Coach Roig: 'Rafa Has Been Through A Lot'
Francisco Roig, one of Rafael Nadal’s coaches since 2005, was next to the Majorcan when the player knew he was going to become World No. 1 again. The Catalan coach, who has been alongside Nadal for the entire US Open Series, thinks that this achievement will be an extra boost for the Spaniard, a reward for his hard work and dedication.
“Being World No. 1 is a consequence of good results,” said Roig to ATPWorldTour.com in Cincinnati. “Since January, Nadal has had a spectacular year. He is very happy and ready to give his best at the US Open. Being No. 1 also means that he is playing great again, winning important matches and especially important tournaments. In some ways, this is the most important goal. Getting back to the top shows how good Rafa is, but also how long and successful his career has been.”
At 31 years old, Nadal has reclaimed the top spot in the Emirates ATP Rankings and the return to the pinnacle of the game has a particularly great significance after two difficult years.
“That’s because Nadal is a very good player”, Roig continued. “When he starts to find his rhythm and feels he can execute what he practises, then he is always competing for the biggest titles. Obviously the rest of the field might not be at their best but this also happened the other way around when Rafa lost the World No. 1 position a few years ago. It has been a long, long journey. And everybody who was beside him during a tough period knew that he would come back to the top. That he would be No. 1 again. That he would fight again for big titles and Grand Slams. If you fight for those titles, you are also fighting for the World No. 1.”
Over the last eight months of the 2017 season, Nadal has won four titles, including his 10th Roland Garros crown, two ATP World Tour Masters 1000 (Monte-Carlo and Madrid) and the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell. Those trophies, plus good results in other tournaments (Australian Open, Acapulco and Miami finals) have lifted him to the top of the Emirates ATP Rankings once more.
“If we are especially happy, it is because we know that Rafa has been through a lot, that he has worked tremendously hard and also he has suffered a lot,” Roig admitted. “It is not an easy task to be here at age 31 and for sure it will be a confidence boost.
“Rafa now has his top level. He doesn’t have the fears of other seasons. In the past, you could see that the opponent could come out on court knowing that Nadal had lost a few more matches, and that would convince him he could win. But once you start winning more and more matches, it helps your confidence but also helps to intimidate your opponent a little bit. That shows you once more how good he is. Since 2005, he has been nine times in the Top 2, never left the Top 10 and he missed the No. 1 spot only a couple times because of an injury. He is great like Federer or Djokovic in that it will be difficult to see something like this again. Winning so many Slams, Masters 1000s… At the end, a Masters 1000 is way more difficult than a major. And he has 15 Slams!”
Now, with the US Open fast approaching, Nadal will keep the top spot for at least three weeks, although he knows that whatever happens in New York could be decisive for the year-end top position.
“The US Open will set the tone for the No. 1 race,” said Roig. “It’s 2000 points and logically it’s a big bite. If after the US Open they are close, history says that Federer is the favourite in the last part of the season. It won’t be easy, but I see Rafa is capable. The most important thing is that he keeps the desire, the drive and the passion. We are talking about one of the greatest in history.”
Of course, being World No. 1 during the season is not the same as finishing the year in that position. The year-end No. 1 is something that Nadal has already achieved three times (2008, 2010 and 2013), but the goal is to claim it once again.
“It’s always important to finish the year as World No. 1 because it means that you have been the most consistent and regular player from January until November,” Roig added. “That’s the aim: to win the US Open and finish at the top at the end of the season."