It wasn’t all that long ago when Milos Raonic and Carlos Moya ended their player/coach relationship on the ATP Tour. Since then tennis news has been fairly sparse as the ATP is in the short offseason. Boris Becker and Novak Djokovic were the big news last week, however, Moya is central to tennis news again as it has been announced that Rafael Nadal has signed on with his fellow Spaniard.
The ATP covered the topic on December 17th on their home page. The website cites Nadal as stating “I am very excited to announce that Carlos Moya will join my team immediately and work together with Toni (Nadal) and Francisco Roig. To have someone like Carlos who is not only a friend but also a very important person in my career is something special. He will be next to me at my practices and competition.” Nadal’s comments attest to friendship, however, they don’t speak to tennis much.
I think most might positively evaluate this move, however, there are some reasons to be skeptical of Moya as a coach. Most will point out that Raonic enjoyed his best season to date with Moya as his coach. However, a major counterpoint is that the coaching relationship still ended after all of that success. It might be that Raonic does not think his success in 2016 was due to Moya’s guidance, but other factors.
Writing very early in December I pointed out that Moya, who won the 1998 French Open, is best known for his clay-court results. However, Raonic did not enjoy a successful clay-court season in 2016, meaning that Moya’s clay-court expertise didn’t just transfer over to the Canadian. Raonic suffered a middle-round upset at Roland Garros, and he didn’t do much in Monte Carlo, Madrid, or Rome either. Compared to some earlier seasons, Raonic actually did worse on clay in 2016.
When it comes to the Canadian’s success at Wimbledon, don’t forget that Raonic signed on John McEnroe just ahead of the All England Club’s grass-court championships. A fair question is which coach helped Raonic the most in greater London? I see the answer as only one that Raonic can provide, and his decision to end his player/coach relationship with Moya speaks volumes to me.
Where Moya can take Nadal isn’t clear, and Nadal’s health/fitness is a big part of that question. Certainly, when it comes to clay, it would be Nadal teaching Moya and not the other way around and the same could be said about the other surfaces. However, there is simply the matter of filling a vacancy on Team Nadal with a qualified candidate and Moya, as a former No. 1, is certainly a brilliant tennis mind. While I don’t see Moya/Nadal as a game breaker at this point, perhaps the best help that Moya can provide Nadal simply has to do with Rafa’s age. Nadal turns 31 in 2017 and Moya played until he was 34 years old before he reluctantly retired in 2010. Moya faced late-career injuries, and perhaps the way he dealt with them will give him some perspective that can help Rafa prolong his career.