Why has Spanish Tennis Declined?

Several years ago at the US Open I was in the media center interview cubicle when Tommy Robredo was asked about why Spanish tennis was struggling to produce top caliber ATP stars after Rafael Nadal.

Robredo revealed an interesting theory. The 37-year-old former World no. 5 who turned pro in 1998, made some interesting revelations. He said that in the golden age of Spanish tennis all the top Spaniards trained together in Barcelona. Which meant that the best of the best of Spain battled it out on the court every day lifting each other to greater levels. Imagine the level of play with the likes of Alex Corretja, Carlos Moya, Juan Carlos Ferrero, Felix Mantilla, Alberto Costa, Nico Almagro, Robredo, Feliciano Lopez, Fernando Verdasco and David Ferrer grinding it almost on a daily basis.

Robredo said a shift then occurred and Spanish tennis then had three main hubs for their ATP players to train – Madrid, Barcelona, and Valencia. Subsequently, the top players no longer trained as fiercely every day and gradually the excellent results of the “Spanish Armada” declined.

Rafael Nadal trained on his own in Majorca. A few years ago at Eddie Herr International Junior Championships at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, I discussed this matter with a Spanish coach who added another interesting revelation. He said that Nadal’s incredible success triggered a “tennis boom” in Spain which inspired many youths to try tennis because they wanted to try to “be the next Nadal.” However these Spanish kids quickly realized tennis is not nearly as easy as Nadal made it look and most of these kids ended up “quitting tennis and going to soccer.” Thus the explanations of the curious decline of why Spanish tennis has struggled mightily to continuously produce consistent top ten stars such as Carlos Moya, Juan Carlos Ferrero, Albert Costa, Robredo, Alberto Berasategui and Alex Corretja.

And in case you didn’t notice there are zero Spaniards in the ATP NEXT GEN Race To Milan top ten rankings. [Note: Spain currently has two players in the ATP top 30 – Nadal (2) – Bautista Agut (13)…Verdasco is ranked 32 – Scoop Malinowski

Nadal artwork by artist Andres Bella.

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  • Hartt · July 29, 2019 at 4:18 pm

    Scoop, it is true that Spanish tennis isn’t the same as in its glory days, but it isn’t all doom and gloom. PCB is healthy again and is playing well, as we saw in Hamburg. His current ranking is No.47 and it should go up during this season.

    Jaume Munar, age 22, has potential for success, and is ranked No.88. Then there is 20-year-old Davidovich Fokina, who looks promising for the future. He is ranked No.127. There may be some players that I’ve overlooked.

  • Scoop Malinowski · July 29, 2019 at 5:22 pm

    Also there is a 16 year old making good results Carlos Garfia. Garfia is probably the brightest prospect.

  • Hartt · July 29, 2019 at 5:45 pm

    I’ve seen Garfia’s name, but don’t know much about him. But if he is making waves as a 16-year-old that is a good sign.

  • Scoop Malinowski · July 29, 2019 at 9:23 pm

    Nikola Kuhn also Hartt but at this point they all look like Albert Portas at best or maybe Robredo at best. Canada has taken over as the leader in top player development, Spain is back in the pack.

  • Hartt · July 29, 2019 at 10:33 pm

    How did I forget Nicola Kuhn? He is one of the 11 players on my secondary youngsters list.

  • Scoop Malinowski · July 29, 2019 at 11:24 pm

    Kuhn has been quiet lately, waiting to deminaur his way into the top 100.

  • Jeff · July 30, 2019 at 12:35 am

    Don’t forget Ramos-Vinolas just won his second career title and he is a Slam quarterfinalist and reached a Masters final.

    And while we talk about PCB, don’t forget RCB – Rpberto Carballes Baena – who conquered ARV to win in Ecuador just last year.

    I wouldn’t put it past Spain to produce top-notch players soon. Maybe its time for some of these legends to give back and help the younger generation out?

  • Jeff · July 30, 2019 at 12:43 am

    I was watching Donald Young get blasted off the court by Hurkasz and saw that he is now down to No. 195. That is still better than Ryan Harrison, who is down to No. 200!

    Jack Sock is hanging in at No. 173 on the weight of his 180 points at Paris Masters for reaching the quarters.

    I really don’t think any of these bums will be a factor anymore.

  • Scoop Malinowski · July 30, 2019 at 8:19 am

    As far as I know, Corretja, Ferrero, Balcells, Moya are all involved in coaching. I would be surprised if any former Spanish star is not involved in tennis.

  • Scoop Malinowski · July 30, 2019 at 8:21 am

    Harrison just lost Atlanta final points and failed to qualify in ATL. Young is still grinding in challengers but not making any significant results. Sock might have totally list his singles mojo. Johnson is struggling too.

  • catherine · July 30, 2019 at 9:02 am

    Muguruza still lacking a coach – any of those past Spanish masters volunteering ?

  • Scoop Malinowski · July 30, 2019 at 9:10 am

    They probably all have Muguruza’s number blocked Catherine.

  • catherine · July 30, 2019 at 11:19 am

    You’re right Scoop – Garbine running out of options.

    On the same page – no indication of a new coach from Kerber either. Will Garbine and Angie play Rogers Cup coachless ? And will it make any difference ?

    (Mugs has an injury which would be a good excuse to w/d
    from Toronto.)

  • Scoop Malinowski · July 30, 2019 at 11:23 am

    Don’t think Muguruza’s phone is ringing off the hook with coaches applying for the job.

  • catherine · July 30, 2019 at 11:52 am

    Angie’s might not be either – since she also requires a German speaker. Muguruza seems to be happy communicating in a rather basic form of English 🙂

    Pity Garbine’s a little too old to join PM’s stable. Angie went to his place a couple of years ago but I don’t think it helped.



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