The sun goes down strongly in Paris and at around twelve o’clock, Rafael Nadal accesses court 26 of the Jean Bouin Club, just 100 meters from the Roland Garros venue, carrying a bag and a racket bag to finish the assault on today’s semifinal (14.45, Eurosport) against the German Alexander Zverev. He says good morning to the three special envoys who attend the start of training and then begins to rally with Carlos Moyà, who has previously analyzed the enigmatic present of his player: the foot, the pain, the future. Doubt, yes, but right now, only one target: Zverev. Spend the morning with family.
His father, Sebastià, and his uncles Miguel Ángel and Rafael watch the session from the fence. From the background supervise the coach Francis Roig and Marc López, who later intervenes in the exchanges, and from the top of the Hotel Molitor and the railing that delimits the enclosure they record as best they can a group of onlookers. The doctor Ángel Ruiz Cotorro talks with the agent Carlos Costa and at one point, the tennis player’s physiotherapist, Rafael Maymò, titin For Nadal, he tells a joke: “Rafa’s grandmother calls him and asks him what’s going on, because she says she has read in the newspapers that she is leaving him…”.
The champion of 21 majors, however, shakes the ball hard during the morning exercise and fights with everything to remain hooked on his sport. “Rafa is doing well, really. He has won five matches and is in the semifinals. And you saw what he did against Djokovic… We are very happy”, introduces Moyà, who is not surprised by the jump in level, now that the moment of truth has arrived. “For those of us who are close to him, I think we are less surprised because our expectations are always very high. We always know that he can give what he is giving. It is true that it has been an atypical tour, but hey, it is Rafa Nadal, Roland Garros. We know what is there, ”he continues.
But, how the hell has the Balearic, now 36 years old, managed to shoot his tennis like that, after almost two months of absence and doubts, of that ugly episode in Rome with his foot at the gates of the great Frenchman?
Those of us who are close are less surprised by what he has done. We know what you can give
“It is that these great players depend a lot on the demands to which they are subjected”, reasons the coach, referring to the progression in the first rounds of the tournament against Thompson, Moutet, Van de Zadnschulp and Aliassime, and the gigantic leap he took against number one in the quarters; “Sometimes they respond, almost always, and other times they don’t, but what has gotten him this far is that he has given his best in the moments that matter and in the face of very high demands. It is true that he had not yet offered this level on the gravel tour and that the preparation in Madrid [tres] and Rome [dos] It was minimal, but here he has had more time and to the one that has been able to have games and continuity, the response has been very good”.
Apart from the foot, news throughout the last month, Nadal’s physicist has responded these days in Paris. He raffled the first three crosses with ease, although later Aliassime (4h 20m) and Djokovic (4h 11m) demanded a plus from him. “It is clear that in a match against Djokovic you will not always be able to dominate”, points out Moyà. “But physically, Rafa is responding very well and holding up; maybe that surprises us a little more than the tennis level, ”adds the 45-year-old Majorcan, former number one and Roland Garros champion in 1998.
Injuries forced him to seal his career at the age of 32. Now, his player’s statements have caused concern. “He comes from a complicated, difficult time, and at certain times it is normal for him to say what he has said. But well, I already said that I doubted that Djokovic’s was going to be his last match at Roland Garros, and I wasn’t wrong. We hope to return here for more years”, Moyà extends, while the presence of witnesses in training grows and Nadal urges López, along with the one who won gold at the 2016 Games, to subtract another serve: “There it goes, Bullet! (Bolita, as the new member of the team is nicknamed)”.
Euphoria? We know very well where we are and we believed in this a lot. nothing has been gained
The coach fully trusts that “the foot will last until the end of the tournament”, and points out that on many occasions, the problem weighs and “moments of weakness” arrive. He uses the majestic plural, but corrects and clarifies: “It is clear that he is the most affected. We live with it and we handle it in the best possible way, and it affects the whole team. In training sometimes we go through that, but in games it happens less. It goes in streaks, it’s a disease. But hey, there is a lot of talk about this topic and other things are ignored, such as the game, which is in the semifinals…”.
And in them Zverev appears, who got off Carlos Alcaraz on Tuesday with a high level and, in the case of winning the tournament, his first major, would unseat Djokovic on the throne of the circuit. In the precedents with the German, Nadal dominates 6-3 overall and 4-1 on clay.
“He is a great champion and despite the ups and downs he has, he is always there and he is a born competitor, he does not shrink from anything. In the end we are talking about a player who can get out of here being number one in the world”, underlines Moyà, sticking to the duel with the German. Nothing more: “Euphoria? You are specialists in him shooting himself, but we know where we are. We believed in this a lot and because he beat Djokovic in that way, we don’t think he won the tournament. Zverev’s is going to be a very difficult game. And for now we think about this, trying not to think about anything else. Really”.
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