‘I told Rafael Nadal to battle to the end and endure’, says top coach

Rafael Nadal does not have fond memories of his 2015 appearance at the RÍo Open on clay. That year, the Spanish player finished his quarterfinal match at 3:00 AM against Pablo Cuevas, and then, 20 hours later, he returned to the court and faced Fabio Fognini in the semifinals. The Italian would eventually win in a thrilling three-set match, with Nadal complaining a lot about the scheduling system. In a recent exclusive interview with Tennis World USA, tournament director Luiz Carvalho recalled that difficult moment. “When Nadal finished at 3:00 AM, that day we had four matches with the first one starting at 3:00 PM and all the matches lasted three hours each. Nadal was the last player on the day’s schedule and he also played a long match. The general situation was not ideal for the players and for the event, Nadal was on the negative side, but for five years at the Rio Open, that was the only time it happened. At the US Open, Washington, in China it has happened many times. There are things that sometimes we cannot control. Speaking about Fognini’s big win over Nadal, Carvalho added: “It was an unbelievable match. At the beginning, Nadal started to take command, he was under control and the crowd started to get a little bit behind Fognini, who was the shortest player on the score. Fabio had an incredible reaction and match point was everything. People really like Fabio, he has an intriguing personality, he shows emotions and we are happy to have him for the sixth edition. He is one of the favorites to win the title in 2019.”

Rafa is a great champion

In his book, Rafael Nadal: My Story, the former world number one described what his uncle told him before the big match. An extract from his book reads, “Ask Toni Nadal what his last words were to his nephew before he left the Wimbledon locker room at the start of the 2008 final and he’ll tell you: “I told him to battle to the end and endure.” Ask him why Rafa has made it to the top of world tennis and he’ll reply: “Because it’s all in the head, in your attitude, in wanting more, in enduring more than your rival.” Nadal has also described what Toni says to him during his recovery from injuries; “Ask him what he says to Rafa on those days when the body rebels and the pain seems too great to compete on court, and his reply will be: I say to him, ‘Look, you’ve got two roads to choose from: tell yourself you’ve had enough and we leave, or be prepared to suffer and keep going. The choice is between enduring and giving up.’”