Facing Nadal: Thiem, Moya, Armando and Kokkinakis Speak Out
Tennis journalist Mark ‘Scoop’ Malinowski has published his fourth tennis book, Facing Nadal: Symposium of a Champion available from Amazon.
This second in a series of three book excerpts includes insider views from Dominic Thiem, Carlos Moya, Hugo Armando and Thanasi Kokkinakis.
“I faced him in Paris where obviously he lost one match in his career. It was maybe…it’s one of the biggest challenges in, not only tennis, but in all sport…to face Rafa in Paris. But it was a good experience for me and I think it helped me a lot.”
Question: Did anything surprise you about being on the court with him live, instead of seeing him on TV or from the side?
Dominic Thiem: “It was completely new. It was my first year last year on the Tour and I knew everything, everybody only from the TV. And then all of a sudden I was matched in Paris against the nine-time champion. So it was a very good experience and also helpful.”
Question: What did you learn that day?
Dominic Thiem: “That I still (have) a long way to go [smiles].”
Nadal leads series 1-0
2014 Roland Garros Clay R64 Nadal 6-2, 6-2, 6-3
Question: What is your first memory of Nadal?
Carlos Moya: “Well, meeting him in Stuttgart when he was twelve. He was playing an under-12 tournament and I was playing the Masters 1000 event in Stuttgart (’98). So that was the first time we met.
Question: What was your initial reaction of seeing him play?
Carlos Moya: “We played. We actually played that day and he was twelve and I was twenty-two. I think he was a very great player under twelve, he was very shy off court. But then we saw something different on court. But he was very hungry to play and compete and that’s something you could see right away.”
Nadal leads series 6-2
2003 Hamburg Masters Clay R32 Nadal 7-5, 6-4
2003 Umag Clay SF Moya 6-4, 6-4
2005 Montreal Masters Hard R64 Nadal 6-3, 6-7, 6-3
2006 Miami Masters Hard R64 Moya 2-6, 6-1, 6-1
2007 Roland Garros Clay QF Nadal 6-4, 6-3, 6-0
2008 Chennai Hard SF Nadal 6-7, 7-6 (8), 7-6 (1)
2008 Hamburg Masters Clay SF Nadal 6-1, 6-3
“I played him in Stuttgart. He’s the toughest competitor I ever faced. It’s just something I’ve never seen before. It’s just everything about him. His energy, just everything. Before walking on the court, the guy’s doing ten-foot sprints side to side, just non-stop. It was just unimaginable (smiles).”
“I played him at the Aussie Open, second round. I was impressed by all the intensity and effort that he put into every ball that he hit. And I actually found his serve really awkward, it moved a lot. Had a lot of slice on his serve. Those were the big things. Tough to win a point against him.
Question: Before the match, how did you feel going out to the court to face the ATP World Tour number one player?
Thanasi Kokkinakis: “I wasn’t nervous, I was more excited. I had already got the win in the first round. I had no pressure. So I went out there to try to swim freely. I knew obviously it was going to be a tough out but I did think I could trouble him a bit with my game style, the way I play. So I had a good chance in the second set to maybe break his serve or be close but I didn’t take my break points. And, you know, it was suddenly one break at the end of that set. So it was pretty tight.”
Question: Did anything surprise you about him?
Thanasi Kokkinakis: “Probably how well he handled my first serve. My first serve return, those were the main things. But apart from that I kind of expected most of it.”
Question: Before the match how would you describe his preparations in the locker room?
Thanasi Kokkinakis: “Fine. I think I talked with him a bit about golf. I think there was golf on TV. So my coach and I talked a little bit of golf with him (smiles). And that was probably about an hour before the match. But then obviously when we got closer he started getting prepared, like every other player.”
Question: Lasting memory of Nadal on or off court?
Thanasi Kokkinakis: “He’s been a nice guy to me. I enjoyed playing him, sharing the court with him. Hopefully next time it will be more fun and I’ll come out on the other end.”
Question: What will you try to do different next time?
Thanasi Kokkinakis: “Probably keep my first serve percentage up, he likes playing against second serves. And just keep giving it to him and being more aggressive and I’ll be a lot more tougher physically next time around if I play him again.”
Nadal leads series 1-0
2014 Australian Open Hard R64 Nadal 6-2, 6-4, 6-2