Nadal
Rafael Nadal Image Credit: Reuters

Dubai: To date, he is the best student Francisco Roig has handled. And looking at the near future, the coach doesn’t see anything — except health-related issues — that can possibly stop one of Spain’s top sporting legends Rafael Nadal from scaling even greater heights of tennis.

In the UAE with a couple of promising youngsters for the 18th Dubai ITF Junior Championships being held at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium, Roig doesn’t mince words when it comes to describing the legend that Nadal is turning out to be.

“He’s a very special kid. There has been no one like him ever, and I doubt there will be anyone anywhere close to him in the future,” Roig told Gulf News in a chat at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium.

“Nadal is exactly what you see him, both on and off the court. He’s a very natural person, very human and friendly with everyone. When he is on court, he loves competing with the belief that he can win everything. And when he’s off the court, he is pure joy. He simply loves life and enjoys living it totally.”

Nadal, who is guaranteed to finish the year as world No. 1 for a fifth time thanks to his showing at the ATP Finals in London, has won 19 Grand Slam titles — just one behind his great foe Roger Federer — and a record 35 ATP Tour Masters 1,000 titles, 20 ATP Tour 500 titles along with an Olympic singles gold medal in Beijing 2008.

Now 33, Nadal has held the No. 1 ranking for a total of 196 weeks. And in Majors, Nadal has won a record 12 French Open titles, four US Open title, two at Wimbledon and one Australian Open.

Roig, who has been with Nadal since 2005, believes the Mallorca native has an appetite for many more in he future.

“He can win some or all of the big tournaments. And I believe he will play tennis until he is not enjoying it. He’s got the passion no doubt,” Roig said.

“But then, the most important thing behind his success will be his health. That’s going to be crucial. If he is healthy, he is going to play a long time,” he added.

During his career spanning close to two decades, Nadal has consistently struggled to contain his injuries, especially in his knees.

The main cause of these injuries, ironically, is a special shoe sole he wears because of a bone in his foot that didn’t develop properly.

The shoes prevent the foot from causing Nadal to end his career, but they’ve been having side effects.

Among the latest injury instances came earlier this month when the Spaniard retired ahead of his Paris Masters semi-final against Denis Shapovalov. “That’s the unfortunate part. We’ve had some tough moments with health and all of us around him have made sure we are there for him especially during these tough times,” Roig said.

“With all these moments, he’s only got stronger and better, both as a player and as a human. That exactly is the reason why he is still enjoying his sport and loving each moment of his love.”

Despite all these injuries, Roig admitted that 2019 has been one Nadal’s standout seasons. “At this age, one Grand Slam is an achievement. But he won two and that’s a lot in terms of achievement at the age of 33. I can only hope that he can stay healthy next year,” Roig said.

“If he does stay healthy, then he will be winning some big ones, if not fighting for some more Grand Slams.”