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Samprasfanz » Archives 2003 to 2011 » Annacone quits USTA to rejoin Sampras, stuns staff [Dec 21, 2002]

Annacone quits USTA to rejoin Sampras, stuns staff [Dec 21, 2002]

After overseeing a massive restructuring of the USA Tennis High Performance program that included dismissing its coaching staff, Managing Director Paul Annacone abruptly quit the organization on Thursday to resume coaching Pete Sampras full time, stunning some staffers who expected him oversee the program he worked so hard to reinvent.

“The coaches I talked to were pretty stunned,” one USTA staffer told “It was completely unexpected.”

Annacone, who joined the USTA in late 2001 after Sampras dismissed him, spent much of this year creating the USA Tennis High Performance national training center concept, which will begin operation next year at AEG’s sports complex in Carson, California, and add more staff and programs to its existing site in Key Biscyane, Florida.

Until November 2001 when he and Sampras parted ways, Annacone had coached Sampras for seven years. But after a mediocre 2001, Sampras decided to go in another direction, briefly hiring Tom Gullikson and then Jose Higueras to coach him. After a disastrous Wimbledon, he parted ways with Higueras and rehired Annacone to coach him through the US Open, which he won in sterling fashion.

Sampras has not played this fall and will skip the ’03 Aussie Open before beginning play at the ’02 Siebel Open in San Jose in February. After briefly considering retirement, Sampras is apparently planning another major assault on the Grand Slams next year. One of the reasons why he dismissed Higueras was that Higueras refused to join him full-time. That Sampras demanded the same out of Annacone is not out of the question.

“I’m sure that in his mind that he thinks that if he can stay focused like he di
d at the U.S. Open, he can win Roland Garros,” Annacone said of Sampras desire to win the one Grand Slam title that eludes him. “And I know how upset he was at Wimbledon. Those are the types of goals that can keep him going.”

Apparently Annacone was exhausted at the US Open from trying to do two significant jobs. However, he told in October that he was enthusiastic about continuing with both the USTA and Sampras.

Earlier this year, Annacone said that he planned on staying with the USTA for a significant period of time.

“This a lengthy process. There are a lot of issues we have to address,” Annacone told Inside Tennis’ Richard Osborn. “People have to believe in the direction we are going in. … The USTA is a big machine. Hopefully, it’s a long term commitment. It is on my part.”

In November, USA High Performance decided not to renew the contracts of any of its player development coaches and asked all of them to reapply for their jobs, with the exception of keeping on Director of Women’s Tennis Lynn Rolley and Director of Men’s Tennis Rodney Harmon.

The USTA has done way with the idea of having regional coaches work with juniors and young pros across the nation and instead will have all the coaches now reside near Carson (which is in Los Angeles County) and Key Biscayne.

“It was a little too decentralized,” Annacone said of the old structure. “We were giving too many mixed messages to coaches and players by having everyone so spread out with their responsibilities.”

USTA Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer Rick Ferman said that Annacone was the right person at the right time. “He was relentless in his pursuit of excellence in developing the foundation of our new direction,” Ferman said. “Paul’s efforts will have a lasting impact on our future High Performance efforts in the U.S.”

Annacone added, “We have begun to make great strides in elevating and re-energizing USA Tennis High Performance and a great plan is in place to help achieve the mission,” Annacone said. “The opportunity
to rejoin Pete at this time in his career is special for both of us, and an opportunity I could not pass up and one that requires full-time dedication.”

The USTA hasn’t yet begun the process of searching for a replacement of Annacone, but both longtime employees Harmon and Rolley figure to interview for the job.

By: Matthew Cronin


Filed under: Archives 2003 to 2011

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