's how he wants it to be until they start school. It might all get harder if they have more kids of course.

Isn't all this coaching thing a bit premature? He had a "trial run" with Cahill too and look what happened there.

Posted by Pete 07/27/2010 at 05:31 PM

Jamaica Karen: wisely put in a womanly way.

Posted by Jamaica Karen (WTA Rules) 07/27/2010 at 05:33 PM

Mirka and Roger are not the only ones on the Tour travelling with children (cannot believe I am about to say this). Clijsters is doing it. The Hewitts are doing it. Max Miryni did it and Lindsay Davenport and Sybille Bammer have done it. It can work.

Posted by Sherlock 07/27/2010 at 05:33 PM

"I honestly felt Pete was the best player I ever saw"

So Paul said this two years ago? Does anyone know how he feels about GOATs and/or the strength of the current era? :)

Posted by Sherlock 07/27/2010 at 05:36 PM

"(cannot believe I am about to say this)"

Now THAT was funny, Karen. :)

Posted by zenggi 07/27/2010 at 05:41 PM

JK,
Roger isn't "testing" Annacone because of his family situation. And thank the entity above for that. I think he has finally realized that he needs someone to tell him which tactics he needs to use when playing against top-player A, B or C. He has run out of ideas by himself. If this works in the near future, Mirka and the twins will probably attend less tournaments abroad (for example Shanghai this fall or IW and/or Miami next year.)

Posted by Jamaica Karen (WTA Rules) 07/27/2010 at 05:43 PM

@Sherlock, the things one has to do to make a point :)

@Pete, cannot take credit for being a wise woman. I learned it at the feet of the best - our very own Ruth

Posted by Jamaica Karen (WTA Rules) 07/27/2010 at 05:46 PM

Zenggi, I am just positing a different on the Mirka situation. I said it in my very first post here that it would be good for Roger to have another pair of eyes in relation to his game.

My comments regarding Mirka were as a result of the Mirka discussion. Frankly speaking none of us know the reason for this consultation/trial or whatever it is. We do know that for a long time Fed's game had become stationery, if not downright stagnant. His patterns of play had been studied by the men of the ATP and their coaches for a long time and now that they had memorised those patterns of play then then developed tactics to beat him. It has worked. Fed needs to change, but not too much. He will not start swinging for the fences and using a 2hbh but he does need another pair of eyes to help him to assess the current tennis climate.

Posted by Sherlock 07/27/2010 at 05:49 PM

Karen, lol. It was a worthy sacrifice. :)

Posted by TheMightyFunk 07/27/2010 at 05:50 PM

Zenggi @ 4:47 - yup :)

CL @ 5:01 : thanks...

And although I firmly believe in the "if you can't beat them, join them" adage, I unfortunately have nothing to add to the Fed/Mirka discussion...

Now where did that copy of Rambo I just rented go?...


Posted by Alexis 07/27/2010 at 05:50 PM

Haven't been here in a while because I took another long break from the tennis media and the Internet-in-general. I hope this arrangement with Annacone works out. I think it may be on more solid ground than the potential Cahill pairing. Remember, Federer himself never made an announcement about he and Cahill working together. This time, Roger announced it on his own website. And the logistical problems that doomed the Cahill possibility, I'm sure, were looked at by Federer and Annacone before they chose to have a 'trial period'. I'm thinking that Federer had his eye on Annacone for a while but couldn't do a whole lot while Annacone was under contract.

Anyway, I'm not expecting a miracle cure but I expect Federer to be in good form for this US hardcourt season (I would have expected that even without a new coach). I would think anything physical that was troubling him before has been healed, he's had a great holiday with Mirka and the kids, and he's raring to go.

We miss you, Fed. Can't wait to see you play again.

Posted by Andrew Miller 07/27/2010 at 05:51 PM

For Annacone to be greatest of all time he has to take someone like Ryan Harrison or Donald Young and get them to 2 slams. No offense meant to Brad Gilbert and Larry Stefanki and Peter Lundgren and Cahill and Annacone other top notch coaches, but they're all starting with incredible players, guys who already have or will have slams. Not enough credit is given to the coaches that brought them to the dance in the first place, some of the "guys in the trenches" Mr. Bodo referred to in past writings. Anyhows.

Posted by zenggi 07/27/2010 at 05:55 PM

Pete,
Nobody will say that travelling with young children is easy. But we do it. At least I've done it with my children since they were 2 months-old. Not as frequently as Roger and Mirka. Not with nannies and flying on private planes, alas. But nothing has stopped us to take our children with us.
This doesn't apply to the twins because at the time Roger will retire from tennis (sigh) they'll still be very young. But if you ask children whose father (or mother) travels a lot for his/her work what they think about it, they'll resent that he/her wasn't present when the school play took place or when they won that soccer match for instance. Even if only happened twice during their childhood they'll tell you with acrimony when they are older: "My father (or mother) was NEVER at home."

Posted by Sherlock 07/27/2010 at 05:57 PM

Speaking of Mr. Young, there was a good post on ESPN today about Donald, by Greg Garber.

I'd love to see him equal his junior success with a slam or two. Don't see it happening, but at least becoming a top 20-30 guy would be a lot of fun to watch.

Posted by mellow yellow 07/27/2010 at 06:06 PM

What's with all the fixation on Mirka? Honestly if this 'trial' period works out and Roger think's Annacone is a good fit, then he'll hire him on as coach and I don't think Mirka will have much say in that decision.

Posted by lilscot 07/27/2010 at 06:15 PM

I don't think Roger wanting to have Mirka around with him all the time makes him a momma's boy or fragile or any of the other assumptions being made. It just means he's madly in love and is happier when she's with him.

And even though I'm a guy I think it's a bit sexist to assume she will stay home with the kids. A lot of women work and travel and bring their kids with them.

Frankly, although I'm a Rafa fan, I find it very endearing that they are so close and want to be with each other. Maybe the divorce rate wouldn't be so high if more people were like them.

Another thing I really liked that endeared me to Roger was the commercial for his tennis raquet company that he did during Wimbledon. You know the one where the dork is trying to play tennis and Roger comes on court wheeling a couch and does this pseudo-therapy session with the guy. Very funny. Nice to see that side of Roger.

Posted by CL/Hold the Foam 07/27/2010 at 06:19 PM

mellow yellow - really? you don't think Mirka will have much say in the coach decision? Well, I don' think she will have THE say...that will be Roger's. But I think it is very clear that Mirka has lots of say in lots of areas of Roger's life, including tennis. Though perhaps you are all right...she will suddenly morph from a tennis-aholic, support system, advisor, to a Mommy who only is interested in spit up and the best way to remove same from same.. Maybe. But she strikes me as the kind who can multi task.

Someone mentioned about how Fed probably had zero input from Mirka before he played he Ent at least year's USO. Might be true. But since he lost, perhaps that was not a wise decision on his part.

Arun - I totally agree...the ORIGINAL post was perfectly reasonable. After that.......

Posted by antoinette 07/27/2010 at 06:19 PM

@lilscot re your 6:15pm

+1

Posted by Kelly 07/27/2010 at 06:24 PM

You can put babies to sleep and leave them with some hired help. You can hold them in your arms or in a stroller for hours on end.

Toddlers are something else entirely.

And they do need other toddlers' company, otherwise they grow up to become prematurely and obnoxiously adult in their behaviour, rarely are allowed to crawl (always in someone's arms or held by hand) and therefore are less agile and late to learn to walk. Having only parents, grandparents and adult hangers-on around just spoil kids.

As for Annacone-Federer liaison, if they click, it will probably be more in an advisory than a true coaching role. According to his statement, Federer intends to keep his coach/friend Luthi, because he needs someone for hitting drills, bag carrying duties and camaraderie.

Also, a real coach would insist on improved fitness in this stage of a career, but Annacone can not go there, since Federer always said he's not that much into gym work.

So maybe Annacone will just scout opponents and try to advise some changes in strategy and tactics, and Federer will decide how much (if any) of that he'll take on board. Looks like Higueras deal minus FH dropshot lessons more than anything.

Posted by gliciouss 07/27/2010 at 06:30 PM

is there a link for azarenka please???

Posted by CL/Hold the Foam 07/27/2010 at 06:30 PM

And Mirkas aside...wither Luthi? Stay? Go? Back to Swiss DC full time? I think Luthi, like rodney Dangerfield, don't get no respect, but after TR left, though he had his ups and downs, Fed didn't exactly wander in the wilderness. I thought Luthi did very well by him, but if the PA deal does work out, it is hard to see where Luthi would fit in

lilscot - + 2 (zillion) ;-)

Posted by Seth 07/27/2010 at 06:32 PM

Yes, why the fixation on Mirka? None of us really know the inner dynamics of the Federer family and the Roger/Mirka relationship. Talk about Annacone and the coaching decision, maybe?

Posted by TheMightyFunk 07/27/2010 at 06:33 PM

"Also, a real coach would insist on improved fitness in this stage of a career, but Annacone can not go there, since Federer always said he's not that much into gym work." - I don't think that's an issue area either - Federer is one of the fittest players on tour and has a pretty good fitness regime.

Posted by antoinette 07/27/2010 at 06:35 PM

@Kelly

Where have you heard Federer say that he is not much into gym work? I can't believe that the Federer is not fit enough dead horse is being resurrected. I thought for sure that was 6ft under for good. My bad

Posted by zenggi 07/27/2010 at 06:43 PM

Let's give Roger & Mirka their due because they have made the best career wise decision of all: the twins. On top of that they are both girls and that's a major point because they can play (and fight) together with little fuss from adults. Twins are the best of friends with each other. Therefore they don't need other "friends" until they go to school.

I would like to stay and read more comments but I've got to work tomorrow. Good night, everyone.

Posted by RogerFebeRRergetsmewet 07/27/2010 at 06:52 PM

I'm probably the most ardent Rogie fan in my neck of the woods. He looked so radiant when he won Wimbledon this year. He must have set a new record.

But, why oh why are people here so mean to Feddybear?

Love you Rogie.

Posted by thebigapple 07/27/2010 at 06:53 PM

I am trying to join in as well but am stumped on what to say on Mirka and Fed. Hmmmm. I usually end up saying like "Is'nt that Mirka just so plump?" This always gets me in trouble...so let me avoid that. So here is my contribution - the babies look very cuddly and toddlers are great fun for fathers. Fed might like then around.

Can we talk about the match btw Fed and Paul instead on Fed and Mirka. Do we think Fed and Paul will have an excellent adventure? Does this clearly signal that he is preparing for a good sunset of his career? Is Paul the classic helper to aging maestro, helping them go out respectably? Or are we to think Fed expects to beat back the hordes of successors?

Posted by Kelly 07/27/2010 at 06:57 PM

By "improved fitness" I mean a dramatically improved fitness, something that Agassi did by the end of his career to turn it around.

With his chronically bad back in need of more support, his forehand-to-forehand battles lost to several big hitters, and his legs a tad slower to reach sharply angled balls, Federer needs some additional muscle. Not the Incredible Hulk level, but slightly more than he has now. His fitness coach must've given him this advice already. Any orthopedist will tell him that stronger muscles should take over the load off of aching joints/vertebrae.

Those recent beach photos of his flabby back prove he does not listen to his fitness coach. Nor to his friend/coach Luthi (if he did offer such an advice, as any real coach should have). Will he listen to Annacone, a virtual stranger?

Posted by RogerFebeRRergetsmewet 07/27/2010 at 07:00 PM

I'm probably the most ardent Rogie fan in my neck of the woods. He looked so radiant when he won Wimbledon this year. He must have set a new record.

I don't comprehend this talk about hordes succeeding Feddybear.

No one can succeed Feddybear.

The best that one can do is admire him respectfully from a deferential distance.

Love you Rogie.


Posted by court1234 07/27/2010 at 07:02 PM

I do know that the last few coaching gigs that Roger had with others didn't quite end up well...I seem to recall some bitterness with the Tony Roche busines..

I do think that anybody who expects Annacone to revamp Roger's game at this stage with more s/v will be disappointed. Like Annacone said..he had to have the skill to remind Sampras he was Sampras, and I suspect it will be the same thing with Roger. What makes it different then with the other coaches is that Annacone went thru this with another great champ, and what he says will have more resonance with Roger.

Posted by CWATC 07/27/2010 at 07:16 PM

OK, parting thoughts:
Pete's reference to Mirka was not just one lonely paragraph; it was also referenced in the title of the piece "Room Service for Two", so I think it is no surprise that it was picked up on by those commenting, and no discredit to ANY of the posters, all of whom made reasonable, intelligent points.

I wouldn't be suprised if Roger consulted w/ Mirka before hiring Annacone, as many husbands talk over big decisions w/ their wives, but that's hardly newsworthy or anyone's business. But I really, really doubt Annacone was meant to be a travelling companion to make up for her future absence, esp. given the presence of Luthi.

To stir the pot w/ wild speculation tho', I've always thought that Roger's decision to fire Peter Lundgren may have had sth to do w/ Mirka moving in w/ him. Not because she told Roger to fire him or anything like that. But Lundgren for years performed a dual role; he was Roger's tennis coach, but he was also the travelling companion / babysitter (I don't mean that disparagingly; just that Roger was only 17 when he joined the tour and his parents didn't come with him) Roger has said that he let Lundgren go mostly because after 5 years together he knew everything he was going to say tennis-wise before he said it. It's possible that since the coaching role had stagnated, and the companion role was now filled by Mirka, it was easier to let him go than if Roger had still been travelling solo.

'Night, all!

Posted by ladyjulia 07/27/2010 at 07:17 PM

Who is Murray going to pick as coach???

Murray must have been scouting for coaches for sometime now then...wonder if he thought of Annacone.

Has Murray said when he is going to announce his new coach? Or he's going to play the hard court season without a coach?

Posted by Amit 07/27/2010 at 07:19 PM

I thought this post was about Federer and Annacone. Wondering why it has become a Federer/Mirka/kids issue. Honestly speaking,I cannot imagine a professional tennis player like Federer (who must be seriously bruised by his recent results) nix-ing Annacone just because it takes him away from wife and kids for 2-3 week periods.

If that does happen, one really has to question how authentic his desire is at this point.

Posted by ladyjulia 07/27/2010 at 07:20 PM

CWATC

If I am not mistaken, Mirka moved in with Roger in 2002 or something? Lundgren was there till Nov 2003.

I also have to add to the comments that Peter Lundgren dosen't get enough credit. The guy was with him for 5 yrs during which he defeated Sampras and won a GS. Its no small feat..and reaching top 2 with him.

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