Podcast - Paul Annacone

Getting to the top of any industry takes a ton of hard work, preparation, and dedication to one's craft. Look no further than tennis coaching, where many voices exist in pursuit of improving the tennis landscape. At the top of the mountain stands a few select individuals who have broken through and made a difference in cultivating greatness at the pro level.

Paul Annacone belongs on every top coaching list, as he has helped players across four decades get the most out of their abilities and their careers. He joined Kamau Murray, another member of the elite coaching set, for an hour long chat on the Podcast that expanded on some of his experiences, philosophies, and ideas for bettering the game and profession they both know and love.


Annacone started his tennis journey as a high-level player, where he had a very respectable pro career that saw him peak at No. 12 in the singles rankings. But he saw the game at an expert level, and was drawn to the coaching ranks where he excelled at a nearly unprecedented rate. He started coaching Pete Sampras in 1995, and was with him for nine major titles. He coached Roger Federer from 2010-13, and the Swiss Maestro won a Wimbledon title and returned to the No. 1 ranking during that span.

Annacone was able to use transfer wisdom through teaching methods, and his core coaching philosophy is based on three pillars.

"The individual is made up of three things. Their head, which is how they process stuff, how they figure out and problem solve. Their heart, how well they can unconditionally compete. And then their physical attributes," he reflected.

After digesting every bit of those components in his mind, then it was time to transfer the knowledge: "My philosophy is, how simply after that can I say what I need to say, the way they need to hear it."

My philosophy is, how simply after that can I say what I need to say, the way they need to hear it. Paul Annacone

Sampras and Federer are of the greatest players to ever pick up a racquet, but as Annacone explains, they couldn't have been more different to coach. Sampras fit into Annacone's "magician" category, in the sense that he could process information very quickly and didn't necessarily need a lot of repetition to master certain elements of his game.

Federer, on the other hand, wanted to be coached and instructed thoroughly, with the caveat that he would challenge the methods and force Annacone to defend the reasons for his tactics. "I've never seen a guy happier on a tennis court," Annacone said in regards working with Federer during countless practice sessions.

"The most important thing [with each player] is they knew themselves really well. Pete knew exactly how he wanted to be to achieve his goals, and Roger knew exactly how he needed to be to achieve his goals. Very different, but it worked for them."


As the interview shifts to the current day, Murray asks Annacone about his current pupil, top ranked American male Taylor Fritz. What is it about the SoCal native that has enabled him to separate from the pack of highly talented young Americans? Annacone's answer was insightful and nuanced—which is to be expected from the coach who has become a polished TV broadcaster as well.

"He's the best player mentally of that age, that I've seen out there," he stated. "My job is to give the players the tools to figure out what happens when you're under adversity."

Fritz loves to problem-solve, and shares a similar disdain for on-court coaching as Annacone does. It was the best professional year for the player but not one free of adversity or tight matches. It's no secret that in big moments and tense environments, Fritz was able to hone in on the task at hand and compete unconditionally.

My job is to give the players the tools to figure out what happens when you're under adversity. Paul Annacone


Annacone has had the coaching run of a lifetime, but over the course of this episode you can start to understand why he's sought after by many of the top players. He adapts his style to fit the individual, rather than sticking a square peg into a round whole and stick to rigid techniques for everyone. Murray engages in a great discussion about ways to grow the game, how to develop the younger generation of talent, and even the topic of pro coaches passing the game on to their children.

Every time Paul Annacone speaks about tennis, you can't help but learn something. So on this episode of the Podcast with Kamau Murray, prepare to listen and learn.