Roig: 'There’s No Room For Error'
With eight men left in the draw and Wimbledon well into its second week, there’s a sense of anticipation and excitement in the air around the All England Club. Tuesday might be an off day in terms of tournament play, but there’s no respite for the remaining competitors. And while Aorangi Park might not be the beehive of activity it was just a few days ago, the atmosphere is just as electric in the practice area.
Rafael Nadal, a familiar figure on the practice courts when he isn’t competing on Centre Court or Court 1, is preparing for his quarter-final match against American Sam Querrey. Not one to ever take a training session lightly, the World No. 2 is as focused as ever as he takes instructions from his team. Once again, it’s the two-time Wimbledon champion’s serve that has the bulk of their attention. Despite not dropping serve since the second set of the second round, the Spaniard knows holding serve is crucial if he’s to continue his march toward a third crown at The Championships.
Overseeing Nadal’s practice session is coach Francisco Roig. On the eve of Nadal’s match with Querrey, Roig speaks with ATPTour.com about the high stakes that come with competing at this stage of the tournament and breaks down what Nadal must do to reach the last four at SW19 for the seventh time.
Four wins and counting
Rafa has set the bar high, even by his standards, through the first four rounds. He’s adapted well to playing on grass and is operating on all cylinders. By being aggressive, he’s allowed himself space to execute different approaches to each match. There’s no aspect of his game I can criticise so far. He has to be happy following the 6-2, 6-2, 6-2 win (over Joao Sousa in the fourth round).
"I feel like I've taken a step forward every day." – Nadal, following his win over Sousa
I'm pleased to hear him say this. The win on Monday bolstered his confidence. I’ve said this before: The first week of Wimbledon is always complicated. With the first round out of the way, the circumstances change. Every match is tense, but at this stage, Rafa has found his groove, and because of that, he’s enjoying himself. He’s controlling points and dictating matters. There are no holes in his game and that’s essential to grass-court play, where you can’t hide behind one strength and hope that takes you to the end. By realising he’s getting better with every match, he’s acknowledging that he’s in a good place in terms of his frame of mind.
Nadal has gone eight consecutive sets without facing a break point
That stat reveals two things. One is that his serve, both the first and second, is holding up very well. Another is that his concentration is unwavering. Rafa understands the importance of staying on serve and how complicated things get when he drops serve. Avoiding distractions or lapses in concentration is key, even more so on this surface.
What has changed through the first four rounds?
The mindset. For some players left in the draw, this is new ground; they’re competing for a spot in their first Grand Slam semi-final. Players like Rafa, Roger and Nole have been here before; this is familiar territory and they’re used to reaching this stage of a major. As difficult as it is from this point forward, I’m positive Rafa can not only maintain the high level of play, but even raise it. He’ll have to shift into an even higher gear against Querrey and then possibly against Roger… There’s no room for error. He’s going into these matches with a lot of momentum, which is reassuring.
Four fast starts to open matches
Break early, if possible, and break often. That goes with his aggressive approach on the court. Rafa is eager to catch his opponents with their guards down, to take them by surprise. When he’s most confident, Rafa is on the offensive beginning with the first point of the match. Each round will be more difficult than the last but Rafa isn’t going to switch tactics now; applying pressure from the outset and keeping opponents on the back foot is the key to success.
What do you expect from Querrey?
We are expecting a very tough match. Concentration is essential and exploiting every opportunity is a must. We know Querrey: he’s a fantastic server and his forehand is potent. He’s also very mobile for a man his size. He also has a wealth of experience on grass. Overall, this is going to be a tough match. But I trust that Rafa will be at his best. If he can stay aggressive and dictate play, he’ll be victorious. He’s going into this match with a lot of momentum and even more importantly, he’s enjoying himself. This is a pivotal stage in the tournament, and Rafa’s ready.