Tennis

Spanish Tennis Depth Set To Show Itself Again At Madrid Open

Rafa Nadal, Roberto Bautista Agut, Pablo Carreno Busta, Albert Ramos-Vinolas, Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, Feliciano Lopez, Fernando Verdasco, Pablo Andujar, Jaume Munar, Roberto Carballes Baena and Pedro Martinez.

Such are the 11 Spaniards that currently sit inside the ATP Tour’s top 100 rankings – the joint-most of any country, alongside France.

Nadal, Bautista Agut and Carreno Busta are all ranked inside the top 15, and as many as six of that list might compete at the upcoming Madrid Open.

But what is behind Spain’s continuing, extraordinary depth at the top of men’s tennis?

Role models

There can’t be a much better player to look up to in any sport than 20-time Grand Slam winner Nadal.

An inspirational figure who brings his best onto court at every opportunity, both mentally and physically.

And his influence has surely helped upskill a number of his compatriots.

Witness for example the impression he left on Andujar after he trained with Nadal at his Majorca academy last year.

“I did two days of training with Rafa,” Andujar said.

“Two days with him is like five normal days.

“At our age, we only do one daily session but it was still nearly three hours.

“After that, it was enough for me. There was a lot of rhythm, a lot of exchanges. It was intense.

“He is always impressive when you are in front of him. It’s strength, power. But neither more nor less than before. It is the same, always at 100 percent.”

Jaume Munar’s development is also the result of Nadal’s assistance.

Munar – a fellow Majorcan – has regularly trained at Nadal’s academy, and the fruits of that education can be seen in his successes at Tour level, where he has been as high as No.52 in the world.

With Nadal’s academy home to the next stable of young players, it surely won’t be long until more Spaniards make their mark on the men’s game.

Coaching

Nadal has been something of an exception – being coached by his uncle Toni Nadal for his much of his career – but there are a raft of other successful coaches active in Spain.

The likes of Sergi Bruguera – a two-time French Open winner and Spain’s current Davis Cup captain – and former world No.1 Juan Carlos Ferrero have their own academies, and they are developing the next generation through their experiences and know-how.

Add in the Sanchez-Casal Academy – where the likes of Andy Murray and Grigor Dimitrov trained – and you have a fertile ground to breed technically and tactically astute players.

Environment

The weather and facilities in Spain play a huge part in their continuing production line.

Outdoor play is possible for much of the year and usually on clay courts, which encourages the development of the fundamentals of baseline play, and physical endurance.

Nadal will look to pick up his second clay court title of the year at the Madrid Open.

And from there, all eyes will be on a record-extending 14th Roland Garros title.

But he might just have to overcome some of his countrymen along the way.

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