Who could coach Roger Federer?

Oct 23, 2013, 12:00:00 AM

Who could be the next coach of Roger Federer? The MAG made a short-list of six names, with the pros and cons of what could (or couldn’t) happen with all of them.

Roger Federer announced the end of his collaboration with his coach, Paul Annacone. At 32, the Swiss is looking for someone that will accompany him in the final stretch of his career. We selected six prestigious names to do the job. In the lot, there might be a lucky winner. Or not.


Darren Cahill, the choice of... reason


The dream of every fan: the Rolls Royce of coaches for the Ferrari of players. Darren Cahill has built a solid reputation in a remarkably short period of time: two years to raise Lleyton Hewitt to the top - youngest world No. 1 in history, in 2001 - and two years to bring Andre Agassi back to his best - oldest world No.1 in history, in 2003. Since then, the master has been living off his legend and only gives a few occasional tips here and there, to the students who make the effort to come see him on the top of his mountain. The sage even said "no" to Roger Federer once, in 2009: The Swiss wanted to have him at his side all year round, when the Australian had no desire to spend his life in a hotel, even the most luxurious palace in Dubai. But this time, Cahill saw the oracle: he's convinced that Roger Federer will eventually steal Andre Agassi's position of patriarch of the world No. 1. So rather than see the Helvetian steal this place at the end of the table that, in a way, belongs to him too, he decides to accompany him in his last quest.


What’s going to happen: The Cahill method pays off, like a Jose Mourinho in football, with less arrogance: the first year to adapt, the second to win. 2014 is therefore an average year for the Swiss, who still gets stronger month after month, to end the year on a new triple Basel-BNP Paribas Masters-Masters. The FedExpress is launched: 2015 is the year of all successes, with a summer full of titles in his strongholds of Halle, Cincinnati and especially Wimbledon. Taking advantage of his rivals' injuries, Nadal and Djokovic, who played a marathon of 13h29 for their 72nd face-to-face in the final in Melbourne, he’s world No. 1 once again on the week of his 35th birthday. With a sense of accomplishment, Cahill immediately retires and end his collaboration with Federer. Even if the goal is met, the Swiss is secretly mortified: it's the first time that he's been dumped by a coach.


Toni Nadal, the choice of... the origin of evil


By transforming his nephew - originally right handed - to a left handed genius on the courts, uncle Toni has created ​​the perfect antidote to the crystalline Tennis of Roger Federer. Eager to fight fire with fire, the Swiss takes a strong decision and decides to approach the mentor of his best enemy, who has never hidden his admiration for the Helvetian. Laid off after yet another break of the Majorcan to recharge his damned bionic knee, Toni accepts the challenge.


What’s going to happen: For Toni Nadal, the relationship with his student exceeds the strict rectangle of the court. The coach, the player and his family are a clan. And in a clan, you travel together, you eat together, you live under the same roof... Except that if the situation is well accepted amongst the Nadals, Federer's clan is already characterized by the presence of a strong character: his wife Mirka. When Toni forces Federer to spend the winter in Majorca to work on the pre-season, and when the omnipresent uncle plants his sleeping bag next to the marital bed to ensure that Roger goes to bed at 9pm, the point of no return is met. Mirka explodes: it's her or Toni. The Swiss knows what he owes to the love of his life, and despite his victory at Roland Garros a few days earlier at the expense of Novak Djokovic, exit Toni Nadal. The sorcerer returns to Mallorca with his nephew. At least Xisca doesn’t complain.


Peter Lundgren, the choice of... "We were young and broad-shouldered"


You can never forget your first love. Roger Federer looks back and remembers the good old days. When he was winning all the little tournaments, when his back wasn't squeaky, when Nadal, Djokovic and Murray were only the "etcetera" of the rankings. Nostalgic, he then turns to the person who’s the most likely to remind him of those glorious memories: Peter Lundgren, the man who helped him tame his temper to become world No. 1. In recent years, Lundgren has also lost his mojo, by dint of failed experiences with Dimitrov Baghdatis and - Supreme curse - with the British Federation. Both of them then decide to pick up the thread of their glorious common history.


What's going to happen: You only remember the good memories, never the bad ones. If Roger Federer has won many titles with Lundgren, the everyday reality is there to remind him why he parted with him. Far from the image of the Nordic austerity, the Swede is a jovial fellow who loves going out, partying, celebrating successes rather than focusing immediately on the next goal. After a victory in the Masters to mark their reunion, Lundgren tells the Swiss: "Roger, you're too Swiss-German. Carpe diem!" Federer then accepts a beer to celebrate the victory. The drink leads to a pub-crawl in London and a sleepless night, then two... Obsessed by his career since his adolescence, Federer discovers the pleasures the night has to offer. Marc Rosset volunteers to help making up for lost time and takes the duo to the best clubs in the world. Federer isn't winning anymore, but he’s having a blast partying all night, every night. After being caught by the paparazzi at a Calvin Harris gig, Mirka decides to take matters in hand and end all this debauchery: she doesn't simply fire Lundgren, she calls another well-known coach, Tony Roche. The fun is over: the Australian septuagenarian gets Roger Federer back to work. A man who worked with ​​Ivan Lendl knows exactly how to deal with revellers.


Roger Rasheed, the choice of... the warlord


Grigor Dimitrov is used to see his coaches leave him for more mediatised players: after Patrick Mouratoglou who abandoned him for Serena Williams, it's Roger Rasheed who left him to take up the challenge of winning a major tournament with another Roger, Federer. But they might share a name, a big difference divides the two men. Or rather 17 differences, as the prize list of the Swiss in Grand Slam tournaments. For despite his convincing collaborations with Lleyton Hewitt, Gael Monfils and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Rotterdam is the greatest victory on the Australian’s prize list.


What's going to happen: Rasheed's method is famous: Working out, working out and working out some more. After so many hours spent lifting weights at the gym, the silhouette of Roger Federer changes, becomes heavier, beefy and muscular. The Swiss reaches the final of the Australian Open in January but it doesn't last long: he starts accumulating injuries to the hip as Lleyton Hewitt, in his right knee as Gael Monfils, and in his left knee as Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. In August he announces to everyone's amazement that he’s ending his career, worried to not be able to carry his daughters without an excruciating pain. He's 33. The small death of the athlete at the age of Christ. Tennis fans are crucified.


Pete Sampras, the choice of... the student who surpassed the master


Roger Federer has always said that Pete Sampras was his idol growing up. Born just a decade after his senior, Federer's career has often followed the footsteps of "Pistol Pete": reaching the World No. 1 spot at 22, diligent reigns at Wimbledon and at the U.S. Open, decline when facing the young guard in the year of his 30th birthday... before a surprised rebound past thirty. Besides, Federer did this last cycle with Paul Annacone... who was coaching Pete Sampras during the final seasons of his career. So this time, no more middle man: the Swiss directly goes for his idol.


What's going to happen: Proud like any champion, Pete Sampras loves nothing more than to see his pursuers in the legend fail. Just like Borg with Nadal, Sampras - whatever he may say - is furious to be dispossessed of all his records just a decade after establishing them. The American sees the opportunity to preserve one of the last acts of glory still in his property: his majestic exit, on a final winning point in the final of the U.S. Open. Forgetting deliberately that times have changed and that the current era is at the advantage of defenders, the eldest sells to his heir the recipe that allowed him to manage his unique feat: serve-and-volley on the first ball, serve-and-volley on the second ball, return and volley and never stop attacking. He also convinces Federer that the road to an 18th Grand Slam requires a defeating George Bastl that he challenges on the Future circuit, in Knokke-Heist. Out of the Top 10 for the first time since 2001, Federer arrives in perfect condition for the U.S. Open. But history facetiously stutters: Grigor “Baby Fed” Dimitrov eliminates the Swiss in the second round. Sampras exults. His revenge is complete.


Roger Federer, the choice of... the king


Who can pretend to know what's going on in the head or what awaits a man with a track record of 17 Grand Slams and six Masters? With this certainty, and knowing that his few equals in history are either dead - Tilden Gonzales - or medically fragile - Laver - Roger decides to continue by himself. After all, it's not the first time. He was alone in 2004, the year of the first of his three Little Slams, and also between May 2007 and July 2010, a period during which he won Roland Garros and exceeded the 14 major tournaments of Pete Sampras. With nine Grand Slams won without any other help than his wife Mirka, his fitness trainer Pierre Paganini and his friend Severin Lüthi, captain of the Swiss national team, Roger decides to be his own master once again.


What's going to happen: Proud like any champion, Roger likes nothing more than to prove his detractors wrong. He goes through the first six months as a ghost. So, when at everyone's surprise, he wins Wimbledon against Milos Raonic in July, his perfect communication strategy falls apart. The Swiss political correctness crushes under the weight of his eighth London trophy and proclaims: "I put the church back in the village centre. Wimbledon is mine!" As for Djokovic and Nadal: "If the ATP hasn’t made it so easy for them by deliberately slowing the playing conditions ten years ago, they wouldn't have had half of their accomplishments." Tennis legends? Daring to compare him with tennis in black and white, wooden racquets and courts limited to grass and clay... just silly. As for the press, nothing more than a bunch of sheep ready to burn what they loved and vice versa. And Federer, on fire, announces his retirement in the wake of Wimbledon, prophesying a grim future for tennis, deprived of its most brilliant star.


By Guillaume Willecoq