One day after Sloane Stephens was ousted by Maria Kirilenko in the Wimbledon first round the word on the street is that she and her latest coach, Paul Annacone, have terminated their relationship.
Stephens tapped Annacone as her latest guru in January meaning they worked together for all of six months. Truth be told, Annacone was not the ideal coaching personality for Stephens.
There’s no question Annacone has the goods to coach the greats — he’s already done so with Pete Sampras, Tim Henman and Roger Federer. But they were guys in the midst of incredible careers when Annacone came into the picture , which required very different coaching talents. For one thing, none of the threesome required much motivational pep talks as they were eager and disciplined enough on their own.
Stephens presented a different challenge for Annacone.
She is young and is still somewhat naive about the ways of the tour and of a top player. That creates a situation where she needs guidance to feel out the best formula to realize her full potential. She also needs a different coaching style, someone with a more authoritarian voice who can explain that the six consecutive at least fourth-round Grand Slam showings she had until yesterday (Monday) at Wimbledon didn’t really cut it in the full picture. She is still a neophyte and needs to be pushed harder by a no-nonsense kind of guy.
Stephens has a few weeks before she next appears on court at the Washington D.C. tournament. She was contemplating some time off for a vacation and at the very least is taking a few sightseeing days here in London. Presumably Stephens will be contemplating some Annacone replacements, although for the time being she will work within the USTA program.
At one time in her young days she worked with Nick Saviano, who was a perfect coach to guide her game. Unfortunately, she’s not likely to be able to rekindle that arrangement as Saviano is the force behind the ever-impressive Eugenie Bouchard of Canada, who has now reached the semifinals at this year’s Australian and French Opens.
One door she might try to knock on really hard is Larry Stefanki’s. A no-nonsense kind of character, Stanki is a task master and has a great grasp of the game. He has the personality Stephens could thrive under. The big question would be if he is willing to forget that he promised that Andy Roddick was going to be his last touring player he coaches as he didn’t want to travel anymore.