Interview with Roig

Photo by Beth Wilson

Thanks to patzin for pointing out this article at the timesonline site by RafaFan Neil Harman. It includes some quotes from Rafa’s part-time coach, Francisco Roig.

“I have never seen Rafa play like he has this year in my life,” Roig, a 41-year-old former tour pro, said. “In Qatar, in Abu Dhabi, in the first two sets against Andy [Murray] and this week, we have seen he is a more complete player, someone who is able to do more things with his game.”

So, what of the doom-mongers? “People have no idea,” he said. “To talk about these things, you have to be inside of the work day to day, to know what he can do. I see him on the practice court every day and I am surprised every day.

“I stand behind him and I do not know how a player can hit the ball so strong, so good. I have never seen anyone in this sport who can arrive at a ball with not a good stance and still generate so much power. That is something he has had all his life, but now we are adding to his game.”

Surprised every day? That’s a good new, no?

Nadal, the world No 3, has never had a devastating serve, his ground strokes lacked on different surfaces the bite he could rouse from the clay, so they needed to acquire a flatter trajectory. The assault on his limbs from hard-court tournaments would always count against him. Roig believes that he has four, maybe five years at 100 per cent and then he may have to call it a day.

I don’t like to think about the end of RafaTennis, but if he can have that much longer at 100%, it would be a good length career.

“Rafa has finished four years as the No 2 player in the world and one as the No 1,” he said. “And he still has the ambition to win the big tournaments. I asked him once how many grand slams [tournaments] he thought he would win and he said, ‘Six, seven?’. I said for a player of his talents, he should have between eight and ten because he is a better player than those who have that number, in my opinion.

“But tennis is much, much tougher now than it was three years ago, especially among the top players.”

He’s already met the low end of that goal…I like Roig’s idea better.

“He feels he is a really good player again,” Roig said. “It has never been only power with Rafa, but ability also and people do not see that. It is not always nice the way he does it, he is not [Tim] Henman. This is a different tennis. Sometimes, at the important moments, it is more important to be a mechanical player than a smooth one. Rafa knows the importance of how much risk he can take, and what risk is beneficial.”

Results over ego – get the job done and don’t worry what the hell you look like. When I first saw Rafa play, I wasn’t a fan. I was one of those people who couldn’t see beyond the power. I’m glad I finally did.

34 Responses

  1. A_Gallivant says:

    I always find these kinds of interviews useful because they really invite you to think about the day in and day out of tennis without all the naysaying. You forget that most of the people doing the talking are all outsiders who think they know but don’t really. Good interview.

  2. kefuoe says:

    Ever since Nadal said that he’s always liked the number 9 in that Nike hoodie ad, I’ve thought that he had that number in mind because he wanted to beat Agassi’s number of Slam titles by getting 9. It seemed to be both a realistic and suitably ambitious for him. I think it’d be great.

  3. faeaki7 says:

    Miri, hate to critisize but it was me that pointed out this article not Patzin ‘thanks’…

    I too was sad to read about the career 4-5 year thing!
    I would love to see Rafa add a few more slams in that time, would be great! I hope he does even if it means his career ends short it will have been one heck of a ride!

    • miri says:

      No, it was not you. patzin mailed it in and I was coding it up before your comment was posted.

      This isn’t the only time people have gotten testy of being “credited” – if it keeps up, I’ll just stop.

      • faeaki7 says:

        I’m not testy, its not in my nature, and if that was the case than I do apologise to all!
        I enjoy the site too much to let trivia get in the way. After all we are all Rafa fans here, “group hug?”

  4. Atch2 says:

    It’s inspiring when Rafa’s coach speaks so in awe of him.

    “Nadal is playing wonderful tennis again. His legs do not hurt. His mother and father get on. We should be delighted”

    I’m beyond delight. Like that Mancrush guy, I’m on cloud 10, 11 about Rafa’s tennis now.

      • Zooni says:

        Same here. He looks really good out on court (and off it of course! :) ). But more importantly, he seems HAPPY. Such a pleasure to watch him play at the moment.

        • Ch F says:

          Oh yes, the happiness, we had indeed lost that. We had lost it since the French open. Great to see Rafa feeling good again. So long as he stays healthy, it’s a dreamy prospect!

  5. rubik says:

    Personnally, I am convinced that Nadal will get more than 9 GC over his tennis career. No doubt whatsoever about this. Like Federer said in an interview a few months ago, we have no idea how good a tennis player Nadal really is. I agree 100% with what Federer said that day: the best of Nadal is yet to come.

    As for beating Agassi, Nadal already is, at 23 years of age, a far better tennis player than Agassi ever was. Anf he has already achieved far more, considering that he is 23 years of age, than Agassi has done over his whole tennis career.

    In my opinion, comparing Nadal to Agassi in terms of overall tennis career at this point in time is, pure and simple, a huge insult towards Nadal.

    Nadal is light-years above Agassi, both as a tennis player and as a person. Did you not look at Nadal and Agassi standing next to one another on the same side of the court at the Haiti Hit 2 last week ? Beauty and the Beast… Sunshine vs mega BS…

  6. emir says:

    08 rafa still better than this year,i dont know what will happen this weak but if he keeps on hitting the ball that well and moves that well,well he wont need a mental strength to dominate clay….shhh i dont want jinx..i still beleive 08 rafa was better because he was playing the big points a lot better and most importantly as we see at the start of 09 he was still pyhsical animal i mean 5,30 against nando and then manage to beat fed in 4.30 match….himm not sure that he is capable of this kind of stuff anymore..but for sure the way he hits the ball so much better than second part of last year where he looks hopeless in some matches..only injury can stop rafa for great things to come and i say GOD FORBID…..

  7. patzin says:

    A very positive article. Feels good reading this by Harman with Roig giving his thoughts on the “State of Rafa”. He obviously knows Rafa better than most, outside of family. I remember a stmt from Fed recently when questioned about Rafa’s ability to ‘come back’. He said an injury out of competition of say 3 – 6 months is very hard to come back from, but Rafa has not been out that long and he will re-emerge stronger than ever. I find him defending Rafa somehow comforting. He is on the inside of tennis of course and has a more accurate understanding of the way things truly are.

    So Rafa, with the fire in his eyes and therefore heart, has returned, perhaps better, hungrier than before.

  8. tiemyshoe says:

    Seems like Rafa’s IW posse is ideal for getting him his confidence back – from Roig’s supportive words, to Marc! being by his side on the doubles court, to Pico and Fred Couples cheering him on from the box.

    Not that Uncle Toni isn’t a brilliant coach, but I get the sense that he’s not as free with compliments as Roig is here. He’s generally a bit harsher/tougher in public statements. Nice to see Rafa get such props from his coach.

    • Wendya says:

      Totally agree…it may just be coincidence, but I’ve felt before that when Rafa is with Roig he seems to be a little more relaxed and happier. I think Toni has done so much for Rafa, but find his frankness a little brutal at times and have often worried that this might be undermining Rafa’s confidence.

  9. rubik says:

    emir, I agree that Nadal 2008 was better than Nadal right now regarding those points you made (physical strength, important points). But these things will come back, and even stronger mentally I believe. And, by far the most important in my opinion, Nadal is now a much wiser person. He has learned the very hard way, but he has learned a few things he HAD to learn.

    For example, for the AO 2009 5.3 and 4.3 hour matches against Verdasco and Federer that you mentioned, I believe that was a TERRIBLE mistake Nadal made to play so unreasonably in those two matches. He won, yes, but he should have won in a much more reasonable fashion. In my opinion, those two MOST unreasonable matches were precisely the very starting point for all the subsequent injuries (knees, adbos, knees). A body is just that: a body, and there are limits to a body.

    That was THE one thing Nadal needed to learn. I think he now understands it (for ex., AO 2010, Nadal retired reasonably quickly – still a bit long, though, but reasonable – in his match against Murray) and there is nothing more important for Nadal that for him to never, never forget in any given match or tournament the very hard lesson the AO 2009 taught him: a body is just a body, and there is a reasonable limit to what a player can ask of his body at any given time.

    In short, emir, I truly believe the very best of Nadal is yet to come. We just need to be a bit patient, here, just like Nadal himself has been and will continue to be.

    • Ch F says:

      I also agree the fact that he retired in the AO was a very wise decision. And he said he did it knowing he could have won that match. His mental state was therefore different. He knew he was doing this to come back stronger because he managed to play at a certain level after his first injury. He didn’t only learn there are limits, he also learned how to deal with doubt, in my opinion.
      As for the best Rafa and whether it’s in the past, I don’t worry about that too much. I think Rafa may have been at his very best in 2008 and part of 2009, but he’s now about to show the world that his ability to adjust will prove wrong everyone saying a physical game is all he has. Federer was better some years ago and he still is No1. After a while, the peak of the player is irrelevant. He develops his game, changes it with the age and other things count more than him being at his best all the time.

  10. rubik says:

    miri, on the matter you were discussing with Suzanne (I think) earlier today, here is a quote from the IW official site – in an article entitled “Nadal & Lopez reach men’s doubles final” :

    “The 23-year-old Nadal claimed both the singles and doubles (w/Robredo) titles two years ago in Monte Carlo, becoming just the second player in the history of the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournaments to accomplish the feat. Jim Courier won both titles in 1991 at Indian Wells.”

    So, Courier is officially considered to be the 1st ATP player to have won both titles (singles and doubles) in a Masters 1000 event, which he did in IW in 1991.

    And Nadal is officially considered to be the 2nd ATP player to have accomplished this, which he did in 2008 in Monte Carlo.

    Nobody else is officially considered by the ATP to have won both titles (singles and doubles) in a Masters 1000 event.

    It would indeed be truly amazing if Nadal could actually win both titles again this year, on a hard surface and with a different partner, and while he is coming back from an injury and not having played since the AO!

    And if Nadal does not accomplish it this weekend in IW, it seems fairly reasonable to imagine that he might actually get that outstanding result eventually in the future, given that he is 23 years old and that he and Marc seem to be thoroughly enjoying themselves.

    Thus, Nadal will eventually be the 1st and only ATP player to have done this twice! Truly amazing!

  11. Necitas says:

    Very nice interview. Refreshing, positive, realistic and in-depth perspective on Rafa. Roig also exuded much faith and love to Rafa. Really good one.

  12. CC says:

    “Nadal is playing wonderful tennis again. His legs do not hurt. His mother and father get on. We should be delighted.”

    Believe me, we are f-ing delighted!

    *sheds tear of happiness*

  13. mary says:

    This is so cute, Fran really is in awe of Rafa. That must be something special to be able to work with Rafa, play with Rafa & spend time with him & never tire of being around him. Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm, sounds like the rest of us, except the spending time with him & the playing thing would have nothing to do with tennis. lol

    • An says:

      Oh i wouldnt mind playin tennis with him now and then tough too…. Altough HE would murder ME on a tenniscourt i think :D
      About other playing things…. well i expect to be able to keep up with him on his level;)

      Yes CC, we are!!!!!

  14. CC says:

    BTW, miri… “When I first saw Rafa play, I wasn’t a fan. I was one of those people who couldn’t see beyond the power.”

    So when you first saw Rafa you looked at his TENNIS?! Like, the way he plays and things…?
    Nevermind the power. I couldn’t see beyond the hotness (and that arse). It probably took me a year to even realise that it’s tennis Rafa’s playing. ;)

    • An says:

      Agree, i was directly drawn to his hotness ( and his arse ) too….. I learned to appreciate the tennis later;)

    • Atch2 says:

      ‘It probably took me a year to even realise that it’s tennis Rafa’s playing. ;)’

      CC, you’re funny man.

  15. eliza says:

    “It is not always nice the way he does it, he is not [Tim] Henman. This is a different tennis”.

    I love this! I have never been a fan of “nice” tennis. It’s a SPORT, not a tea party.

    • Ch F says:

      Yes I’m still not sure what he means by that, really. And the comparison to Henman, well…whatever ;-)

  16. Dale C. A. says:

    i fell in love with Rafa the first time i saw him in Roland Garros in 2005 and knew right then that he would be great one day :-))

  17. emir says:

    todays match is a proof that rafa ofcourse isnt as good as the past he was so sure abaut the victory even when he is down and he still feel vulnurable even when he is ahaead..look at my post where before he lost to ivan..i would also want fracis roig to be right..but i just knew it that he isnt playing the big points as well as he used to..

  18. fae says:

    Yes emir this is the huge difference and the most worrying! Rafa always came through BECAUSE he played the big points better, re:Wimbledon final 08 and Aust 09, of course there are loads more matches than those two but oh this is the corner he needs to turn, to get around otherwise he isn’t going to win any tourney, as when the going gets tough he cannot handle the pressure, something that he was admired for the most! his ‘colm’