By Steve Keating
TORONTO (Reuters) - Roger Federer celebrated his 29th birthday this week but the cagey Swiss said he was not too old to learn a few new tricks as he launched his North American hardcourt campaign with coach Paul Annacone at his side.
The 16-time grand slam winner came to the Toronto Masters with his wife, twin girls and Annacone -- the newest member of his compact entourage -- eager to finish an up-and-down year on a high note with a victory at the U.S. Open in September.
Federer has spent much of his prime years working alone, but a crushing quarter-final exit at the All England Club, some stagnating play and a lower ranking convinced him it was time for some fresh thinking.
"I've always questioned myself in the best of times and in the worst of times, even though there were not many bad moments the last seven years or so," Federer told reporters on Monday.
"But I always look at new ways I can improve. Paul, I think, with his experience can bring something to our team and that's what we're exploring right now."
Federer would not elaborate on the status of his working relationship with Annacone, who also coached Pete Sampras and Tim Henman, but said he would likely wait until after the U.S. Open before deciding whether to keep him on a full-time basis.
The well-rested Swiss is spending plenty of time with Annacone on the Toronto hardcourts opting not to play doubles in order to focus on working with the American.
"I've always gotten along very well with Paul, him being obviously the coach of Sampras and Henman who were sort of friends to me," said Federer. "So I thought it was a good time to do a test and this is our first test tournament."
Federer insists he is not a control freak, but from the outside the Swiss seems in complete control of every aspect of his life on the court and off.
Since parting ways with Peter Lundgren in 2003, Federer has not employed a full-time coach, opting instead to work with a string of high-profile part-timers including Australians Tony Roche, Darren Cahill and Spaniard Jose Higueras.
Annacone will be courtside when Federer, Toronto champion in 2004 and 2006, begins play on Tuesday with a second-round match against Argentina's Juan Ignacio Chela.
"I know I can handle a lot by myself but obviously at this stage now I do need help from all sorts of sides because my family has grown and the business is much bigger," said Federer.
(Editing by Frank Pingue)