Roig's Five Takeaways From Nadal's R2 Win
On Thursday, Nadal defeated Mikhail Kukushkin 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 to set up a third-round showdown against 19-year-old #NextGenATP standout Alex de Minaur. Roig lists five key takeaways from Nadal’s win over Kukushkin, and what the 17-time Grand Slam champion will need to do if he's to get past the Australian and reach the fourth round.
Getting The Job Done
Rafa did well. The slice backhand was clicking for him today, a lot better than on Tuesday against Dudi Sela. He was more able to impose his will on returns of serve, compared to the other day. All in all, it was a more complete performance versus that match. He handled key moments a lot better, but we already know that's something he's accustomed to doing when he finds his stride. Just think back to the match against Juan Martin del Potro at Roland Garros [d. Del Potro 6-4, 6-1, 6-2]; that's one example that immediately comes to mind for me. It’s a characteristic of Rafa: start slow, find your groove, then roll.
Apart from playing at a very high level, Rafa is also really adept at keeping his focus throughout long periods of play. When things got tough, he didn't stumble; instead, he kept on the attack. There wasn't any letting up. For example, around 11 minutes into the match, he could have lost his composure but instead, he kept going for it. He made adjustments during the match and wasn't getting any less aggressive with his backhand. When he saw an opening, he went for it.
Rafa has to keep an attack-minded approach and maintain his aggression toward the net. He has to be on top of the ball at all times. I don't want to see him being pushed backward; I want him forward. He's getting used to grass play, so he knows what he has to do. There's no room for hesitating here. He's going for more, correcting things as he progresses and adjusts to the surface. But it's a matter of improving a little every day.
The other day, we practised for an hour-and-a-half. Friday, we're going to reduce that to even less. The match against Kukushkin was taxing on Rafa's body, honestly. Now, it's more about just acclimating a little more to the surface, rather than practising hard. We're already planning for future rounds, so we're not just thinking about the next round; we're looking toward what we'll have to do in the later rounds. It's a process, and we can't be slow to act.
The Next Test: De Minaur
Rafa and [De Minaur] have never played [an ATP World Tour] match before and I don't see De Minaur backing down. From what I can tell, he steps up to challenges. For what he lacks in experience, he makes up for in his dynamic and gutsy shot-making, and he can move around the court very well. From my perspective, we're going to see some really good exchanges from the baseline, and that intrigues us as a team.