Friday, January 3, 2014

Has Paul Annacone ever coached a woman?

I’m truly asking. Because it’s that time of year. The coaching carousel has been set in motion once again. Can’t stand roller coasters myself but I love carousels. All that hopping on and hopping off, breaking up and making up, so much tension and excitement as we wait with bated breath to see who will end up with whom.

So Tsonga has finally gotten rid of Roger Rasheed. Good riddance. But Rasheed, a born survivor like any good cockroach, has already landed in Grigor Dmitrov’s lap. Poor sap. Then Wozniacki hired Hogstedt – which means that her large engagement rock is not going to impede her ability to hold a racket. One can only hope.

But Djokovic won the day when he stunned everyone with his announcement of his hiring of Boris Becker. Boris fricking Becker!!! I’m honestly not sure what to make of this. I mean I think that Becker is a super talented fount of tennis knowledge. But what exactly does he have to bring to the Djokovic stable that said stable doesn’t already have? Boozing? Screwing women in cupboards? Daring to date across racial lines? I am truly scratching my head on this one.

Not all of the coaching changes are made by the players themselves, of course. Coaches have been known to fire players whom they perceive as wasting their time. Gasquet recently found himself unceremoniously dumped by Riccardo Piatti after a two-year partnership that took the Frenchman to his second year-end tournament. I hope that working part-time with Grosjean turns out to be enough.

To be honest, I actually look forward to this annual shake-up and resettling. I think it’s good for tennis. I wish more women had shots at coaching these pros of course, but I also understand that we remain in the disadvantage in all sports dominated by penises. Male coaches tend to get the choice picks. That’s the stark truth.

Which is why it was with interest that I read the news that Sloane Stephens has hired Paul Annacone on a trial basis. Because do let’s be honest, Annacone likely had his pick of any of the top male players. He is a highly respected coach with a history of outstanding achievement with top male players. Like Sampras and Federer. And yet he elected to go for a trial with a young Black woman, at the relative start of her career, who has never even won a WTA event. What gives? Is Annacone seeing the potential in Sloane that I saw when I first met her at the US Open Juniors?

I couldn’t wait to talk about this with my tennis pals over lunch.

Let me digress by saying that I am surrounded by Sloane haters. They cannot forgive her for speaking out against Serena. I gave her crap about this at the time too, but I also eventually remembered that she was only 19. When I was her age I said plenty of stupid things too. The difference between Sloane and myself is that ESPN had no interest in publishing any of my remarks, then or now.

And I have since thought – once I got over my rage towards Sloane – that if I were a 12 year old African-American girl tennis player, and I had waited hours to meet the Williams Sisters, and they had walked by me several times and blown me off – that perhaps I too would have felt bitter. The difference between Sloane and myself is that I am incapable of holding on to negative feelings for so long. Which is why I have forgiven her and have gone back to wishing her well.

But my friends can’t let it go. So over lunch today, when I brought up the whole hiring-of-Annacone thing, all of their comments were about how Annacone could never, ever come close to pulling off what Patrick Mouratoglou has done with Serena.  

(Part 1 of 2)


happygeek said...

"So Tsonga has finally gotten rid of Roger Rasheed. Good riddance."

Rasheed's resume looks impressive...what's he like in real life that life on paper doesn't reveal?

happygeek said...

...makes me worry about Dimitrov now...of course, Dimitrov hasn't hired him for life... :-)

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