Carlos Moya: Rafa is a genius mentally

 - Reem Abulleil

Nadal's coach opens up about the tough times the team had in recent months.

Carlos Moya et le père de Rafael Nadal - Roland-Garros 2019©Cédric Lecocq / FFT

Carlos Moya describes Rafael Nadal as a “mental genius” and says the last couple of months have been the “toughest” he’s experienced with him since he joined the Spaniard’s team as a coach at the end of 2016.

Nadal, who won a record-extending 12th Roland-Garros title on Sunday in Paris, has spoken frequently about the physical struggles he’s endured over the past 18 months, including a psoas problem that forced him to retire from his Australian Open quarter-final last year and knee woes that saw him quit during his US Open semi-final against Juan Martin del Potro later in the season.

The Mallorcan also had a surgical procedure on his ankle in November.

This year, the 33-year-old was unable to play his Indian Wells semi-final against Roger Federer due to a recurring knee issue and skipped Miami before returning to action for the clay swing in April.

Uncharacteristic defeats in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Madrid left him title-less through the opening four and a half months of the year for the first time since 2004 and Moya admits there were serious concerns up until Nadal turned things around by winning Rome ahead of Roland-Garros, defeating Novak Djokovic in the final no less.

“It’s been the toughest period for sure since I’m there,” Moya said after Nadal’s victory over Dominic Thiem in the Roland-Garros final on Sunday.

“Mentally, also physically because of the injury he had in Indian Wells, but most of it was mentally very tough.”

He added: “Of course, we were concerned. He gave himself the chance to keep competing every week. Every week he was playing better than the previous week and that was our goal, to get here in the best state of mind possible.

“It was very important for him to win in Rome. He realised he was back at a good level, on the right path, and that gave him a lot of confidence.”

Moya, a champion at Roland-Garros in 1998 is also from Mallorca and has known Nadal since he was a young up-and-comer. He said he had to forget about his role as a coach during the rough period Nadal went through during the spring, and instead was there for him as a friend.

“It was really hard. He really had to push himself to the limit to get back on the court, to practice, to be motivated,” explains Moya.

“He had unbelievable attitude in those bad moments and that’s what got him here today. Hats off to what he’s done this month and a half because it’s easy to play well when all the things are working well, but what he’s been through these last couple of months is showing what kind of competitor he is and that mentally he’s a genius.”

Toni Nadal Roland Garros 2019 final©Nicolas Gouhier / FFT

Nadal’s uncle, Toni, who coached him for the majority of his career but stopped travelling with him at the end of 2017, was in attendance to witness his nephew's 12th triumph on Parisian clay.

Toni was not as worried about Nadal in the build-up to Roland-Garros. “I remember when I was in Rome, I told him, ‘Rafael, don’t think too much, because you are not too far from the level’,” Toni revealed.

“Because I have seen the practice and I said, ‘Okay, a little more and I’m sure you can play well’. And then he told me, ‘Ahh’. For him was not a good moment but I said, ‘What you have to do is to win here in Rome and then you have to win in Roland-Garros and then you can have a very good summer’. Which he has done.”

Nadal is the first man or woman, across both the professional and amateur eras, to win the same Grand Slam tournament 12 times. It’s an achievement Moya believes we will never witness again in the sport.

“It’s hard to say that, but I don’t think I will see that. I would love to see it maybe, but I don’t think I will. It’s amazing," said the Spanish coach.

"How many people are working really hard and they never won a slam? So it’s beyond this world."