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Rafael Nadal’s coach has explained how the 36-year-old has been able to get “better” with age despite being less fresh physically. Carlos Moya hailed his charge for his “rare” longevity ahead of the Spaniard’s French Open final, in which he will bid to win a record-extending 14th French Open and 22nd Grand Slam.
Nadal faces first-time Grand Slam finalist Casper Ruud in the championship match at the French Open as he bids to win the first two Majors of the season for the first time in his career. The world No 5 surprised everyone by returning from a six-month injury layoff to win a record 21st Grand Slam in Australia at the start of the season and could pull ahead with a 22nd title at the very next Major tournament.
The Spaniard – who turned 36 on Friday – is playing his 14th final in Paris. Nadal won the first of his 13 French Open titles and 21 Grand Slams back in 2005, when he was aged just 19. And Carlos Moya has now hailed his charge for his “rare” ability to continue breaking records 17 years later.
“To me, beating these records with longevity like this is something you rarely see in any sport, and he has been able to do that,” the former world No 1, who now coaches Nadal, told the Sunday Times. Moya also explained how the world No 5 “knew the game better” now despite being less fresh and physically fit than he was as a 19-year-old.
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“This period is a different perspective for him to the beginning of his career,” the 1998 champion in Paris continued. “Fifteen-to-16 years ago, he was a different player, with fresh legs helping him run everywhere. We don’t have that any more. But he has evolved and become wiser on the court, he knows the game better now.”
Looking back on his first title win at Roland Garros, Moya admitted that Nadal was the favourite even then despite never having won a Major and said his run to the trophy was important even today as the Spaniard now bids for his 14th.
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Nadal’s coach continued: “Even though he hadn’t won a French Open before, he was still the favourite.
“Nobody expected then that he would go on and win 12 more and now have the chance to win No 14, but the first one was really important. It gave him the mentality to know that he was capable of winning more.”
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