Moya: "We're Going To See A Great Version Of Rafa"
Nadal is battle ready ahead of Wimbledon
Rafael Nadal has been practising at full throttle in the build up to Wimbledon. The Spaniard has set himself a goal of playing his best tennis at Wimbledon, something he hasn't been able to do in the past five years for various reasons, and was to be found on Thursday morning engaged in a high intensity two-hour practice with Alexander Zverev.
"In 2014 I made the fourth round and it was my best year since reaching the final in 2011," said Nadal. "Since then I've had many problems with my knees. In 2012 and 2013 it was really bad and then in 2015, my knees were fine, but I felt bad for many other reasons. Last year unfortunately I broke my wrist right before Wimbledon. It's been a few years that I haven't been able to compete well and that is a disadvantage compared to those who arrive here having done well year after year."
To give himself the best possible preparation for Wimbledon, Nadal trained for a week in Mallorca and then doubled the intensity of his sessions in London, where he arrived on Monday.
His coach and uncle, Toni Nadal, said, "We've been training quite well every day. Every day he has played quite well with all his opponents. The idea is to try to make his game a little more aggressive, going forwards and avoiding moving back. On the grass the best points are three or four shots, so you have to be very aggressive with the serve and after the return."
Carlos Moya, who also coaches Nadal, added, "The movement is different. You have to get down lower and be a little more aggressive. You also have to accept that the points are going to be shorter than on the clay as it's a faster surface. Anyway, I'm sure that we're going to see a great version of Rafa."
Since stepping onto the grass, Nadal's training has consisted of: working on being aggressive, sharpening his serve and winners and practising his volley. The Mallorcan, aware of what is needed to make the transition from clay to grass, has given everything to implement those fundamental changes to be competitive on grass.
Francis Roig, who completes Nadal's coaching team, remarked, "The training has been really positive. He came from a week of practice in Mallorca and the first day that I was with him in London I saw straight away that he was hitting the ball very well. He has adapted quite well to the grass and is ready mentally."
Nadal had barely shaken the clay out of his shoes after winning La Decima at Roland Garros before he was thinking about Wimbledon, where he reached five straight finals from 2006-11 and where he has twice won the title in 2008 and 2010.
"It's a little bit like the feeling he had at Roland Garros," said Toni Nadal. "He had gone three years without winning a Grand Slam title and he was hungry and extremely motivated to win another. For different reasons, Rafael hasn't been able to play well on grass in the past five years and he wants more than anything to be able to do that. When his body allowed him, he was a very good grass-court player. He made five straight finals at Wimbledon. Not many players have done that. He thinks he can win again."
"The clay-court season was exhausting, especially mentally," admitted Moya, a former World No. 1. "Rafa was listening to his body and his health is his priority, even though he badly wanted to play at Queen's. We know he’s not going to have matches under his belt, but he’ll arrive mentally and physically fresh at Wimbledon. He has made a great transition to the grass."
"I know that my knees have hindered me a lot on grass in the past few years," said Nadal. "They stopped me from competing at the maximum level. The switch to grass has been progressing well and the test will come later, but I am confident that my knees are going to hold up. Then the results as always depend on many factors."
Among these factors will be his knees, but also getting through the first few matches of the tournament and being able to maintain a high level on the grass when he has to switch practice for competition. Nadal is in the top half of the draw with defending champion and top seed Andy Murray and will open his campaign against John Millman.
"There are a lot of changes if you make it through the first week," said Toni Nadal. "The bounce of the ball is much lower in the first week and the ball skids more. Your shots cause less damage. During the second week the court is worn out and you can move better. We have always played better during the second week."
Roig agreed. "It is important to play on worn out grass, so he can be used to playing on this surface. He's in a better frame of mind than in other years, he is very pumped up. He can’t wait to play, and he’s been like that since the end of Roland Garros. That’s very important also."
"For me it's important to have a good preparation, be in good shape for the first match, and remember it's a special surface for everyone," said Nadal. "It will be key to get through the first couple of matches and then everything feels more normal."
Said Toni Nadal, "Rafael has one thing better than everyone else, which is the intensity of his game. Of course there are some players with a better serve or with more powerful shots, but if he is healthy he can play at a high intensity with few errors. He also has the peace of mind of having just won a Grand Slam. If the season were to end now it wouldn't be bad for us, it would be very good.