Paul Annacone recently spoke about the qualities that separate the likes of Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic from the rest, explaining why they thrive in the best-of-five format. The American believes that the extra bit of time afforded to these players in the longer format gives them a chance to reassess their strategies before eventually finding their footing.
Having worked as the coach of Roger Federer and Pete Sampras in the past, Paul Annacone has a fair bit of insight on what makes top players tick. The 57-year-old even guided Federer to some success against Novak Djokovic, most notably at the French Open 2011 and Wimbledon 2012.
Appearing on a recent talk show for Tennis Channel, Annacone pointed out that the longer format in Slams makes it particularly difficult to get past players of the ilk of Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic. The American also revealed that both Federer and Sampras mentioned the advantages of best-of-five sets while working with him.
"It takes a little bit more in a Major to get past them (Big 3)," Annacone said. "They usually figure out ways to get through matches and I think for the men’s side when it is three out of five sets, I know really well talking to Roger when I coached him and when I coached Pete Sampras, they both feel like three out of five sets, I’m gonna figure it out."
Paul Annacone then cited Novak Djokovic’s match against Dominic Thiem in the 2020 Australian Open final to reinforce his point.
Novak Djokovic had found himself under the gun in Melbourne last year, trailing two sets to one against Dominic Thiem. The Serb looked like a shadow of his usual self, seemingly dehydrated due to the exertions of retrieving Thiem's thunderbolts.
Despite his physical issues though, Djokovic staged a remarkable comeback to take home a record 8th Australian Open title. Annacone highlighted that the best-of-five format makes it very difficult for the less experienced players to sustain their quality against the 'Big 3'.
"You saw in Australia, 2 sets to 1 up against Novak Djokovic, and we saw Novak looked like he was punch-drunk for a little while as Thiem was starting to play the big tennis," Annacone continued. "Novak did what Novak does, which is what all great players do. So when you are one of the up and comers trying to get past them that extra set necessary in that huge moment, means a lot."
The longer format suits Roger Federer, but he still struggles at the Slams against Novak Djokovic
Over the past few years, Novak Djokovic has proven to be a tough nut to crack for Roger Federer - even in the Swiss' favored format. While the Serb may not have Federer's natural touch and instincts, he does have the ability to get under the 39-year-old's skin with his consistency and self-belief.
The Serb’s supreme defense is another major reason why he does well against Roger Federer in long matches. The Swiss likes to keep the rallies short but Djokovic always makes him play a few extra shots with his sublime retrieving, forcing Federer to go for the jugular - and consequently leak errors.
Elongating the rallies works particularly well against an aging Roger Federer, who no longer possesses the same endurance levels as he once did.
If the 20-time Major champion wishes to defeat Novak Djokovic at a Slam (in the longer format), he needs to close out the match in a maximum of four sets. The moment it goes to a fifth, the Serb's endurance becomes too big a factor - as we saw in the Wimbledon 2019 final.Published 12 Jan 2021, 00:59 IST