Thanks a lot to Tony for sharing his story and pictures!
It was another memorable evening for me at the BNP Paribas Open. Last night’s Roger Federer practice is probably my second favorite encounter with him since I started attending the tournament in 2008 — my favorite being the time in 2014 when he walked over after practice and sign my RF hat.
Things started off a little crazy. Fans camped out for hours on Practice Court 1 after they saw Federer’s name on the morning’s practice schedule for a 7 pm session. I arrived there about an hour and a half before, thinking I would get a seat, but the bleachers surrounding the court were full, and no one was budging from what was prime real estate in the Coachella Valley at that moment. So, I decided to wait along the fence of the adjacent practice lawn where the players pass on their way to practice. During this time, I tweeted my frustration to the tournament, saying that they should move Roger to an empty stadium court so everyone can see. 7 pm comes around and no Roger. 7:15 pm comes around, and still no Roger. Then there was a rumbling like you hear during a distant desert earthquake. Apparently, word had spread that Roger was actually on Stadium Court 3, so that rumbling turned into a stampede of people leaving the bleachers en masse like a heard of wild animals. When I realized what was happening, I took off running with the pack like one of those girls you see in a Beatles documentary from the 1960s. And here is what I got: prime second row seating and these photos of the greatest tennis player of all time! Enjoy!
Thanks a lot to Tony for sharing his story and pictures!
The NextGenATP players are here to help with the draw and so am I at the BNP Paribas Open.
Taylor Fritz, Daniil Medvedev, Borna Coric, Karen Khachanov, Reilly Opelka, Stefan Kozlov:
Picking Federer in the Men’s Main Draw, so you can thank me if that 4th Round Roger/Rafa match happens!
Interview by El Espanol, translation by Tennis Buzz
Within a year, you took Milos Raonic to his first Grand Slam final at Wimbledon, in addition to helping him climb from world number 14 to number 3. Why split?
One of the reasons is that I traveled too many weeks with Raonic in 2016, way more than I thought. I did about 18 weeks, many, many. In addition, I played several Champions Tour tournaments (the retired players’ circuit) and the IPTL (International Premier Tennis League). And it was a bit complicated for me. I traveled too much considering my family situation, being married with three children.
How did the opportunity to train Nadal appear?
Toni Nadal called me when I was playing IPTL. He knew that I was no longer with Raonic and asked me if I wanted to be part of the team and also of the academy. I said that in principle yes, but I needed to talk to Rafa. I wanted to know his level of involvement first. I could imagine it, but I needed to hear it from his own voice. I needed to know if he was willing to do everything to win back Grand Slam tournaments, to become world number one again … And yes, he did have a lot of predisposition, hunger and hope. For me, that was fundamental.
Did you really think you would not end up sitting in his box? I do not believe it…
No, it’s the absolute truth. It was always clear to me that he would end his career with Toni and Francis Roig, I never thought I would take the plunge. In any case, I am a person who comes from outside, but I am the least external that Nadal could have found. I think that has been something decisive. Rafa does not like changes, either in his life or in his environment. That’s why he accepts someone who knows that environment even before he works with him. Toni, Joan Forcades (physical trainer), Benito (head of press) …
Although I am still an outsider who sees different things, someone who he has trusted in the past as a friend. And I think the year I’ve done with Milos helps that, to take the plunge. Previously, Rafa could think that I did not want to travel. I think, but I don’t for sure, to see that I have traveled with Milos and that he has done well, it reassured him.
You have been a close friend of Nadal for a long time. Have you ever coach him without being his coach?
Never. Obviously we have talked about tennis, but I never stepped on that ground. It was a way for me to respect his team. If he had asked me something I may have said it, but I have not called Rafa to tell him to play a rival in a way or to train something in particular. That was not my place. I did not do it during the years I was alone, nor when I was with Raonic, logically. But of course we were in contact. He is my friend. I have a lot of affection and I want the best for him.
You come from helping to grow a player who has a huge margin of improvement. And now?
The focus is different, it has nothing to do. Raonic has not reached his limit, he has not reached his full potential. And Nadal is the other way around. He has come fully, but he wants to get closer to that higher level. One has not won anything big and the other has 14 Grand Slam tournaments. One has two years in the elite and the other more than 15. It has nothing to do, although the requirement will be the same.
If you miss Grand Slam finals you will see that you are still struggling for those titles. If during the next big eight does not pass eighth … because logically is not going to be good, will not enjoy. Sincerely, I see Nadal to fight for the maximum.
Won’t you have problems with all the travels?
I will do between 12 and 15 weeks this season. Rafa knows my family situation and respects it. And he wants me to be in his day to day and that I am part of the academy, which is a very important project for him. In the end, one of the keys is that I am in Mallorca and that will make it easier for us to be together.
Why has Nadal stopped winning?
2015 and 2016 are very different. In 2015, Rafa recognized that it was a mental problem, of pressure, of anxiety. In 2016, those problems were overcome and when he was at his best he was injured. After the injury he hurried up to play the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, but when I asked him about it he told me he would do the same because he won the gold medal.
He came back with pains, doubts, matches he had to win and he lost them … all that took his confidence away. He finished the year a little burned out because he could not have continuity due to those injuries. They are two different cases, although I prefer 2016. What happened last season is different and very surmountable, as long as he is not injured.
During this time, has he lost more edge in his forehand or his backhand?
The backhand can keep you in the game, but what will make you win a Grand Slam is to do the difference with the forehand. He has to recover the pace that he had, with which he suffocated the opponent.
And the physic condition?
He is not failing physically. Those who are playing the best tennis on the tour are older. Murray is being number one for the first time at age 29.
But he runs less than before, much less.
On the one hand, you’re less explosive when you get older, but if you’re 18, you’re number one and if you’re still playing at 30, you evolve. The rivals know you and they adapt. What you lose physically you gain with the knowledge of how the game in particular and tennis in general works.
It is also true that when you are older you lose audacity, perhaps because of the unconsciousness of youth, that you go crazy and things come to you. At 30 you think things over. You lose one thing and win in others, it is what is called experience.
Your coaching job officially starts in a few days, despite the fact that it started last week in Manacor. What does it mean to train Nadal?
Training Nadal is the greatest challenge I will ever have, the biggest challenge in my entire coaching career. First, for what Rafa means. Second, because I will never be able to train someone as big as him. And thirdly, for what we have lived together, what we have lived on the court and out of it. No challenge will be able to match this one. And I’m prepared for it, I’m going to impact on many things that can improve on the court, but also out of it.
Photo credit: Tennis Buzz
Former French Sports Minister Roselyne Bachelot said on French TV last March that “it is known that the injury of Rafael Nadal, which lasted seven months, was probably because of a positive control”. Nadal filled a lawsuit against Bachelot last month. Here are a few extracts from l’Equipe Magazine’s interview in which the 9-time Roland Garros champion talks about the doping accusations.
Why he filled a lawsuit:
Someone who is supposed to be serious, responsible, can not say those things without any proof, citing someone who’s not on the tour anymore and who has been banned for life (former player Daniel Köllerer). I am not afraid, but my credibility and sport’s credibility in general are at stake. No one can say things like that without information, so the only way to stop such unfounded statements is to take legal action. I have full confidence in French justice.
His reaction to Bachelot’s accusations:
I am serene. What she said can not hurt me because I know all the work I’ve done to be where I am today. On the contrary, for the people who know nothing about that and hear Bachelot’s accusations, it’s shocking. It damages the image of my sport, my image, and I can no longer tolerate it. I worked so hard throughout my career, always ensuring respect for my true values, applying to give everything every day.
On doubts about his physical playing style:
Maybe my way of playing encourages ill-intentioned people to think certain things. It’s unfair and it’s a lack of respect for my daily work. Some players hit harder than me, others are stronger physically, others even mentally. You need to have all those qualities to be the best. But I’d never put in doubts anyone.
About French players’ support:
I go very well with all the French players and I was heartened by their support. We are together on the tour, we see each other in the locker rooms everyday and we know each other well. I appreciated.
About his confidence in the anti-doping system:
I believe in my opponents. I am sure players I face are clean. Simply because I believe in the anti-doping system.
On his request to the ITF to publish all his drug-test results:
We’re in the middle of a lawsuit and my lawyers intend to use the results for my defence. They advised me to wait until the end of the lawsuit before publishing them. Once the legal procedure is behind me, I will share them. AnNd I’m sure that in a near future that’s something that will happen all the time. It would be a great way to show that our sport is clean. Today, it’s essential for its image that we are as transparent as possible.
On whether there are enough doping tests:
I can not say if there are enough tests or not. What matters is that everything has to be made public.
Interview by Georges Homsi for l’Equipe Magazine, translation by Tennis Buzz. Photo credit: Tennis Buzz.
Andy Murray announced his ‘mutually agreed’ split from coach Amélie Mauresmo earlier this month. In an interview with l’Equipe Magazine, Mauresmo explains the reasons behind the end of their partnership. She also talks about the Fed Cup, and various things she already discussed in previous interviews like her view on Grand Slams format and lack of winning culture in France.
Here are a few extracts (interview by Romain Lefebvre and Franck Ramella, translation by Tennis Buzz):
Q: We would like to know more about your split with Andy Murray
I had the feeling we had felt the end of road professionally. It was concluded that it would be difficult to continue. I reduced a bit my number of weeks of presence since the Australian Open and we spent little time together. It happened to be a difficult period for him and I couldn’t help him. But this decision (to end the partnership) was initiated some time ago.
Q: For what reasons?
I don’t want to go into details. Everybody could see some things.
Q: In particular you no longer sat in Murray’s box in Miami?
I no longer wished to be there. I wanted to try something else.
Q: Because of his behaviour on court?
Andy is complex. On a court he can be the complete opposite of what he is in life. It can be confusing. I was there to help him. I had the feeling we could not make progress anymore.
Q: What is your assessment of this experience?
It was a beautiful adventure. It broke down barriers in mens’ tennis. I was proud to be a pioneer. And it worked, thanks to respect and communication. I have good memories of his success on clay last year (titles in Munich and Madrid) while he had never won a title on this surface. I liked the way Andy works, I enjoyed working with his team. Andy has great listening and analysis capacities. He is curious, always looking. And that’s what makes great champions. It was a great challenge in which I put myself in danger. I accepted the job because I knew I could bring him most of the things he wanted. He had difficulties to communicate. He wanted someone able to listen to him. He also wanted to play more aggressively, near the baseline. He thought he could open up a bit more with a woman. Back then, he didn’t want to play anymore.
Photo credit: Tennis Buzz, Andy Murray practicing with Thanasi Kokkinakis, Roland Garros 2015
What a strange week for Andy Murray: it started with the announcement of his split with Amélie Mauresmo on Monday, and ended with a win over Novak Djokovic in the final of the Rome Masters on his 29th birthday.
The world number 2 had an impressive clay-court season: 1 semifinal in Monte Carlo (loss to Nadal), 1 final in Madrid (loss to Djokovic) and 1 title in Rome.
Djokovic, Murray and Nadal who shared the 3 clay-court Masters 1000 titles are the big favorites for Roland Garos, with Nishikori as a serious contender. Who do you think will win the title? please share your thoughts and follow our Roland Garros 2016 coverage.
Photo credit: Marianne Bevis