Since turning 30, Nadal has won eight Grand Slam titles, Djokovic has won nine, and Federer four. They have remained competitive by making adjustments to their game and staying well ahead of the next generation of title contenders.
Moya, speaking to the official ATP website, stated that the Big 3 would have retired by now if they hadn't evolved with time and age.
"A 35-year-old player like Djokovic, 36 like Rafa, or 37 like Federer when he came back in 2017... for them to still be capable of winning Grand Slams, they have to evolve. They have beaten the new generations for all these years. Everyone knows them better, but almost nobody can stop them, they can’t find a way. Rafa would have retired if he hadn’t evolved. Without that evolution, all three of them would have retired," he said.
Nadal made his US Open debut in 2003 and won the title for the first time in 2010. He is aiming to win his fifth US Open and 23rd Grand Slam title this year. When asked to pick the best version of the 36-year-old, Moya declined as "they are different eras."
"They are different eras and the physical change is very big. In 2010, his game had some characteristics that he has lost because circumstances have forced him to make changes. That was an amazing version of him, but so is today’s. If he had continued playing like he did in 2010, he wouldn’t be as competitive and possibly would have retired," he said.
"Everyone on the team would love to have a fresh Rafa, 22 years of age, but we have to adapt to a body and a mind. He has things that are better than before, others are worse. He has had to evolve to continue being competitive in 2022," he added.
"It’s a perfect year, but one that has been full of incidents" - Carlos Moya on Rafael Nadal's 2022 season
Rafael Nadal has won two Grand Slam titles this year - the Australian Open and the French Open. He reached the semifinals of the Wimbledon Championships before an abdominal injury forced him to withdraw. He is yet to taste defeat at a Major and has won a joint tour-leading four titles since the turn of the year. If all goes well, he could replace Daniil Medvedev as the World No. 1 by the end of the on-going US Open.
It hasn't all been plain sailing though, as he has dealt with various injuries that have hampered his progress at various points. A rib injury before the French Open, a long-standing foot injury relapsing during Roland Garros, and an abdominal muscle tear during Wimbledon - the most notable of his injury troubles this season.
Moya, while aware of the chance to take the top spot in the ATP rankings, said that Nadal is not focusing on that as a goal.
"It’s a perfect year, but one that has been full of incidents. When he’s played, his level has been spectacular, above all at important moments. But it’s true that there have been incidents, preventing him from having the continuity he would have liked. We mustn’t forget one thing: he’s a 36-year-old player, with a lot of miles under his belt. It’s normal for the body to gradually start faltering," he said.
"Being number one again has a lot of value; ending the year at the top of the rankings, even more so. If you look at his schedule, it’s clear that it’s not a goal. The most important thing for him is looking after his body and being well for the Grand Slams. But if it’s put in front of him, of course we’ll go for it," he added.
Nadal will return to action on Monday when he takes on Frances Tiafoe for a place in the US Open quarterfinals.