If there is anyone who knows the mindset of 19-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal, it is his uncle and former coach Toni Nadal. Uncle Toni, as he is popularly called, coached the Spanish tennis legend until 2017, and has been credited for molding Rafael Nadal into the champion that he is.
While he now has a full-time coaching role at the Rafa Nadal Academy in Spain, Toni Nadal remains close with his nephew, who has also been training at the Academy during the recent shutdown.
In a recent interview with former World No. 5 Daniela Hantuchova for Roland Garros' YouTube channel, Toni Nadal said the upcoming French Open will be a big challenge for the Rafael Nadal, even though he remains the overwhelming favorite after winning the event a record 12 times.
Uncle Toni says the return to the tour is complicated for Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal, ranked No. 2 in the world, was among those who chose to skip the recently concluded US Open in New York due to concerns about travelling amidst the pandemic. He will be playing his first event since February at this week's Italian Open in Rome.
The lengthy layoff from the competitive circuit, coupled with the ongoing global pandemic, means that it will be a tough return to the sport for Nadal according to Uncle Toni.
"I think this year is complicated. Because first, normally the players are not fully concentrated on the game. Everyone knows about the problem of the coronavirus. The last tournament that Rafael played in was Acapulco. That was in February. From February until now, that’s six, seven months without playing any tournaments. It’s complicated," said Toni Nadal.
Despite his reservations, Toni Nadal still hopes that Rafael Nadal will win a record-setting 13th French Open title in Paris later this month. Clay remains Nadal's favorite surface, and it is where he has the best chance to return with immediate success.
"I hope that he can make a big effort and try to win Roland Garros again. And if this is not possible, then Rafael has to prepare for the next year.”
Rafael Nadal plays fellow Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta in his first match at the Italian Open in Rome on Wednesday. Nadal leads their head-to-head 5-0 but with Carreno Busta's run to the semi-finals in New York, it will likely be a difficult beginning for Nadal as he begins his claycourt campaign for 2020.Published 16 Sep 2020, 14:38 IST