Roger Federer made a dramatic move last week. Not in the world rankings, no; his drift is a gentle one, down and down; but in dismissing his coach of the past three-plus years, Paul Annacone.
By his standards, Federer has endured a miserable year. One victory, at Halle, no grand slam finals, the end of his nine-year streak of making the quarter-finals of every slam, a loss last week to Gael Monfils in his first tournament since the US Open.
Federer was 29 and had slipped to world No 3 when he hired Annacone in August 2010. The Swiss said the goals he and Annacone set out were winning another major and regaining the No 1 ranking. Both were achieved. Many pundits had assumed Federer was a spent force, but he won Wimbledon in 2012 and rose to No 1 for the third time, and stayed there for four months on the strength of several strong tournaments.
That may turn out to be his last hurrah. Federer is 32, his form has been shaky the whole of 2013, and his ranking will sag even more, absent a sudden revival, because he has hundreds of points to defend, in the coming weeks. He could yet fall out of the top eight and lose his place in the ATP World Tour Finals, next month.
Annacone is no tyro; he was the coach of Pete Sampras and Tim Henman during some of their best times. Federer’s hope that replacing Annacone (perhaps with Swiss Davis Cup coach Severin Luethi) seems rather like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.