On FB, Rafa posted a photo of his new training partner, Teimuraz Gabashvilli. The no. 136-ranked Russian recently lost in the Paris-Bercy qualies. It seems he flew straight from Paris to Manacor to train with Nadal.
The Portuguese junior Frederico Silva (that’s his full name, I believe) had a two week stay in Mallorca, where he spent time training with Nadal. Gabashvilli has now taken over the duties of hitting partner.
This is a common arrangement for top players. Way back when, Bjorn Borg had an arrangement where he hired John Lloyd as a hitting partner in between Roland Garros and Wimbledon. Federer also had a friend and hitting partner in Swiss player Yves Allegro. Years ago, the tennis club owned by Allegro’s family ran into financial trouble. Federer lent a helping hand by by playing an exhibition match at Allegro’s tennis club. The match sold out and the extra promotion helped Allegro’s family.
Such an arrangement is pretty much only available to the top stars, who have the resources and command the respect to “hire” tennis players for training. Andy Murray is well-backed by a small army of trainers and a personal hitting partner in Dani Vallverdu.
This is a stark contrast to the players outside the top 4. Take Gael Monfils, who is ranked no. 14. Gael’s younger brother Daryl is an up-and-coming tennis player. Recently, Daryl gave a hilarious quote that revealed his opinion of Gael’s tennis:
“I do not like [Gael’s] style of play. I like players like Isner, Karlovic or Söderling.”
Question for Daryl: Is blood not thicker than water? (It’s a rhetorical question, Daryl!)
This hurts even more when you consider Gael was recently sitting courtside at a Geneva Challenger, cheering for Daryl and adorably live-tweeting his younger brother’s match.
In summary, if you’re Rafa, you can arrange for tennis players to fly to Manacor and they will be grateful for the invitation. If you’re Gael, you’re doing time on the sidelines at a Geneva Challenger, trying to win the respect of your younger brother (who is probably embarrassed by your presence).
Thankfully, Gael has a close friendship with compatriot Tsonga (who has a stern-looking younger brother of his own–also an athlete). For Gael’s sake, I hope he is able to close out 2011 with an impressive finish at Paris-Bercy, one that even Daryl would be proud to witness.