Rafael Nadal’s coaching gurus Toni Nadal and Carlos Moya give their verdict on his big rivals

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal

They have been two of the most influential figures in the career of Rafael Nadal and now his former coach Toni Nadal and his current mentor Carlos Moya have given their views on his biggest rivals in an interview with Eurosport’s Players’ Cut.

What are your thoughts on Roger Federer?

Toni Nadal: “For me, he’s a wonderful player. I like to watch Roger Federer a lot. If I wasn’t the uncle nor the coach of Rafael, I would want Federer to win all the matches. But in the end, I like how he plays, because he’s very elegant but he’s very effective too. I know Federer is the best ever with I don’t know who; maybe Rod Laver or maybe Rafael, he’s not too far. But at the moment Federer is the best.”

Thoughts on Novak Djokovic?

Toni Nadal: “For us, it was always more difficult to play against Djokovic. Because it’s not about who of them is better. For us, when we play against Federer, we have a way to beat him. In my mind, before going on court, I know what we have to do. When we play against Djokovic, many times we didn’t know exactly what we had to do. This is more difficult, for me. I prefer to play against Federer.”

How did you approach someone like Daniil Medvedev at the US Open final last year?

Carlos Moya: “Well, it was a little bit of everything, of course tactically. They played each other a few weeks before in the final in Canada, when Rafa won pretty easily. The beginning was tough, but then he played really well, and he won easily. Then Medvedev won in Cincinnati, so it was not a surprise to face him in the final of the US Open.”

Rafael Nadal hugging US Open trophy

What were your thoughts on the match-up with Rafa heading in the US Open final?

Carlos Moya: “Honestly, we thought that the longer the match was, the better for Rafa. Because if you remember, he struggled a little bit during the tournament. He played many matches that summer. And we thought that the longer it was the better for Rafa. And after he won the first two sets, I thought: I think this is close to be over. I don’t think he’s going to be able to come back. But it was amazing what happened after that. Rafa was two sets and a break up in the third set but he could not convert. And then he had break points to go and serve for the match and then things got really, really bad for Rafa. But yeah, it was about convincing him that it is not easy to play a first Grand Slam final against a player that has played so many finals like Rafa.”

What was the key to Rafa winning the fifth set?

Carlos Moya: “Experience for me was very important. But also, Rafa has the game to adapt and to change things and try things to hurt Daniil’s game. But honestly, I think Medvedev changed his tactics completely when he was down and that took us a little bit by surprise.”

How difficult is it for someone like Rafa to play Medvedev?

Carlos Moya: “He is like a wall. You’re not used to playing guys like him that stay away from the baseline and a tall guy running. I mean, he’s such a good athlete and it’s very difficult to outpower him. I think you have to change the pace, alternate a bit, play low balls, high balls. Make him move forward a little bit, slice. Try to mix it up very well, because if you just play hard and try to make winners, he’s a very tough player to beat.

“So, what I mean when I said that he changed his game in my opinion, is that he came to volley. After he was two sets down, he started to serve and volley, to go for his shots, try to shorten the points. I think that worked for him. In the 5th set, he was 1/0 15-40, if I’m not wrong. So, I don’t know what could have happened if Rafa could not hold his serve then. But yeah, he took us by surprise after those 2 sets to zero down. He changed his tactics and that shows how good he is.”

Toni Nadal and Carlos Moya were speaking to Eurosport as part of its Players’ Cut series which this week features Rafa Nadal. Players’ Cut airs from 7pm CEST each evening this week. Check local listings.

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