Andy Roddick’s words of advice for teenager Darwin Blanch ahead of Rafael Nadal clash

Kevin Palmer
American Darwin Blanch is a rising star
American Darwin Blanch is a rising star

American teenager Darwin Blanch is set to live a dream when he takes on Rafael Nadal in front of a partisan Spanish crowd at the Madrid Open – and he has been given some sound advice from former world No 1 before the ultimate test.

The 16-year-old wonder kid has been handed the task of tackling the greatest clay court player of all-time after he was handed a wildcard into the ATP 1000 tournament in the Spanish capital.

Even though Nadal is playing out the final chapters of his decorated career, this is still the most daunting prospect imaginable for Blanch and Roddick has offered him some sound advice ahead of what will be a nerve jangling experience.

Speaking on his Served podcast, Roddick suggested Blanch needed to find a way to control his nerves in the biggest match of his life.

“Focus on your breathing. Exhale when you hit the ball,” was Roddick’s advice to the youngtser.

“Your feet have to move. Your feet are the first thing to go when you’re nervous, when something’s wrong. Darwin Blanch. Move your feet.

“It is a little bit different and there is cause for optimism if you’re Blanch and I’m his coach, in the situation where by the way I want to get to the fact that he’s our best prospect and he doesn’t live in America.

“Rafa isn’t No 1 in the world. You’re still on clay, you’re still in Madrid, the ball jumps everywhere. If he gets a hot day, he is going to get a lesson in a ball jumping off of a court.

“But if I’m his coach I’m saying ‘Listen, all the respect in the world. You can give credit to this guy and also, I don’t know if this is true on clay, time will tell, he’s not a top-ten player in the world at this moment. He’s a guy who is ranked 800th in the world’.

“And I would be feeding him this narrative even if I didn’t believe it myself.

“If you get off to a hot start, he is compromised and he is not serving properly yet. I would be trying to feed these positive thoughts.”

Blanch has been training in Spain at the Juan Carlos Ferrero academy, where he has hit with Wimbledon champion Carlos Alcaraz.

Now he is set to take on the most successful clay court player of them all and Roddick has urged American fans to get behind a potential star of the future as he compared him to new American No 1 Ben Shelton.

“He looks like a mini-Shelton,” added Roddick. “He has a big serve, a cool vibe.

“He played at the Miami Open and it was clear that his footwork is not making sense yet.

“This is cool. How fortunate is he that Rafa has four tournaments left to be able to say I played Rafa. I hope he enjoys it.

“Also, this kid is in a situation in Spain with Juan Carlos Ferrero, coach of Carlos Alcaraz, and he plays for America. He has our flag.

“Ten of 15 years ago, they would have tried to reel his ass back into America. Leave him there.

“Send him all the player development money they are taking away and let him train with Carlos Alcaraz and become, be guided by Juan Carlos Ferrero and be a top three player. That would be awesome.”