Roig: ‘Rafa Is Playing Without Any Weaknesses’

Photo :|08-Jul-2019 18:29

Nadal’s coach revels in Spaniard’s performances thus far at Wimbledon

After a week of continuous buzz and bustle, the All England Club has gone silent — for one day, at least. Apart from organisers of The Championships, some machine operators and one section of the grounds, a small area of SW19 is mostly empty and eerily quiet.

It’s in Aorangi Park, which houses the practice courts, where the action is contained on the day that’s affectionately known as ‘Middle Sunday’. Here, former players can be found mingling with rising juniors; the professionals, who remain in the draw, are tweaking their game in hopes of advancing deeper into the tournament and ultimately lifting the trophy.

Ahead of the business end of the grass-court major, Francisco Roig has been working hard with Rafael Nadal, the two-time former champion. When their session is complete, Roig took time to discuss Nadal’s progress through the first three rounds at Wimbledon with

Kudos to Nadal for a solid showing against Tsonga
The match against [Jo-Wilfried] Tsonga was one of precision and controlled intensity. Rafa maintained a state of fluidity throughout, and it makes matters difficult for his opponents when he’s in that kind of groove. His return was on point and his serves were on target. Rafa is playing without any weaknesses; even Tsonga commented he wasn’t sure where to attack or what to do. If a player like Tsonga can’t figure out how to handle Rafa, that says something about his game. No one has found a solution.

“I feel like I have a lot more match play on grass than just three contests” — Nadal
Well put! I wasn’t aware he said that or even felt that way. He really seemed to be enjoying himself on the court during the match versus Tsonga. He wouldn’t say what he said if he wasn’t having a great time. Some matches are tougher than others; you don’t always emerge unscathed, even if you walk off the court with the win. In those circumstances, Rafa wouldn’t be as upbeat. All went according to plan on Saturday, though. He has a clear vision in his head of what he wants to do, and he’s been able to dictate play on his terms so far.

Nadal’s serve is clicking, and the results reflect that
We tweaked his stance a little bit; we’re trying to find a balance between getting the service just over the net at a higher success rate, while dropping the percentage of times he faults or lets by hitting the tape. We’re achieving the intended results by positioning his feet slightly differently. There was some doubt about the adjustments we made earlier in the year. At the Australian Open and during the clay-court season, we modified the start of his service motion. At Wimbledon, we’ve made alterations specific to grass-court play. We haven’t had much time to adapt to this surface, so comfort was key to the approach. It’s all about keeping Rafa calm, comfortable and in a position to generate power. We’ve been rehearsing and we’re happy with the results.

Nadal no longer looks out of place on grass
This is just another example of how Rafa believes he can take adjustments he’s made during training, then step on the court and put those adjustments to use. The better he’s prepared and the harder he works, the smoother things go during matches. Right now, Rafa feels he has everything covered; he doesn’t feel there are any cracks in his game. That reflects well on us as a team. He’s always going to have the skill; it’s about being ready for anything and having the right mindset going into any situation. This is especially so on grass but even on clay, there are moments when things aren’t going his way, but he can fall back on what he’s learned during training to carry him through. With all the work he’s done, I go into every match believing things will go Rafa’s way and that he can win.

Has this been one of Nadal’s toughest first weeks at Wimbledon?
In terms of opponents, yes. In previous years, he’s played [Karen] Khachanov [2017 third round], [Mikhail] Kukushkin [2018 first round] and Alex de Minaur [2018 third round]... all demanding matches, all before the fourth round. I think the fact that he played [Nick] Kyrgios so early this year overshadowed the fact he’s had tough early round matches in previous years. When he arrives healthy to Wimbledon, all he needs is a few days to prepare and he’s set for a good start to the tournament. It also allows us to set our sights on loftier goals later in the tournament.