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
Only two days to go to the first Slam of the season! Who do you think will win? Check out her Australian Open 2017 preview:
Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic are once again the big favorites for the title.
5-time Australian Open finalist Andy Murray, who begins his campaign on Monday against 93-ranked Ilya Marchenko, has a quite easy route to the quarterfinals where he could meet Kei Nishikori or Roger Federer.
Novak Djokovic will launch his bid for a record seventh Australian Open title with a challenging first round match against Fernando Verdasco, who missed 5 match points against the Serb in Doha last week. Grigor Dimitrov could wait in the fourth round, before a clash against Dominic Thiem in the quarters.
The only two other players who could, in my opinion, capture the title this year are Stan Wawrinka and Milos Raonic. Unpredictable on the ATP tour, Wawrinka is always consistent come Grand Slam time; while Raonic has improved a lot in the last year and is not a one-weapon only player anymore.
Players to watch:
Rafael Nadal struggled to get back to form since his injury, but had a decent start of the season with a win at the Abu Dhabi exhibition and a quarterfinal in Brisbane. He could face Alexander Zverev in the third round, Gaël Monfils in the fourth round and Milos Raonic in the quarterfinals.
Roger Federer will play for the first time since last year’s Wimbledon. Seeded 17, he has not won a Slam title since Wimbledon 2012. He could face Tomas Berdych in the third round, and then Kei Nishikori and Andy Murray.
Andy Murray  – Kei Nishikori 
Stan Wawrinka  – Marin Cilic 
Gaël Monfils  – Milos Raonic 
Dominic Thiem  – Novak Djokovic 
First round matches to watch:
Nicolas Almagro – Jérémy Chardy
Jerzy Janowicz – Marin Cilic 
Dustin Brown – Milos Raonic 
Tommy Haas – Benoît Paire
Fabio Fognini – Feliciano Lopez 
Fernando Verdasco – Novak Djokovic 
Unlike the men’s draw, there is no clear favorite in the women’s draw, and it seems anything could happen.
Angelique Kerber had a dream season last year, with two Grand Slam titles and the world number one spot. She opens up her title defence with a match-up against Lesia Tsurenko and could play reigning Roland Garros champion Garbine Muguruza in the quarterfinals.
Serena Williams, who suffered a shock defeat to Madison Brengle in Auckland last week, will be chasing Grand Slam title number 23. Like Novak Djokovic, she will face a tough test in the first round: former world number 7 Belinda Becic.
The ever consitent Agnieszka Radwanska could finally win her maiden Slam title, while Karolina Pliskova and Garbine Muguruza will be looking to confirm their stand-out 2016 season.
Players to watch:
Finalist here in 2014, Dominika Cibulkova claimed her biggest title last October: the WTA Finals. She will look to pick up where she left off last year.
A surprising semifinalist last year, Johanna Konta reached the top ten since then, and won Sydney title, dismantling Radwanska in the final. She could do some damage in the draw.
Like Cibulkova, Svetlana Kuznetsova finished 2016 in great form. On a good day, she can beat anyone.
First round matches to watch:
Louisa Chiricio – Eugenie Bouchard
Mona Barthel – Destanee Aiava
Laura Siegemund  – Jelena Jankovic
Ana Konjuh – Kristina Mladenovic
Heather Watson – Sam Stosur 
Tsvetana Pironkova – Agnieszka Radwanska 
Kirsten Flipkens – Johanna Konta 
Yanina Wickmayer – Lucie Safarova
Belinda Bencic – Serena Williams 
Angelique Kerber  – Garbine Muguruza 
Simona Halep  – Svetlana Kuznetsova 
Karolina Pliskova  – Agnieszka Radwanska 
Dominika Cibulkova  – Serena Williams 
Photo credit: Australian Open instagram
Stan Wawrinka: there’s a new champ in New York. The Swiss struggled to get past the first rounds, losing a few sets here and there and saving a match point in the third round. But he stepped up in the semifinals against Nishikori and outplayed Djokovic in the final. 3 Grand Slam finals, 3 titles.
Karolina Pliskova: before this tournament, she had not passed the third round in her 17 previous Grand Slams appearances. She took down Venus Williams and top-seeded Serena Williams to reach her first Grand Slam final.
— Karolina Pliskova (@KaPliskova) September 11, 2016
Caroline Wozniacki: she’s two years younger than Kerber but it seems she’s been on the circuit for ever. She beat Svetlana Kuznetsova and Madison Keys en route to the semifinals.
“I came into this tournament ranked No. 74 in the world and probably people ruled me out, but it’s nice to prove people wrong once again.”
Lucas Pouille: he reached the quarterfinals after 5-sets marathon wins over Chiudinelli, Bautista Agut and Rafael Nadal. He seems to be the only French player to have both the game and the attitude. A player to watch out next year.
Laura Siegemund and Mate Pavic: they had never met before this tournament. They teamed up to win the mixed doubles title defeating CoCo Vandeweghe and Rajeev Ram in the final.
“It’s really kind of a blind date.”
Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares: they joined forces at the beginning of the season and won 2 Slam titles (the Australian and US Opens) since then.
Garbine Muguruza: the French Open champion was knocked out of the tournament by Anastasija Sevastova in the second round.
“Today was just very difficult. Everything I was trying to do she was coming back and doing incredible shots.”
Aga Radwanska: overpowered by 18-year old Ana Konjuh in the quarterfinals. The question is no more “when will she win her maiden Slam” but rather “will she ever win a Slam”.
Andy Murray: beaten by Nishikori in a bizarre match, he seemed mentally tired. He’ll now focus on the Davis Cup semifinals against Argentina.
“I tried my best. I fought as hard as I could with what I had. I didn’t let anyone down — certainly not myself. I pushed myself as hard as I could over the last few months, and I’m very proud of how I have done.”
Milos Raonic: a shock defeat to qualifier Ryan Harrison in the second round. His explanation: cramps due to nervousness, (nervous to play Ryan Harrison?).
Marin Cilic: the 2014 champion looked like a title contender again but surprisingly fell to Jack Sock in the third round.
Gaël Monfils: what on earth was he doing against Novak Djokovic? Not sure he knows it himself. What a waste of talent.
Bernard Tomic: nothing to add.
She started the year ranked number 10 with a large defeat to Victoria Azarenka in the final of the Brisbane tournament. A couple weeks later she stunned Azarenka and Serena to win the Australian Open.
Fast forward 8 months Angelique Kerber is now the new number one and took home a second Slam trophy.
Is it the beginning of a new era for women’s tennis?
Photo credit: Satoshi Tsuboi
The two main stadiums here are called Arthur Ashe and Louis Armstrong. One I love, the other I have never felt comfortable on. I just don’t like Armstrong and never have. Each time I’ve played on it I’ve struggled, and the 2012 championship was a case in point. I started strongly enough, beating Alex Bogomolov and Ivan Dodig in the first two rounds on Ashe and then had to play Feliciano Lopez of Spain over on Armstrong. And the jinx almost held because I couldn’t really settle properly. It can get breezy on the big courts; on Ashe it generally blows from the President’s Box end and you get used to that, but on Armstrong, where there’s no sense of being enclosed, the wind swirls and moves in different directions. You are most exposed to the sun playing day matches on Armstrong, too, and it can be so bright that tracking the ball gets really hard.
The grandstand in the Arthur Ashe Stadium gives more shelter from the wind and it’s built so that the sun moves across early in the day, providing plenty of shadow and shade. On Armstrong the sun is on the players for the whole day and it’s really intense. That made it difficult for me to settle, but the fact is that Lopez is not much fun to play. He had Alex Corretja, a former coach of mine, in his box.
As a result, I struggled physically, but somehow it was one of those matches that I found a way to win. I didn’t feel right at all, but somehow I got through. I used to be able to do that a lot of times in all the regular tournaments I played on tour and managed to get a really high degree of consistency throughout the year. However in the Slams that wasn’t necessarily the case. Now I’ve learned how to cope in situations when the pressure is on. I think about how my opponent might be feeling. I understand it all much better than I did before.
In the fourth round, I played well against a new big gun on the tour, Milos Raonic of Canada. We were playing on Ashe at night, which I really like. The conditions seem kinder in the evening and that was one of those really good nights. I read his serve well from early on and seemed to be able to anticipate everything he was going to do. That night I was quick and in command.
For the quarter-final against Marin Cilic of Croatia, the game was back on Armstrong and the pressure was really on. Cilic made sure that I felt it from the start, taking the first set and going on to take a 5-1 lead on the second.
When I got the first break back in that second set, we both sensed how important the next couple of games would be. And I started to feel that he was getting nervous. After that, I played on pure instinct. I got to balls I hadn’t been reaching before, chased everything down and got back into the match the hard way.
Perhaps if he hadn’t got nervous I wouldn’t have won, but there were nerves for me too. If you sense the opponent is tightening up and think, ‘I can get back in here, this is my chance’, the pressure increases on you. The guys who are behind aren’t the ones who tend to rush. They have all the time in the world, which is why it was surprising to see him hurry and make mistakes. It wasn’t as if I was blasting winners all over the court, so much as making as many balls as I could. Little by little, I started to reclaim the middle of the court, and he started to miss. That was it.
The semi-final against Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic on Ashe was a freak show. There were high winds, which it’s all about who hits the ball best that day. It was about who could manoeuvre the ball around and come up with the right shots and the smartest shots. I feel like I have a bit more variety in my game than Tomas, so the conditions helped me and hindered him more than me. It was almost comical because of the wind conditions and I was laughing a little inside at how ridiculous the points were. All the same, it was semi-final of the US Open, and it was a great opportunity.
I aced Berdych when the ball bounced twice before it reached him. That has never happened the whole time I’ve been on the tour, but there was stuff taking place put there that had never happened in my entire life. If you had wanted to, you could easily have spun the ball from your opponent’s court back onto your own side because the breeze was so strong.
Playing a proper point became impossible and, in all the chaos, I managed to lose the first set. After that, I felt like I was cruising. I took the second and third sets easily and I had two break points in the fourth. Then Berdych started to serve and volley with much greater consistency, coming into the net more. After that, things changed quickly. I was 5-7 6-2 6-1 up and he had enough break points to put me 5-1 down in the fourth. That was the point when I started the fight back and ended up taking it to a tie-break.
I went 5-2 down in that and realized that I’d gone from a commanding position to win the match to one where it looked likely to go into a fifth. I’d had the momentum with me, and then I was on the verge of blowing it through my bad play and his consistency. The conditions were ridiculous, but that’s no excuse because it was the same for both of us. It was so, so difficult, but I was fought back and won, I was just pleased to get it over and done with.
My post-match conference took a surreal turn. I knew that both Sir Sean Connery and Sir Alex Ferguson had been at the match, but I wasn’t expecting to suddenly be confronted by both of them. I had spoken to Sean Connery on the phone before the game, but I’d never even met Alex Ferguson. That made it a weird situation and, to be honest, I didn’t know what to say to either of them. Both are quite intimidating presences in their own way. I’ve seen Sir Alex on TV so many times and it seems like he’s really intense. You get the feeling that if you say the wrong thing when he’s doing his job, he’s going to bite your head off.
But he came to the press conference with a massive smile on his face. He was really relaxed – I think he might have had a couple of drinks – so it was cool.
The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club:
Wimbledon guided tour – part 1
Wimbledon guided tour – part 2
Wimbledon Centre Court roof
Court 3 : a new Show Court at Wimbledon
Waiting in the Queue to Wimbledon
Wimbledon Museum: The Queue exhibition
The Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum: Player Memorabilia
A trip down memory lane:
Wimbledon ‘s biggest upsets
Wimbledon memories: Mrs Blanche Bingley Hillyard
Wimbledon memories: Charlotte Cooper Sterry
Wimbledon memories: Dora Boothby
Portrait of Wimbledon champion Ann Jones
Wimbledon 1969: Laver’s getting beat by an Indian
Rod Laver – John Newcombe Wimbledon 1969
Around the grounds at Wimbledon in 1971
Wimbledon 1975: Ashe vs Connors
1976: Bjorn Borg first Wimbledon title
Portrait of 5-time Wimbledon champion Bjorn Borg
Wimbledon 1976: Chris Evert defeats Evonne Goolagong
Portrait of Virginia Wade, winner in 1977
1981: First Wimbledon title for McEnroe
1982: Jimmy Connors defeats John McEnroe
1984: John McEnroe defeats Jimmy Connors
1985: Boris Becker, the man on the moon
1986: Boris Becker defeats Ivan Lendl, wins second Wimbledon title
Portrait of 3-time Wimbledon champion Boris Becker
Wimbledon 1988: An era ends as Graf beats Navratilova
Wimbledon 1988: Edberg a deserving new champion
Portrait of 2-time Wimbledon champion Stefan Edberg
Wimbledon 1990: Becker vs Edberg
1990: Martina Navatilova’s historic 9th Wimbledon title
Wimbledon 1991: the first Middle Sunday
1992: first Grand Slam for Andre Agassi
Andre Agassi: thanks to Wimbledon I realized my dreams
1993: Pete Sampras defeats Jim Courier
1994: Pete Sampras defeats Goran Ivanisevic
1995: Tim Henman disqualified!
Wimbledon 1996: singing in the rain
1996: Richard Krajicek upsets Pete Sampras
Wimbledon 1996: a winning streak
1997: Pete Sampras defeats Cédric Pioline
2000 Wimbledon SF: Pat Rafter defeats Andre Agassi
2000 Wimbledon Final: Pete Sampras defeats Pat Rafter
2001 Wimbledon 4th round: Federer defeats Sampras
Wimbledon 2010: Rafael Nadal defeats Tomas Berdych
The Spirit of Wimbledon: a 4-part documentary by Rolex retracing Wimbledon history
Wimbledon 2012: Roger Federer defeats Andy Murray
Andy Murray’s road to the Wimbledon 2013 final
Wimbledon 2013: Andy Murray, 77 years after Fred Perry
Wimbledon 2014 coverage
Wimbledon 2015 coverage
Fashion and gear:
Preview and Recaps:
Who will win Wimbledon 2016?
- Novak Djokovic (53%, 50 Votes)
- Roger Federer (21%, 20 Votes)
- Andy Murray (17%, 16 Votes)
- Dominic Thiem (5%, 5 Votes)
- Kei Nishikori (1%, 1 Votes)
- Stan Wawrinka (1%, 1 Votes)
- Tomas Berdych (1%, 1 Votes)
- Milos Raonic (1%, 1 Votes)
- Richard Gasquet (0%, 0 Votes)
- David Goffin (0%, 0 Votes)
- Someone else (0%, 0 Votes)
Total Voters: 95
Who will win Wimbledon 2016?
- Serena Williams (33%, 8 Votes)
- Garbine Muguruza (33%, 8 Votes)
- Victoria Azarenka (17%, 4 Votes)
- Simona Halep (8%, 2 Votes)
- Angelique Kerber (4%, 1 Votes)
- Someone else (4%, 1 Votes)
- Agnieszka Radwanska (0%, 0 Votes)
- Roberta Vinci (0%, 0 Votes)
- Belinda Bencic (0%, 0 Votes)
- Venus Williams (0%, 0 Votes)
- Timea Bacsinszky (0%, 0 Votes)
Total Voters: 24
Rraonic’s shoes of choice, the New Balance 996v2 are available on www.newbalance.com for $119:
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