Exclusive interview with Roger Federer’s coach, Paul Annacone, who worked with Pete Sampras for eight years.
Annacone that told that The Tennis Space that Sampras would be “very comfortable” if Federer won this Wimbledon to equal Sampras’s record of seven titles at the All England Club: “Both of these guys are pretty solid in their self-image – there isn’t an ego issue. Pete is a fan of excellence.” Annacone also gave an insight into what Federer and Sampras are like away from the courts: “They’re very different. Roger is a citizen of the world, and Pete’s a much more insular person – he was never a gregarious, social animal.”
Has Pete been in contact with you and Roger before this Wimbledon? “Yes, I know Pete and Roger talked over text message a few days ago, and I talk to Pete pretty regularly over text and telephone. Pete is a fan of excellence. He knows what it takes to be successful at the highest level. Since he and Roger are friends, Pete can really appreciate and enjoy Roger’s success. If Pete is going to share the record with anyone, he would like it to be with Roger. Both of these guys are pretty solid in their self-image. There isn’t an ego issue. If Pete is sharing the record with Roger, he feels very comfortable with that.”
Do you speak with Roger about trying to equal Pete’s record?“No, I don’t. For me, it’s very easy to get wrapped up in the moment, whatever the moment is. But I’m a big believer in looking at everybody’s complete work over their whole life. Roger’s had such a great set of accomplishments so I really only look at this as something else to add to this. If he’s fortunate enough to get another victory out of this, that would be great. If he tied Pete, that would be exciting for both guys. They’re friends. Their levels are pretty unparalleled. It’s nice to see two good guys who have been so successful. Selfishly, for me, I’ve been very fortunate to have an affiliation with them both.”
Do you feel fortunate to have coached Pete and Roger? “I feel really lucky to be part of the environment. I’ve worked with great players, Roger and Pete. But, as great as they are on court, they’re better people. For me, that’s why I’m still able to do that. That’s why I’m not totally burnt-out and fried. I’ve had great people to deal with, if you know what I mean? If Roger was a nightmare, I wouldn’t be able to still do it, and same with Pete, I couldn’t have stayed with him for so many years. When you have great players who are better people, that makes for a great working environment. I’ve been very fortunate to be around Pete and Roger.”
How different are Pete and Roger when they’re away from the courts? “They are very different people. The best way to characterise Roger is a citizen of the world. He adapts to different environments. He enjoys France, he likes it here, he liked it in Halle last week, and he loves to go to Rotterdam and Stockholm. He just embraces the environment he’s in. Pete is a much more insular person. He was always much more comfortable in his own environment. He was much more in tune with what he wanted to accomplish than with being a gregarious, social animal. That wasn’t Pete. Pete was about being the best professional he could be, and accomplishing as much as he could accomplish, and doing it with a lot of integrity, class and hard work. They’s very different. Roger travels with his family and has a lot of friends all over the world, and enjoys his life in a different way. Pete enjoys his life. But they’re different people and they need different things.”
Will Roger be walking around Wimbledon Village? “Not much, it’s difficult for him to do that. It’s difficult for him to do much of anything. But he gets his time with his family, and they do family things, and they’re genuinely, genuinely, a very happy unit.”
Tomorrow (Saturday) on The Tennis Space: Paul Annacone on why he’s not worried that Roger Federer hasn’t played in a Wimbledon final for three years: “That doesn’t concern me at all.” Plus what it would mean to Annacone and Federer if the Swiss left Wimbledon as the world No 1.