Federer's so gifted, you can't predict when he'll finish - former coach Paul Annacone
Paul Annacone speaks to Eurosport ahead of the Australian Open, and believes it would be foolish to speculate when Roger Federer will retire.
The American, who coached the 19-time Grand Slam winner between 2010 and 2013 after being in Pete Sampras' corner, believes that despite recently turning 36, you can never write-off the Swiss because he is such a special talent.
“I always feel like the legends, the icons, the all-time greats, are made from a different mould", he says. "So it’s always very treacherous to speculate when they are finished or able to make a comeback or not. I lived through that when I was working with Pete Sampras, so I am very cautious about any major proclamations about greats and their decline."
Annacone believes that Federer proved the doubters wrong, after failing to win a major title for four years from 2013 before taking two in 2017: the Australian Open and Wimbledon, where he became the oldest winner in the modern era at 35.
"With Roger, I always felt that he was so gifted and able to do so many things so comfortably that as long as he stayed healthy and driven and enjoyed what he was doing, there was no reason he couldn’t claw his way back," adds Annacone.
"Just prior to winning Wimbledon in 2012, he was right there in the top five and had a couple of very difficult losses, a couple of brutal matches to Novak [Djokovic]. I really felt in my heart of hearts it was all about him continuing to give himself those chances because he’s so good he was going to find a way to execute under pressure."
Federer is now favourite for the 2018 event in Melbourne, with former world No 1 Andy Murray pulling out with a hip injury and six-time champion Djokovic struggling with an elbow problem. Rafa Nadal, who Federer beat in the 2017 final, has also had issues with his knees leading into the event. And Annacone thinks fans should appreciate the skills on show, especially from his former charge, before they all retire.
“The thing with great athletes is we take for granted what they do. I’ve been involved with three athletes in Sampras, Henman and Federer and athletically they do things so easily around the court.
" It always looks so simple and easy. Roger is the quintessential superstar ballet player that happens to play tennis – it all looks easy, but there’s so much work that goes behind it to make those motor skills able to execute under pressure for long periods of time."
Despite many pundits, including John McEnroe, writing off Federer's Grand Slam chances, Annacone also believes his intelligence has been a crucial factor in his return to the top, with the Swiss tweaking his game to stay amongst the top stars.
“Roger has an ability to be mature and be very objective and also expansive in his thinking so that he is able to make sure that this messaging is similar, simple and unified," adds the American. "When you combine all of those ingredients with the massive talent that is Roger Federer, you get 19 majors and a career that is just incredible.”