“Sinner and Alcaraz will strengthen each other” – Javier Frana discusses tennis

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SANTIAGO, Chile – Like the virus and the immune system. This is how Javier Frana compares a tennis rivalry, like that of the two greatest tennis players of men’s tennis in the new era. Jannik Sinner and Carlos Alcaraz “hurt” each other a lot, but they also evolve and enhance each other.

Frana is amazed by the Italian, whom he considers to be the best player nowadays. “Sinner is doing everything right, and he is handling it with a lot of strength and stability,” says to CLAY the former world 30 and for several years ESPN commentator.

The Argentine also offers an interesting view of how Federer, Nadal and Djokovic evolved thanks to their rivalries: “If the Big Three had not existed simultaneously, I don’t know if they would have remained at the top for so long, or if they would have surpassed their own versions so many times”.

He joined Sebastián Báez’s team a year ago as a consultant. Today he is living the best moment of the 23-year-old tennis player’s career. Baez won the ATP 500 in Rio de Janeiro and at the ATP 250 in Santiago de Chile. He is the fifth best player according in the 2024 season according to the ranking race: “There are small details that he must improve in order to continue developing. It’s about understanding what his virtues are”.

Interview with Javier Frana

– Who is the best tennis player of the moment in your opinion?

– Jannik Sinner, from what we saw in Melbourne. I saw him in detail against Seba Baez (the Italian won 6-0, 6-1, 6-3 in the third round). We were talking to Seba Gutierrez (Baez’s head coach) and we agreed that he’s a step up from the rest. He’s in a higher gear. Although, they are like Formula 1: not always the same does the fastest lap and tennis has that thing that gives some small impulses that makes one take preponderance more than the other. In Australia, Sinner took a very big step, very strong. There is a group of players that is dominating up there.

– What impress you most about his game?

– The fluidity with which he plays, the naturalness with which he does things that are forced. The defenses he has in such demanding situations. He defends incredibly, he improved his drive a lot. The ball runs a lot without much effort. It’s like you never see him overexerted, and yet, he plays with guys that if you took him out and put someone else in, he would be running from one side to the other with a forced march. It is very commendable what he has. A guy who serves strong, returns well, defends incredible, attacks well… Sinner is doing everything well, and he is doing it with a lot of strength and stability.

Javier Frana after the interview with CLAY during the Córdoba Open

– And with Sinner so strong on the tour, don’t you see Novak Djokovic as a favorite to revalidate what he achieved in 2023?

– Yes, of course I do. You always expect to see the best version. Too much is asked of these idols. Look at Australia, a semi-final performance is criticized and it’s like it’s unfair the level of demand that is put on them, but think that they have almost no ups and downs, not like the rest. Djokovic is still with a clear validity, although you never know when they begin to have that loss of strength, that fire, that vitality. You have to have a lot of things that are getting harder and harder to keep together at the same time.

+Clay  When Federer takes your player - an in-depth interview with Patricio Apey

– Do you think Sinner’s rivalry with Carlos Alcaraz will mark an era?

– I’ve never been good at predicting what might happen. Obviously they are two of those who can have a certain preponderance. There is a challenge of overcoming certain rivalries that can be very interesting between Sinner and Alcaraz. Sometimes you train for a general evolution and sometimes specific things that are aimed at “rivalry with”, or “overcoming”. We’ve lived it and they’ve said it. Federer, Nadal and Djokovic in some ways were looking to evolve, but sometimes the magnifying glass was put on why the other was outperforming. They all had to see where they were being hurt, and how they could take advantage of the smallest weaknesses they could find in their opponent.

– Does this mean that both will help each other to become better tennis players?

– Yes, of course, deep down they will end up helping each other. It’s like the virus and the immune system. If the immune system doesn’t have any invasion, it ends up weakening. So they will be boosting each other’s level, because it is good to have someone who always takes away moments, titles, but at the same time gives you a lot. If Nadal and Federer, Djokovic too, had not existed simultaneously, I don’t know if they would have kept the level for so much, or if they would have surpassed their own versions so many times for so long.

– So, would Nadal without Federer not have won 22 Grand Slams, would he have won less?

– I’m analizing the evolution. Maybe he would have won them in a different way, without people to overshadow him. If you look at it, in the long run these players end up thanking each other for their coexistence. If Nadal had not existed Federer could have won 7 or 8 Roland Garros, because for several years he did not lose with anyone, only with him. But as for the quality of the player, maybe it made him be much better, it made Federer evolve more in things that maybe if he had not had Nadal in front, he would not have developed. And it’s mutual.

Javier Frana during his time as ESPN commenatator, next to Roger Federer

– Analyzing Carlos Alcaraz, do you agree with Andy Roddick’s criticism of his serve? He said that this stroke leaves a lot to be desired.

– Look, I think everyone has room to work and improve. The thing is that from the outside it is always easier to detect what is missing. The difficult thing is to be adjusting your player on a day-to-day basis. How do you manage that player without him going off track, without him losing confidence, without him losing his timing? I remember when I was with Nico Jarry, and he struggled to find more consistency. ‘Jarry needs to puts more balls in’, random people used to say. And yes, it was obvious, do you think we didn’t know that? The issue is how you work on it, how the player assimilates it. With the level of excellence that teams have, I don’t think they are unaware of the aspects that need to be improved. There are players who panic when faced with changes, who lose their timing and start to leave. Nowadays it is costly to make certain changes. You have to choose the right moment and prepare the ground well before.

– And Nadal will try another comeback. How do you see it?

– He must have all the desire to enjoy the competition. If he is healthy, I think he will be competitive, I don’t think he will go to a couple of tournaments to close his career. We have to see how he feels and I also believe that the issue of injuries is a big blow to his soul. The recurrence generates a certain annoyance, to say again and again and again…

+Clay  Alcaraz, Djokovic and the only thing that matters: three or 24.

– Like what happened to Del Potro.

– Yes, however that was more dramatic. Rafa always succeeded. I hope he can do it again and finish his career the way he wants it to end. Juan Martin’s was much more decisive, injuries left him out at a time when he was still in his prime. Rafa’s career is already played. What else can we marvel with? If he wins another Grand Slam, that would be impressive. But he won’t stop being Nadal because he wins or doesn’t win from now on. His place in the world and in history has already been won.

– Of all the South Americans, which one do you see with more possibilities of getting closer to the top ten?

– You don’t know who will take off, it’s difficult. Look at Diego Schwartzman, the last South American top ten, for me a super example in many ways. You thought he was going to play very well, but it was not easy to predict what he achieved. In tennis, the mental side ends up shaping everything you have tennis and physically speaking. We have seen many players that with less weapons did much more than others, and some that abundance made them poor. One hopes that Cristian Garin can come out of this situation he is going through very strengthened, that Nico Jarry continues consolidating and sustaining the great 2023 he had. Several can continue to grow: Etcheverry, Fran Cerúndolo.

Javier Frana con la medalla de bronce del dobles en los Juegos Olímpicos de Barcelona 1992.
Javier Frana won the bronze medal in doubles in the Olympic Games of Barcelona 1992.

– Did you watch Ignacio Buse in Davis Cup?

– I knew about him. Obviously it’s good news, apart from the fact that Nico (Jarry) got the bad news. The other day I was thinking: typical that in two or three years you have Buse in the top 20, top 10 or number one in the world and they tell you: ‘to think that when he beat me they told me that I had lost to a random kid’. I’ve heard very good things about Buse, I hope he keeps growing.

– You are in a good moment in your life and career.

– Yes, happy. Doing what I like, being a technical advisor to Sebastián Báez, thanks to him and his team who gave me the confidence. Also working with juniors, which I love. I also coached Luna Cinalli (Argentinean, top 30 in the junior ranking at the age of 15), and I joined Edu Schwank’s project.

– And what does Sebastian Baez need to take a step further, to think about the top 15, top 10?

– It has to do with the personal growth, with the management of emotions, in the understanding of situations. He will advance in the measure that he continues the process of evolution and of being able to fly further with the fluency that he begins to show in his tennis. They are small details, but it goes to the side of understanding what his virtues are and where he can not move away from.

If you liked this interview with Javier Frana, don’t miss, in this link to our site, many other interviews to the great protagonists of tennis.


COVER PHOTO: Javier Frana with Sebastian Báez in the Chile Open’s trophy ceremony // Matías Donoso

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