Uncle and former coach of Rafael Nadal, Toni Nadal is dubbed as one of the greatest coaches in the sport and Nadal’s success right from a teenager to becoming the World No. 1 is a testament to that. Ever since the uncle-nephew pair split in 2017, Toni took a break from coaching before joining the camp of Canadian youngster Felix Auger-Aliassime.
Felix has seen a good change in his fortunes in the past season and some of the credit may be given to Toni. With a quarter-final run at the 2021 Wimbledon, a semi-final run at the 2021 US Open and again a run to the last-8 of the 2022 Australian Open, Felix is already in the Top-10 of the ATP rankings. The Canadian also won his first ATP title last week at the Rotterdam Open having lost 8 consecutive finals before.
Apart from being the head of the Rafa Nadal Academy, Toni is also the tournament director of the Mallorca Championships which were inducted into the ATP calendar last year and is the only ATP-250 Grass tournament in Spain. During the press conference that talked about the tournament, Toni also touched upon the topic of Grand Slam titles the Big-3 trio of Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic can win in the future.
“I have no idea. I wish I did. Djokovic is, in theory, the favourite to win Wimbledon, at Roland Garros I hope it will be Rafael and the US Open I don’t know. It (21) may or may not be enough. The reality is that it is increasingly difficult to win a Grand Slam because of their ages and because of the players who come from below (the next-gen),” said Toni during the conference.
Toni Nadal talks about Rafael Nadal’s fitness levels and growth as a player
While he is no longer the coach of his nephew, one can certainly believe that the two continue to have discussions around his game. With Nadal now the only man with 21 Grand Slam trophies, Toni talked about how has his nephew developed as a player over the years and what changes he made to his style.
“As for Rafael, obviously, he has also had to change things, but I think that is what all those who stay at the top for a long time do. It’s impossible to stay on top if you are not constantly reconfiguring yourself. He [Rafa] has changed, like Federer. If you can’t run as much you know you have to shorten the points. The level of Rafael’s game between 2008 and 2010 was very high.
Today he has a little less physicality, as is to be expected, but his game is more complete, he now serves much better. But never say of a family member that he is a genius,” said Toni. The coach also talked about the critics of Rafa’s playing style right from the start of the career who predicted a short career for him but were proven wrong as Nadal is now into his 22nd season as a Pro.
“The specialist who saw him in 2005 told us that it would be very difficult for him to do sport at the highest level, but Rafael has been defying that in the best possible way because he has been able to face up to a difficult situation. He looked like he was going to have a short career, but everything has turned out much better than we expected.
He will have a solution when he finishes his career, but not while he is playing. Depending on the operation that is done, he will not be able to play at a high level anymore, that is why it cannot be done now,” concluded Toni.