Nino Severino: Watching Andy Murray, Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer train was such a privilege
- Credit: Archant
In his latest column, Nino Severino shares his experiences of watching the best tennis players in the world go through their practice routines.
On the tour the very best players get the opportunity to practice, warm up and prepare on the centre court of the tournaments – this is the equivalent of training at Wembley Stadium, so it’s a big thing for the players, and believe me, they earn this privilege.
Miami’s centre court is simply magnificent, and the players’ lounge sits majestically right at the top.
I remember my very first trip there and, walking through the lounge door, the first person I saw was Judy Murray.
At this point I had never met her, but Elena introduced me and we had a great chat – if you would have told me then that this woman would become the great patron of our foundation and she would attend our wedding in Ipswich in 2013, I would never have believed you!
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After my chat with Judy, I looked down at the centre court, and our very our British number one Andy Murray was training.
I could not let the opportunity of watching his session go by, so I took the very long walk down the stadium and took my ring-side seat to watch the man at work.
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The heat that day was unbearable so Andy was training without his top on – the one thing that struck me was how much work he had put into developing his powerful and athletic frame, this is something you can’t appreciate when he’s fully dressed!
I stayed and watched the whole session and it was great to see him have a lot of fun with three members of his support team, finishing with a game of tennis volleyball, two men on each side of the court, hitting the ball over the net with their feet, this was a game he often played during his sessions.
Elena had already trained and was with the WTA support team having treatment and massage, so I decided to stay and see who was on next.
I was not disappointed as it was the ultimate tennis gladiator, the great Rafael Nadal. This man is simply a force of nature, I’d watched him many times, and was really looking forward to watching him work.
He himself once said ‘train as you mean to compete’, and he truly practices what he preaches. I wish that all the junior tennis players across the world could have the experience of watching one of his sessions, it truly is a masterclass.
I had time to stay for one more player and was wondering who would appear from the entrance of the stadium onto the centre court.
I was very pleased to see it was Nadal’s compatriot, Fernando Verdasco, the highly ranked Spanish player.
This really was the icing on the cake, they say life experiences make us who we are, well I can say for sure that watching great athletes such as Murray, Nadal and Verdasco back-to-back-to-back is one of the experiences that has made me the coach I am today.
The knowledge I gained sets the standards for the many athletes I work with today.
And finally I must share just one more similar experience – this one at the Grand Slam tournament, the French Open in Paris.
Elena had just finished her training session, we had finished lunch and heard that the great Roger Federer was training on the centre court.
As player and coach, we had the privilege of gaining access to the stadium from the players walk way under the court.
Normally, with accreditation you can just walk through and watch, but for some reason, this session was different, there was a huge security guard standing on the door, and he politely told us that no one was gaining entry to the stadium.
Now, Elena being Elena, she was not going to take no for an answer, and somehow, she managed to convince the security guard to let us through.
This would turn out to be one of those money can’t buy experiences that I will never forget, there literally was no other spectators in the stadium, the only other people watching were Roger’s wife, Mirka, his agent and twin children.
This became one of those very unique life experiences, and where the professional Roger Federer was combined with the personal family man.
Down on the court was Roger focused on his tennis drills, preparing for his match later that day, and in front of us, three rows down was his wife, chatting to his children, Charlene and Myla.
It was a joy to be part of this experience, and as Elena and I walked out of the stadium, we just looked at each other and smiled.