Australian Open 2016: Is Nadal’s problem Uncle Toni?
Champions do choke, deep diving into the mind of a champion and what ails Nadal's recovery.
The shocking exit of Nadal in the Australian Open has raised the slogan is he off his prime or does he have enough left in his tank. Nadal losing in quarters or semis is no longer a shock, but first round exit definitely is a big blow to the past champion.
Nadal surely doesn’t look himself with tired shots and his baseline game being ineffective, every champion goes through the phase of slowdown, but eventually bounces back. The wait here is arduous forcing people to ask is he done and dusted, will he ever get back his mojo?
The current problem facing Nadal is more mental, rather than technical. The slump that was devastating to him in the year gone by has taken its toll on his confidence. He is nervous, anxiety driven and his mind focussed on not losing, rather than winning, clearly indicating that the slump has attacked his cerebral prowess which once was his ace.
Confidence is something which an athlete thrives on, lack of which can start a long or prolonged slump and in rare cases it has gone on to end careers. The slump does not suddenly appear it was clear that the slump in Nadal had started way before 2015, just that the visibility of the slump became evident in 2015.
2015 was a mirror to him and his team in general. Tennis even though looks individual is not one at all, in fact, the strength of the support staff with the head coach goes on to produce a team work which is vital cog for the progress of the athlete.
Is the change necessary now?
No doubt that Nadal’s team is the same team which has been present with him for a long time and the results have been phenomenal, the basic fact is the results were so much in line with expecations, hardly anyone bothered and rightly so, why to change something when things are going robust. The same question now needs to be asked, is the change necessary today?
The results have dried up, his form is terrible, his confidence lame, his attitude which was his greatest strength, has become the weakest in his whole life. No one can keep changing the team when results go down, but definitely vital questions need to be asked when the team has not achieved anything for a long time, which is truly the case with Nadal.
Uncle Toni no doubt has shaped his career and a great job done with 14 slams, but everything eventually dries out and currently it seems the case with Uncle Toni.
There is no doubt the team of Nadal would be feeling bad but the basic question to be asked is this is not a flash in a pan, some of the greatest have had a bad day or season, but prolonged amount of doubts persisting is a urgent call for some quick changes to be made. Every defeat breeds doubts in Nadal’s mind and shocking exists will damage him more with huge scars to be treated. The problem here is the scar is mental rather then physical, which he has confidently battled. Mental scars are hard to detect and hard to treat, and with every dent the scar just gets deeper and deeper making recovery difficult .
Uncle Toni being a family, should be in a better position to be objectively give up coaching Nadal, knowing very well that its for a better cause or at least trying for a better pursuit.
Nadal in his own way would never throw Toni, but Toni himself has the answer to this problem which the champion of the past is facing.
Every defeat is making the task harder for the next guy who would come or not, assuming he would then it’s better to make way for him earlier as that would give the other guy enough time to settle down and improve the game.
Uncle Toni also doesn’t have any financial interest, in coaching Nadal, so that should be an easy way out, finances can make things difficult to exit.
This article has been co-authored by Ramaswamy Ranganathan & Sudarshan Rajan.