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The Reign of Rafa by Carlos Moya


Carlos Moya pens article on Rafa's journey into the claycourt season..who says you need to be a journalist in order to write?

The Reign of Rafa
CARLOS MOYA 11/04/2011
(google translation & rafaholics)

The claycourt season has arrived, where Rafael Nadal has been utterly dominant over the past six years. In the game, there are 5,000 points (almost half of the points he has) at stake in barely one and a half months and, because he only has 900 points to defend from 2010, it looks as if his maximum rival in the battle for number one will be Novak Djokovic, absent from the Monte Carlo Masters 1000 by knee problems.

How does Rafa look and how does he prepare for the claycourt season? He is yet to win a title in 2011, although he was close to doing so on two occasions (Indian Wells and Miami) when an inspired and as yet unbeaten Djokovic stopped him, but he is highly motivated and has high desire.

It is not easy to prepare for clay when you have not played on it since Roland Garros 2010. Rafa will begin in Monte Carlo with only six days of practice on claycourts, though it is true that adaptation is much more rapid for a Spaniard than for any other player.

Professional tennis is a sport with much time spent competing and little time to train. These few days are used to compensate, rebalance and minimize the aggression that the parties, trips and surface changes inflicted on the player's body.

Bearing in mind that Rafa was dehydrated at the end of the match in Miami, this has been a week of regeneration. Here the role of Juan Forcades - physical preparation guru with whom I had the pleasure of working for many years and who is now Nadal's physical trainer - is of vital importance, as is the role of his physiotherapist, Rafael Maimo.

This week there has been preventive training, with a special point being made of the shoulder (fundamental in tennis), the trunk muscles (these transfer the power that the legs generate to the racquet), the hip (amplitude of movement and use of mechanical vibrations) and the knee tendons (strengthening).

The importance of Toni Nadal really comes into effect as the time for competition gets closer. As there is a change of surface from hardcourt to clay, he must insist above all on movement (sliding is very important), using more topspin, perhaps risking less with the first serve looking for a high percentage and setting up the point more patiently.

It is very difficult to plan things in tennis because you never know the number of games you are going to play in a tournament, or exactly how many tournaments you wil play, though in this case it is all about getting to Roland Garros in peak form. The way in which the fatigue generated by matches and tournaments is handled will be fundamental to obtaining the objectives.

Carlos Moyà was world number one (1999) and Roland Garros (1998) and Davis Cup (2004) champion.

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