Nadal rocketed up to No.1 in the world after winning two Grand Slams in 2017 and has regained his top form to end the season at the summit of the rankings.
Still, that dream year has winded down to a tricky situation, where Nadal is dealing with a right knee injury that is denting his chances at this week’s ATP Finals.
The 31-year-old Mallorcan believes he will be ready to contest his first match against David Goffin on Monday, but the build-up to that showdown has undoubtedly been filled with stressful times in the Nadal camp, as they attempt to manage his injury while preparing him for a tournament that will pit him against the world’s very best from the get-go and an event he has never won before.
Sport360 sat down with Nadal’s coach and ex-world No.1 Moya at the O2 in London to discuss the current mood in the team, his first year with the 16-time Grand Slam champion and more.
How has it been for the team in the build-up to this event? Has it been stressful with the injury or have you all been able to stay calm through it?
Well, trying to… being the last event of the year, we know that things are not easy, it’s been a long year, not just for him, but for all the other players. Obviously we had to change plans in terms of practice. But he’s playing well. It’s the last effort. He achieved his goals, he finished No.1 in the world, so in that part there is no stress but otherwise he wants to compete, try to win this event, but overall it’s okay.
What’s Rafa like in these situations? If he’s injured, would he still try to go all out in practice and you and Toni have to ask him to slow down? Or is he more careful and cautious?
He’s learning to be careful, he’s listening to his body more than before and probably if this was the beginning of the year and another tournament he wouldn’t play. It’s the last tournament, it’s the Masters Cup… he’s listening more and more and he has to.
He has never won the ATP Finals before and he mentioned the other day that the tournament always being played on indoor hard court is a factor in that. Do you think Rafa can beat all those top rivals on this surface?
Of course he can. He probably beat all of them during his career in these conditions. So I don’t know exactly why in the past he wasn’t able to win this tournament. Hopefully this is the last year where he hasn’t been able to win here. But usually it takes for him a while to start the tournament but in the Grand Slams or other events, the first couple of rounds are guys who are outside the top-50 or top-70, here the first match is against a top-10 player already, so maybe that’s one of the reasons but I don’t know exactly.
This is my first year with him in the team. Try to always analyse why things are happening but let’s see how it goes this year.
How do you feel about your first year coaching Rafa, and what have you learnt the most from it?
I think it can’t get any better than this, he won two Slams and finished No.1 in the world, it was like a dream come true. When we started at the beginning of the year that’s something I thought could happen and it actually happened. All has been achieved and that’s great.
What I’m learning, I try to learn every day being with such a tremendous player. This is my second year as a coach, trying always to be open, trying to learn. Last year I learned from Raonic and his team, this year I learned from Rafa. Even though I know him very well there is always things you get to know better.
Anything in particular that jumped at you?
The mentality he has, that never giving up attitude, I don’t think he gave up not even one point this year, so that’s something that you rarely see in all the other players, how he’s able to turn things around when he’s in trouble, that thing still amazes me. I don’t know if you can teach that or a player can learn that but it’s something, after what I’ve seen all these years, it keeps me really amazed what he’s doing.
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