Former world No 1 and integral figure in Rafael Nadal’s team, Carlos Moya, says it’s too late to change the Spaniard’s game, but evolving parts of it can certainly be done with great effect.
The 2009 Australian Open champion has been in imperious form during week one at Melbourne Park. A first-round blitz of battle-worn German Florian Mayer, and a stupendously one-sided masterclass against a very good Marcos Baghdatis considerably raised expectations leading up to a clash with Alexander Zverev.
Nadal, a three-time Australian Open finalist, edged an utterly phenomenal four-hour, five-minute duel with 19-year-old wonder-kid Alex Zverev 4-6 6-3 6-7 6-3 6-2 to reach the fourth round.
Moya – the 1998 French Open champion, addressed areas of Nadal’s game (a day before he physically broke Zverev due to a sublime standard of tennis) that they are looking to tweak and improve, but says huge change is not necessary.
“You cannot change a lot with a guy that has won 14 Grand Slams and is 30-years-old, but there is always room for evolution,” Moya told The Tennis Podcast.
“As a team that’s what we think he needs. To keep evolving, to being more aggressive, to try put more pressure with his serve, once he is dictating try to finish a point at the net or being aggressive with the forehand.
“We’re working very hard on that, but now you need the matches to give this 10-20% of confidence that he is lacking still.”
After calling time with Canadian Milos Raonic – Moya played a huge part in Raonic’s historic rise to world No 3 – Nadal’s main coach, Uncle Toni Nadal, wasted no time in acquiring the Spaniard’s services.
With a burning ambition to perform at a level deemed almost unplayable only a few years prior, the world No 9 has steamrolled into 2017 – the Zverev scalp a key indicator to what level Nadal’s currently at.
Moya believes Nadal still has much more to give, and says he isn’t a million miles away from Murray and Djokovic – who incidentally have both crashed out of the 2017 Australian Open, which unquestionably leaves Nadal a firm favourite.
“Yeah of course he’s not that far away, you have to see how the other guys are doing,” he said. “Murray at No 1, he’s 29, Djokovic is 29, they are just one year younger than him.
“I think we need to win a couple of matches and I think he will be very close to his peak.
“Young players I don’t think they’re ready to be one of the top five in the world, so he has time. He’s not 20-years-old anymore but he still has it. He’s not that far.”
Nadal faces enigmatic Frenchman Gael Monfils in the fourth round on Monday January 23 at the Rod Laver Arena. If Nadal advances, a potential quarter-final meeting with someone Carlos Moya knows reasonably well – world No 3, Milos Raonic, awaits the Spaniard.