Annacone Reveals Differences Between Federer & Sampras' Grass Games
Paul Annacone has coached the two men who have won more Wimbledon titles than anyone else: Roger Federer (8) and Pete Sampras (7). According to the former World No. 12, there are differences between what makes them great on grass.
“Pete’s is obviously his serve. To me, he’s probably the best clutch server or serve-game holder that I’ve ever seen,” Annacone told ATPTour.com. “I think that Roger is a little bit different because his serve is unbelievable, but the rest of his grass-court game in terms of his ability to take the ball early and just rush you so well, that is very different from most people. I think that’s probably the difference. Roger rushes you from the back of the court by good court position and first-strike tennis. Pete overwhelms you with his serve.”
While their games aren’t identical, Annacone believes Federer and Sampras share grass-court characteristics that helped them succeed.
“They were the two best grass-court players of their own eras and the grass courts played very differently in those times,” Annacone said. “Ultimately, they were incredibly confident and clear in big moments under pressure. In grass-court tennis, when you have such little time to adjust, both players were really good at thinking on their feet, and they ultimately trusted their games in the big moments.”
During the 1990s when Sampras dominated at Wimbledon, there was far more serve and volleying on grass. However, Annacone says grass-court tennis today revolves around the serve and first strike or return and first strike.
“You better be good from the get-go and be able to really set your tone about what your game plan and style is very early,” Annacone said. “Both of those guys were amazing at that.”
In recent years, players have been able to successfully adapt their games to grass. World No. 1 Novak Djokovic, who is not best known for his serve or first-strike tennis, has won five of the past 10 Wimbledon titles.
“You can play your own style on all the different surfaces and you couldn’t do that years ago with the same kind of success,” Annacone said. “Back in the day when Pete was doing it, it was more bang-bang tennis, and so I think things change and the evolution happens, but the best players learn to adapt.”
Would Federer dominate on grass during Sampras’ era and vice versa? According to Annacone, it's not so much about the era, but the player.
“I don’t really like to compare eras, because I just think the great players are going to figure it out," Annacone said. "The tennis has changed. I just think that great players figure it out, they know what to do, and they would’ve adapted to different circumstances if they were in that era.”