Rafael Nadal had a slow start on clay this year, also thanks to a start to the season affected by his back problem. The Spanish champion has remedied a couple of premature eliminations both in Monte Carlo and in Madrid, with the seal in Barcelona in the middle that had not fully dispelled the doubts about his state of form.
In the last major tournament before Roland Garros, namely the International BNL of Italy, the former world number 1 won the tenth title, strengthening his ambitions just days before the second Slam of the season. In a dream final against eternal rival Novak Djokovic, the 34-year-old Majorcan won in three sets, confirming that he is still the man to beat on this surface.
In a long interview published on the ATP website, his coach Francisco Roig - who follows him along with Carlos Moya - analyzed in detail the tactical keys of the latest clash with Djokovic. Rafa will be seeded number 3 in Paris, so he could cross Nole already in the semifinal.
Roig on the Italian Open final
On the Serb dominating the longer exchanges, Francisco Roig said, “That’s right, 20-5 on the 9+ hit points. These long points occur when Rafael Nadal is not hitting with the necessary quality, what happens is that he has the ability to play one more ball”.
The veteran coach added that when the Spaniard whips it off his handle as he is known to, he would finish a rally in “three or four shots” more often than not. “When he hits well, in three or four shots, he is capable of overflowing, with a good deep rest, entering the court,” Roig observed, adding that it is very important for Nadal to find the racquet before the “technical aspect comes into play”.
Nadal's title winning percentage on clay is 58.49%, which is far better than the second-placed Bjorn Borg's rate of 41.02%. More impressively, Rafael Nadal has won a mammoth 459 out of 501 claycourt matches on the ATP tour.
That gives the Mallorcan a win-loss ratio of 91.61%, which is more than Bjorn Borg's figure of 86.1%. Roger Federer, meanwhile, has won a mere 76.1% of his matches on clay, while Novak Djokovic's win rate is close to 80%.
“Because mentally he is a player who wears a lot when fighting each point, I also understand that he has to try to overflow with his blows so as not to play too (many) long points,” Roig said.