“Hey, I have to choose the captain because it’s up to each team’s No. 1 player. Would you like to do it?”
“Of course! If you want me to do it, I’d be delighted. Go for it.”
The brief conversation between Rafael Nadal and Francisco Roig was all it took for Roig to be chosen as the captain of Team Spain at the ATP Cup, held throughout Australia from 3-12 January. Roig, who has been coaching the World No. 1 in the ATP Rankings since 2005, will look to help lead his team to victory in the inaugural event. Spain is part of Group B in Perth, which also features Japan, Georgia and Uruguay.
“It’s a new competition”, Roig said. “I played in the World Team Cup, which took place in Dusseldorf (in 1975 and 1978-2012) and also had two singles matches and a doubles match for each tie. Nobody has experienced this new event, but I can imagine it a little bit.
“The way they’ve promoted it has been incredible. You only have to look at the way the ATP and Tennis Australia are organising everything. It’s quite a show. I’m sure it will be very good. My job is to make sure that everyone is ready, organise the training sessions and look for a good doubles partnership.”
Roig will have an exceptional team to work with. In addition to Nadal, Spain’s lineup features Roberto Bautista Agut (No. 9), Pablo Carreno Busta (No. 27), Albert Ramos-Vinolas (No. 41) and Feliciano Lopez (No. 55 in the ATP Doubles Rankings).
“There are lot of tough teams and you’re out if you don’t play well, but I’m happy with the group we have,” Roig said. “The team we’re taking is spectacular. It’s a competition in which you’re always wary of a small mistake that could knock you out, but obviously Spain is among the favourites. There are difficult teams and the margin for error is small, but I’m confident we can play well enough to reach [the Final Eight in] Sydney. I’m optimistic that we can have a good tournament”.
Spain starts with a huge advantage by having Nadal in their lineup. The 33-year-old clinched year-end No. 1 for the fifth time after a memorable 2019 season. Nadal prevailed at Roland Garros (d. Thiem) and the US Open (d. Medvedev), in addition to taking ATP Masters 1000 titles at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia (d. Djokovic) and the Coupe Rogers (d. Medvedev).
Roig joined Nadal for a few days of his pre-season at the Rafa Nadal Academy in Mallorca and was pleased with what he witnessed.
“Rafa is spectacular,” Roig said, “He’s found some very good form. He’s feeling confident in the way he is playing and his serve is really helping him. I think Nadal looks great. Now it’s a question of maintaining his game.”