Lopez Feeling Lucky & Excited About New Role Coaching Nadal
Late in September, Carlos Moyà called Marc López to enquire about his situation. The Catalonian, who peaked at World No. 3 in doubles and won 14 tour-level titles in the discipline, used his protected ranking to enter 12 tournaments in 2021, although it was not as successful as he may have liked. In August, he became a father for the first time and gradually began to step back from competition. López was frank with Moyà: he was not sure if he would continue playing.
“I thought you’d be a good fit for Rafa’s team,” Moya told him. “If you’re on board, I’ll mention it to him. I imagine he’d be delighted, but I’m asking you first in case you’re not up for it or don’t want to travel.”
Indeed, as a new parent, the Catalonian had been planning not to travel.
“Let me think about it,” Lopez replied.
He hung up the phone, looked at his partner with a smile and said: “What is there to think about?!” He rang Moyà back immediately.
“That was some quick thinking,” Moya said.
“I don’t know why I didn’t tell you straight away. It sounds amazing and I feel very fortunate. Thank you for the opportunity,” Lopez said. “Of course, I’d love to if Rafa likes the idea.”
“Great,” Moya replied. “I’ll mention it to him tomorrow morning and let you know.”
The next day, Moyà rang López again to welcome him to Team Nadal.
At the Australian Open, the Catalonian sat down with ATPTour.com to reflect on the new professional journey he has embarked on alongside one of the best players of all time.
Photo Credit: Peter Staples/ATP Tour
So, have you retired for good?
I’d like to play my final tournament in Barcelona, at my club. It’s something we still need to finalise but my idea is to end at home, in front of my people.
Despite being one of Nadal’s best friends, wasn’t it difficult to get used to telling him what to do as a member of his coaching staff?
I’ve shared many moments with Rafa, but as a friend. Now it’s different. At first, I was kind of observing what he likes. For example, whether or not he likes people to talk a lot when he’s on court. I found it a bit difficult to give instructions to a player who is close to perfection, although I always say that, from the outside there are things that can be improved. I know Rafa very well. I’ve been watching his matches for many years and I know what he’s thinking when he plays. I feel obliged to tell him things because I want the best for him.
How would you define yourself as a coach?
I love watching and analysing opponents above all if I’m unfamiliar with them. It’s been some time since I was on the singles tour, but I have many years of experience and I know most of the players. In this case, it’s also true that Rafa focusses on himself, on working on his strengths. If he does things well, I’m not so worried about what the opponent does. When such a good player has a clear way of playing, there’s little you can say. I’m talking about intermediate opponents, not Top 10 players.
How did you fit in to the team at first?
I don’t want to sound like I’m brown-nosing, but I love it. Every day, when I get up and go and have breakfast... everyone is so nice. It’s the dream job at the moment. I get on very well with Titín [Rafael Maymò], with Benito [Pérez-Barbadillo], with Carlos [Costa] and with his father. And working in the same group with Carlos Moyà and Francis Roig will be good for me in this new phase of my career. They’ve been doing it for many years and I’ve only been doing it for a short while, so I’m delighted to learn and help with everything I can.
You’ve often said that Nadal has helped you many times in your career. Is there one time that stands out above the rest?
The key moment when he helped me was in 2009, when we started to play doubles together. In 2008, when that season was over, I was going through a difficult time in my career. I considered stopping. I had lost any hope of entering the Top 100 in singles after coming close in 2004. I didn’t know what to do, and that’s when the opportunity to play doubles with Rafa in Doha came up.
Tomeu [Salvà] had just retired and Nadal gave me the opportunity. That’s when I realised that I was good at doubles. With Rafa, everything is very easy, but we won the tournament, beating the World No. 1 pair on the way. Then, even when we weren’t playing together, Rafa was always keeping an eye on my results, helping me and giving me advice before big games, such as the French Open final I played with Feli [López].
And your favourite memory?
The Olympic gold medal. We were playing together again. Rafa made a huge effort to play in both disciplines, and he put his trust in me. The experience was very good, not only on court. We slept in the same room. People don’t realise, but all the tennis players were in one apartment. I slept in a room with Rafa with two small beds. We even put a little table in the middle with an iPad to watch something before bed every night. It was really amazing, two intense weeks that ended perfectly with that gold medal.
Do you think your positive character will bring something to the team?
Both aspects are very important, not just the tennis side. I’m very familiar with how he plays, but off court he’s a person, he has his thoughts and his doubts. Having a person who’s close [to him] is very important. My role is to try and give him a hand with as much as possible. On court I change my mindset and tell him what I’m seeing, and off court we have the same relationship as before. His surroundings are very important to him. I’m one of his best friends and we joke around and have a good time. It’s important that he feels comfortable at all times.
You’ve just become a father, is it difficult to combine the two?
At first. It’s been 14 weeks. It’s tough, the worst part of this job. I’m lucky that technology helps me a lot. As well as FaceTime, I have an app on my phone that allows me to see the [crib] all the time, even when I’m on the other side of the world. That’s the hard part, but it’s worth it to be with Rafa and so that he does well.