According to the TimesOnline, Briton’s James Ward is going to Mallorca to serve as Rafa’s hitting partner. Ward also hit with Rafa during the WTF.
The forecast for Majorca this week is hardly beach weather and there would not be much time for James Ward to indulge in sand frolics even if it were. For the next fortnight the 22-year-old British No 4 will be Rafael Nadal’s practice partner, and that means three hours a day of attritional endeavour.
Such invitations are not handed out because Nadal likes the cut of someone’s jib. Ward undertook the task without complaint at the O2 Arena a couple of weeks ago and there is the Spanish connection of Toni Colom, the coach who guided Nadal’s junior career and is now the Londoner’s mentor, to help to cement a relationship that could be extended on the road in 2010.
But this is not entirely a one-sided affair. Nadal is seeking the court coverage to help to search for that little edge before another annual onslaught on mind and body, but Ward has reason to need as much time honing his game as the next man, regardless of his status. Having missed the last four months of the year with glandular fever that caused his ranking to plunge to No 273, he must begin the new year totally energised.
The aim is to qualify for as many ATP Tour events as he can, the same for the grand-slams — he heads to Melbourne for the Australian Open next month — and rubbing shoulders with the likes of Nadal, and Roger Federer, as he did during practice for the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, served to expand those horizons.
“The intensity Rafa brought to the court is something very special,” Ward said. “There would be 45-minute bursts without a break, very serious stuff. Roger, on the other hand, would be happy after half an hour and then be very chilled. But you see why both of them are as brilliant as they are. They have a tremendous attitude.”