After a solid career as a player, Paul Annacone became Pete Sampras' coach in 1995, guiding his compatriot towards tennis glory. In 2010, Annacone got the opportunity to work with another legend, Roger Federer, winning the title at Wimbledon 2012 together.
Sampras and Federer are among the best players in history, both overall and on grass surface, sharing 15 Wimbledon trophies and dominating the cathedral of tennis in different eras. Being familiar with both players' games and tactics, Annacone said that Sampras' strength primarily evolved from his booming initial shot, capable of delivering his best serves when it mattered the most.
On the other hand, Federer has both the incredible serve and the ability to take the ball early from every part of the court and rush to the net in no time. The coach explained both Sampras and Federer have high confidence, especially in those clutch moments and under pressure.
With no intensions to compare eras, Annacone said they are both the leading players of their generations when it comes to grass tennis, ready to accommodate and always deliver their best tennis. "Pete's is obviously his serve; he is probably the best clutch server or serve-game holder that I've ever seen," Annacone told ATPTour.
"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 is very different from most people.
I think that's the difference. Roger rushes you from the back of the court by good court position and first-strike tennis, while Pete overwhelms you with his serve. They were the two best grass-court players of their own eras and the grass courts played very differently in those times.
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.
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. Both of those guys were amazing at that. 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.
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. I don't like to compare eras because I just think the great players are going to figure it out.
Tennis has changed. I just think the great players figure it out, they know what to do, and they would've adapted to different circumstances if they were in that era."