The Serve and Volleying Life of Paul Annacone

The East Hamptoner has written his first book, 'Coaching for Life'
Paul Annacone, left, said if Scott Rubenstein, E.H.I.T.’s managing partner, had availed himself 30 years ago of the advice in “Coaching for Life,” he would have defeated him in shuffleboard at Orange Lake. Jack Graves

It took a long time to complete. Almost 15 years. But for the East Hamptoner Paul Annacone, finishing and publishing his first book was a lifelong accomplishment. 

Titled “Coaching for Life,” the book is an autobiographical look at his journey, starting on the tennis courts of Sag Harbor, where his parents taught him and his brother, Steve, to play, and exploring his life as a top-ranked tennis player and coach to some of the game’s best players, including Roger Federer and Pete Sampras. But it also goes beyond the tennis courts as an aid to those looking to perfect their own formulas for growth and success.

“I actually had the idea for the book starting back in 1995, when I first started working with Pete,” Annacone said Sunday morning at the tennis club in Sag Harbor’s Mashashimuet Park that his brother runs. “There would be stretches and years I would take time off from it, but I always kept notes when I was coaching, and I was finally able to find the time to get it finalized over the past year or two. The response has been great so far.”

After graduating from East Hampton High School in 1981, Annacone attended the University of Tennessee and was named all-S.E.C. and all-American all three years of his college career with the Volunteers, amassing a 115-22 career singles record. A serve-and-volleyer, Annacone played on the Association of Tennis Professionals tour until 1992, finishing with a career singles win-loss record of 157-131 in Grand Slam, Grand Prix, and A.T.P. tour events. He won three singles titles and was a Wimbledon quarterfinalist in 1984. He was also during his touring years one of the top doubles players in the world, partnering primarily with Christo van Rensburg of South Africa.

Annacone has dedicated the book to his mother and father for getting him started in the game, but also credits his brother, his coach for more than seven years on the tour during which he achieved his career-best singles ranking of 12th in the world in 1985. 

“I never could have done this without the support and strength of my family,” Annacone said. His father, Dominic, “was the principal of Pierson High School here in Sag Harbor for many years, had his Ph.D., and took education very seriously. So, I think he’s proud of what I was able to do. But I also wanted to formally document my experiences for my whole family especially.”

“But the book is not so much about the sport of tennis as much as it is a process-oriented journey based on the sport of tennis,” he added. “It’s really the life I have lived, and the front-row seat from which I have watched some of the greatest players compete on the most majestic courts in the world. But it is also something that can be applied to our own day-to-day life.”

Living near Los Angeles now and spending upward of 18 weeks on the road takes its toll, but Annacone has had a chance to rest up on the East End the past few weeks before he gears up for some book signings at the U.S. Open, which starts Monday. He’ll also be an on-air commentator for the Tennis Channel. He held book signings at the East Hampton Indoor-Outdoor Tennis Club on Saturday and at BookHampton in East Hampton on Tuesday.

In the copy he signed for Scott Rubenstein, E.H.I.T.’s managing partner, Annacone said if Rubenstein had availed himself of the book’s advice 30 years ago he would definitely have beaten him in shuffleboard at Orange Lake. 

Annacone said that living close to the Tennis Channel studio in Los Angeles was very convenient. “The other travel does take a lot these days, but it’s always great to be back home here,” he said, pointing to the courts where he learned to play. “And the U.S. Open in New York is always so exciting. The crowds are loud and are so into it as well.” 

He believes that Federer, his former pupil, who at the age of 35 captured both the Australian and Wimbledon titles this year, has a great chance to get his 20th Grand Slam title in Flushing Meadows. “I talked to Roger the other day and he sounded very good. He took some time off and he is clearly one of the favorites. It would be an amazing accomplishment if he wins.”

It’s unclear if Annacone offered him some tips and advice. But Federer does have a copy of the book.