Rafa Nadal was born with the elite mentality which saw him become one of the greatest players in the history of the game, according to his coach Carlos Moya, who has described him as being a “calm” guy from Mallorca who transforms into a “beast” on the court.
On a special episode of Tennis Legends, Mats Wilander and Justine Henin were joined by an expert panel to analyse what lies behind the greatness of the 19-time Grand Slam winner. As well as Moya, they were also joined by another of Nadal’s coaching staff, Francisco Roig, and his agent Carlos Costa.
Nadal’s incredible mentality is one of his hallmarks and even though he comes from a relaxed corner of Spain in Mallorca, his coaching staff say that fire was always burning inside of him.
"I think you are born like that,” Moya said on Tennis Legends. "I mean, you can learn a lot of things for sure. He learned that and improved in many ways, but you have to have it. Also his background is very good, he has a family that was to professional sport before, so for sure that helps.
"I mean, if you can teach that, we will have many Rafas and we don't have that at all. So that's something that we, I mean, it's amazing that that happened like Carlos said, nobody could expect a guy from Mallorca to win 19 Grand Slams, 12 French Opens. For me it was a big surprise that he won Wimbledon as well. But I think for sure you improve things but you are born like that and I have no doubt about that.
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Henin asked Moya: "But is it also the education Carlos, because Rafa has his feet on the ground, he has this humility that everyone can recognise in him. Is that really, as you said natural, coming from the family? Is the whole family like that and for him it's just natural to be like that?”
Moya replied: "Like I said, his background is very good. So Mallorca is a calm island. We are called the ‘calm guys from the island’ and with the atmosphere we have here we take things very easy - you know, we are pretty relaxed, we like to chill. You know, I think in that sense, Rafa is like that.
"But then once he steps on the court, he becomes a beast. You know, he's more than a hundred percent - I would say he never gives up. He’s always fighting. I think even if he loses, you know - as a coach, or Carlos as an agent - that he's going to give his best."
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"So going on to the court, knowing that, I think it's something that you cannot have in many players. So I guess the island and the nature of the Island has something to do with it.”
Nadal’s agent, Carlos Costa, also revealed to Mats and Justine that he could never have foreseen the exploits that his young client would go on to achieve at the start of his career.
"I mean, no, no one expects this from anybody," Carlos said. "I mean, normally that is the history of tennis has been that a lot of good players, as Justine you said, but you can dominate two or three years, but at the end, somebody will change. And people you know, that generation, this case between Roger, Rafa and Nole, they have been dominating the Tour and winning most of the big tournaments.
"When I signed Rafa in 2005 of course I thought that he has something special and he can be one of the top players. He could win a Grand Slam, but I never thought about six, seven, eight, nine, 10, 19, never. Especially coming from Spain, where the maximum we had is Moya with one I think, Bruguera two. So in Spain, we didn’t had a lot of history about winning a lot of Grand Slams. It was difficult for us.”
The full Tennis Legends vodcast has much more from the panel about Nadal and his game, including some of the moments which made him a genuine tennis superstar.