Francis Roig and Carlos Moya, coaches of Rafael Nadal, maintain straight faces as they joke with Diego Schwartzman on Practice Court 1 of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York. Schwartzman and his coach, Juan Ignacio Chela, are waiting for Nadal to wrap up a training session at 1:02 p.m. — two minutes past the time allotted on the court for Nadal and his team. Schwartzman smiles mischievously as the World No. 2 hits a few more volleys before shaking hands with his quarter-final opponent and finally stepping off the court. Nadal’s coaches exchange hearty hugs with the Argentine before following their charge off the court.
It’s a humorous, light-hearted moment that exemplifies the good nature between the sides off the court ahead of Wednesday’s clash at the US Open. On the court, a ruthless Nadal is 7-0 in his FedEx ATP Head2Head series against Schwartzman, including two four-set wins at Grand Slams (Australian Open, Roland Garros) in 2018.
The coaches’ joke is also a reference to their pupil’s efficiency at the tournament so far. Nadal’s road to the quarter-finals has been almost impeccable, and the stats reinforce his position as a strong candidate to lift his fourth title in Flushing Meadows. Still, his coaches feel there’s room for improvement, and their pursuit of perfection is relentless.
“We have to constantly improve; it isn’t just about his overall game, but his ‘feel’ for the game,” Roig told ATPTour.com following Nadal’s practice. “That’s not something that happens overnight, or you just happen upon. It’s the next step in improving one’s game. His ability to listen and absorb is extraordinary. It’s a virtue; it allows us as coaches to have a dialogue with him, point out specifics and know he’s on the same wavelength. Read More