'Rafael Nadal had to improve his serve to extend career,' Francisco Roig recalls

by   |  VIEW 6492

'Rafael Nadal had to improve his serve to extend career,' Francisco Roig recalls

Rafael Nadal claimed the ninth Roland Garros trophy in the previous ten years in 2014, securing the tenth consecutive season with at least one Major crown! As it turned out, that would be the Spaniard's last Major title for the next three years, struggling with injuries and failing to follow the pace of the main rivals despite never leaving the top-10.

Claiming only five ATP titles in almost three years, Nadal bounced back in style in 2017, reaching the Australian Open final and lifting the Monte Carlo trophy. Improving his serve and becoming more aggressive, Nadal was ready to change his game and play more efficient and effective tennis, attacking more and finishing the rallies on his terms.

In 2017, Nadal led the field as the only player above 60% efficiency behind the second serve, claiming two Major titles at Roland Garros and the US Open and finishing the season as the year-end no. 1 for the first time in four seasons.

A year later, the Spaniard topped the charts again, lifting four notable titles and standing second behind Novak Djokovic in the year-end rankings. In 2019, Rafa was among five players with 90% of the service games won, leading the second serve tables ahead of Roger Federer and securing another year-end no.

1 honor alongside two Major crowns in Paris and New York. In October last year, Nadal claimed the 20th Major at Roland Garros, delivering fury from his initial shot to keep all seven rivals under pressure and win the title without losing a set!

Rafa lost serve only eight times in seven encounters, providing one good hold after another and setting the return's pace that no one could match. In the opening four rounds, the greatest clay-courter in the game's history got broken twice from eight chances offered to his opponents (Sebastian Korda earned six break opportunities alone in the last 16).

Rafael Nadal has been one of the best servers on the Tour since 2017.

Thus, the Spaniard sailed into the quarters and beat Jannik Sinner in straight sets despite losing serve twice. In the semis, Rafa had to work hard against Diego Schwartzman, getting broken three times and controlling everything on the return to marching into the final after over three hours of entertaining battle.

In the title clash, Nadal stormed over Novak Djokovic 6-0, 6-2, 7-5 in two hours and 41 minutes for the 13th Roland Garros crown. The Serb converted only one break chance in the third set while offering Rafa 18 break opportunities.

The Spaniard seized seven for a commanding victory and a milestone title. "Rafa has been getting more out of the service for the past three years; it gives him free points. It was not so much a problem of speed, as the bounce, especially on the second serve: when the ball bounced, it did not slide.

We fixed that, and now he recognizes the serve as a weapon. We did not do it for that, but to remain competitive because it is true that he can not move like when he was 20," Francisco Roig said.