Dani Rincón (Ávila, 18 years old) was junior champion of the US Open just a few days ago. He is back in Manacor, where he takes up his daily job at the Rafa Nadal Academy, where he lives and will prepare to try to be a professional. There, he sometimes trains with the winner of 20 Grand Slams, who gives him good advice. And he aspires to follow in the footsteps of his friend Carlos Alcaraz. Of all this, and more, he spoke with AS.
After winning the title on track 12 they brought him to the Arthur Ashe, which was full before the women's final, to be applauded. As was?
Amazing. There are not many words that describe what I experienced there. Looking up and seeing all those people around me was an indescribable feeling. I am very grateful to the organization for having that detail. It is something I will never forget.
Congratulations would rain on him …
Yes, it took a long time to answer them all. From my friends, the people who love me, and my parents, who were the first to call me. Cousins, grandparents … all were very aware.
What do you think of having made history in Spanish tennis?
I can't quite believe it. The list at the US Open is very small for all the players we have had in Spain. It is a privilege to be second and I hope there are many more behind me, because we are a country that usually has many good tennis players. I wish we earn more. As for me, I am very happy and proud to be on that list, and I hope I can share others with big names in this sport.
You know the next generation, will we have another like now?
This is one of the best in history, not only in Spain. It is very difficult to repeat. But there are already Alejandro Davidovich and Carlos Alcaraz, who is the one who sounds the most now and is doing something incredible. I hope that more come out like this and that I am one of them. I'm going to work to get to professional tennis.
On top of that, how did you get started in this sport?
I started when I was very little to play basketball with my father, I liked it a lot and I did not practice tennis, but a friend put me in a camp and I loved it. I was combining the two, until I decided on the racket when I was 10 years old. I was falling in love with this sport little by little and now I would not change it for anything.
When did you realize that it could be good?
At first I only played two or three days a week, an hour, and I went to a U-10 tournament in Croatia, the Smirkva Bowl, in which I made the semi-finals. I had never left Spain to play and at that moment I realized that it was not bad, not very good either, and I said: 'Why not give it a try?' The following summer I left basketball and in the second year of ESO, when I was 12 or 13 years old, I went to live in Valladolid to train every day and I decided that my life was aimed at tennis.
How did you end up at the Rafa Nadal Academy?
After spending a year in Valladolid, I went to Barcelona for another, but the high-performance center I was in closed down and I came back. At that moment they offered me to go to Manacor and I didn't think about it, the facilities, the professionals… it was a unique and irreplaceable opportunity. I was 16 years old and they managed it between my father and my manager, Albert Molina.
How is your day to day there?
This year has changed, because I no longer have a school and I do online university studies (Computer Science). In the mornings I do three hours and 45 minutes of tennis and an hour and a half in the gym, changing the order every week. The day starts around 08: 00-08: 30. Like, I rest a bit and around 3:30 p.m. I'm back on the track for another hour and a half. At 17:00 the training ends, but sometimes I have physio. The rest of the time I spend studying.
At the Academy you sometimes play with Nadal, does he impress you a lot?
When he is there he calls us to people from the group to train with him, and it is an incredible experience. In front of him you realize how great he is and why he has achieved so many things. You notice something different, that you don't see with other professionals. The quality of the ball and the intensity it has is different. My style is different, but I try to learn the most from him, from his desire and to improve every day. The values that he has are essential for tennis.
And what does Rafa say to them in those training sessions?
What he tries to instill in us is, above all, daily effort. He does not talk about tactics. For him the most important thing is in oneself and with me he insists on the intensity of the legs, that he gives the maximum. Because if you hit the ball well, you hit it better.
To what extent is the support of being at Nadal's ‘home’ and having those advice important to you?
It is a very important thing. It gives a lot of motivation to have the best Spanish athlete in history behind you in such a close way. If he gives you advice and tries to help you personally, it is something unique. For all the Academy players it is something incredible and not many people are lucky enough to be able to experience it.
Are you also motivated by what Alcaraz, who is from the same generation, has achieved?
He is a very good friend of mine and I am very fond of him. I am very happy with everything he is doing, because he deserves it, he has worked very hard. I can only congratulate him and continue training and improving for one day, if possible, to get to where he is.
For that, what is the next thing you have to do?
The progression of any junior is to go to the ITF circuit of 15,000 and 25,000, take the first ATP points, I have six, to be able to enter the Challengers. If everything goes, the next thing is to go to the ATP Tour, but it is a long and difficult process.
Let's do a little test on tennis skills… Who has the best drive?
Finally, what do you do when you are not dedicated to tennis?
I have little time between games, training sessions and studies. One of my main hobbies is golf. When I have free time he tried to play. Otherwise, go out to dinner with friends from the Academy.
The top-10 Ruud and Munar, banners of Nadal's talent factory
The Rafa Nadal Academy has been training players “and people”, as its owner emphasizes, since 2016, when it opened its doors in Manacor. Five years later, he has one of his tennis players in the top-10 of the ATP ranking for the first time. It is the Norwegian Casper Ruud (22 years and 10º), maximum exponent with Jaume Munar (24 and 64º) of a work method that combines sport and education. It is supervised by the winner of 20 Grand Slams, its founder, and is headed by his uncle, Toni Nadal, with the Balearic coach, Carlos Moyá, as technical director. Behind them, a large team in which there are trainers, physical trainers, physios, psychologists and nutritionists. Ruud has gone from being ranked 143rd when he arrived at the Academy just over three years ago, to winning four ATP tournaments in 2021 and being one of the top ten in the world. Of those born after 2000, Dani Rincón has stood out with his junior title at the US Open. And there is a promising young woman in women's tennis, the 16-year-old Filipina Alex Eala, on whom they have high expectations. This year she won the ITF 15,000 in Mallorca, played the previous WTA 1,000 in Miami and won her first professional match in the 250 in Cluj-Napoca (Romania), against the Argentine Paula Ormaechea. Also progressing in Manacor, among others, Alex's brother, Miko, the German Rafael Giotis, the Jordanian Abdulah Shelbay and the children of Toni Nadal, Toni Jr. and Joan.