It’s been a terrible 2016 for Rafael Nadal, and so was it, for his fans. Merely stating a fact, one can’t really ignore the fact that Nadal seemed well past his prime during the season, be it the injuries or the confidence. We certainly haven’t seen Nadal in such a state. Having failed to clear the fourth round of a Grand Slam for the first time since 2004, it also marked his second consecutive year without winning a major. Let’s just say that Nadal is having some really bad days.
The wrist injury certainly damaged him beyond recovery in what was evident from his performances after the Olympics. But all doesn’t seem to be over for Rafans, since Nadal has brought in clay court great Carlos Moya into his coaching team, alongside longtime coach and uncle Toni.
Moya, who has had a successful coaching stint with Milos Raonic of Canada, who has risen up the ranking ladder rapidly, will look to strike the right chords with Nadal and his team. An experienced clay court specialist, Moya is going to be the celebrity coach to look out for, this year.
Nadal’s first task next season is definitely going to be challenging the rest of the Big 4. With Federer making a comeback as well, and Djokovic and Murray establishing themselves as the best in the world, Nadal has to elevate his game, and improve on the mental fortitude he is known for, to stand a chance against the rest. Moya, who retired in 2010 himself, has a fair bit of experience of playing Nadal’s challengers next season.
Nadal’s next task is going to be to win big: Win more titles, regardless of their importance. Be it an ATP 250 title, an ATP 500, Masters or Grand Slam, Nadal has to make deep runs in the tournaments, in order to improve/ preserve rankings. This can be highlighted from his recent ouster from the Top 5, a place he used to rule less than three years ago. It’s a place where he belongs, and with a hopefully good tennis season, and a specific gameplan by Moya, Nadal can conquer what he has always longed and enjoyed.
In order to do so, the ‘King of Clay’ must establish his fortitude on clay, which is something that’s has been lacking over the past couple of years. With just a couple of Clay titles this season, Nadal’s dominance seems to be diminishing, but any effort in reestablishing it would work wonders, and make him the omnipresent threat he is, especially under the guidance of the clay specialist Moya.
There are various problems Nadal needs to overcome to become successful once again. It begins in the head, one that gets back the fighting spirit in him, and gives him a much more confident relaxed approach. And for this job, Moya seems perfect. Toni as usual focuses much on the gameplan, and must continue to do so.
With just a few more years left in the career of this Legendary Spanish Great, all one can hope as a fan is to see the last of his best. With the end of the ‘Fedal’ Era approaching, and as the baton is passed on to his juniors, Nadal will have to roll back time, in order to extend his stay. The Moya partnership certainly has its advantages, but without the determined Nadal we commonly know, the partnership may bear no fruit. Let’s just hope that ‘Vintage Nadal’ gets back to working ways.
Rahul is a tennis enthusiast and loves to write about sports in general. His inspirations are Rafael Nadal, Michael Phelps and Roger Federer.