Roger Federer never comes up with excuses for losing, says Paul Annacone

  • Roger Federer deals with failure in a unique style that has proven to be effective, according to Paul Annacone.
  • Annacone, a former coach of Federer's, spoke about the Swiss' response to loss and also his lock-down challenges.
Rupin Kale
Modified 13 May 2020, 17:18 IST

Roger Federer was coached by Paul Annacone between 2010 and 2013
Roger Federer was coached by Paul Annacone between 2010 and 2013

When you are a once-in-a-generation talent that has won 20 Grand Slam singles titles, the word 'failure' isn't associated with you too often. But Roger Federer, arguably the greatest tennis player of all time, has had his fair share of downs in an otherwise remarkable career.

Former American player Paul Annacone, who coached Roger Federer from 2010 to 2013, has revealed in a podcast with the Double Bagel that the Swiss maestro has a unique way of dealing with failure. To highlight this point, Annacone cited the example of Roger Federer's remarkable run at Roland Garros 2011 - where he beat Novak Djokovic in the semi-final with a spell-binding performance before going down to a familiar foe in the final.

Roger Federer reached the final four of that tournament without dropping a set, and then beat Djokovic 7–6(5), 6–3, 3–6, 7–6 to set up a blockbuster clash with Rafael Nadal in the final. That was probably his best chance of adding a second Roland Garros title to his kitty and completing an unprecedented double Career Slam, but it was not to be.

How Roger Federer overcomes tough defeats

Roger Federer came agonizingly close to a double Career Slam in 2011
Roger Federer came agonizingly close to a double Career Slam in 2011

Roger Federer approached the final with the positive attitude of a man on a mission. He broke the Spaniard in his first service game and looked like the better player for much of the first set, but was unable to capitalize on the strong start.

“He had a great chance that year," Annacone said. "He beat Novak in the semis, and Novak hadn’t lost the entire year going into the French Open. Against Rafa, he was up 5-2 in the first set and had set points. Tried a drop shot which was a lot bit of a bailout shot. Lost that set and a tough four-setter."

How does an ambitious athlete get over a loss like that? With detachment and acceptance, in Federer's case.

“When he was done he was very proud of what he had done in the tournament," said Annacone. "He’s very good at detaching from that emotion in a natural way. Where he doesn’t deny the emotion, where he doesn’t come up with excuses for losing, where he doesn’t blame anything. He just processes it in a really healthy way, and I think that’s why at 38 years of age he’s still playing.”

COVID-19 lockdown will be tough for players like Roger Federer: Annacone

Speaking about the effects of the COVID-19 enforced lockdown and suspension of tennis, Annacone admitted that it might be tougher for older players like Roger Federer to hit the ground running when the tour resumes.

“The older you get the more challenging it is to stay in peak shape. Although rest is good, too much rest can turn into rust… I think that can happen more quickly with older players just because they’ve been doing it for a long time,” Annacone explained.
“With a huge long gap I think it’s a little bit more challenging for the older players to just bounce right back. Whereas a younger player I think has more fuel in the tank and their body has less miles on it. So in a long period the younger players actually can do a lot of hard work and come back perhaps a little bit physically better and a little bit more strategically tuned in.”

Annacone's view in this regard is diametrically opposite to that of Boris Becker and Todd Martin, who both feel the elongated break will benefit Roger Federer. There's a lot of uncertainty in the air right now, with even the experts disagreeing about the ramifications of the lock-down; all the fans can do is wait and see how things actually unfold when tennis is back.

Published 13 May 2020, 17:18 IST
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