Toni Nadal, one of tennis' most successful coaches ever and Rafael Nadal's uncle, believes the over-aggressive playing style of modern-day tennis players is detrimental to their growth. A 16-time Grand Slam winner as coach with his nephew, Toni feels that the problem has persisted for a long time despite the apparent negative impact on players' fitness and bodies.
The Spaniard claimed that the unwillingness of modern players and their coaches to slow down the pace of rallies is far from ideal. He explained that the focus on aggression and a continuous hard-hitting style of play is severely hurting the longevity of players on the tour.
"Today I am going to regret, once again, that the tennis leaders have spent so long without doing anything to protect the players a bit from a discipline that has gradually become too aggressive," Toni Nadal wrote in a column for El Pais.
Toni Nadal's comments came in light of his nephew Rafael's 2023 Australian Open exit due to yet another injury. The 22-time Grand Slam champion's history with injuries is no secret, and fitness issues have increasingly affected him over the past couple of seasons.
Toni lamented that the fast-paced game style has also reduced the importance of tactics and strategic play in tennis. He went on to explain how the impact on players' bodies in sustaining such hard-hitting rallies is seen more in the long-term as wear and tear starts to play a massive part.
"It seems that no one is willing to slow down the speed of the ball, also hindering the showiness of the execution and the tactics, and to reduce the suddenness to which the body of the tennis players is subjected to return it and to maintain, in turn, the required speed," the 61-year-old wrote further.
He also expressed disattisfaction with the fact that more and more tennis is being played on faster hard courts, which he believes is adding to the issue.
"On the other hand, it has been opting to lengthen the circuits on hard courts much more to the detriment of the few months on clay," he stated.
"Wear and physical abuse are inevitable in our sport and this, in my opinion, should not be the case."
Toni Nadal claimed that the long-standing problem of intense rallies and matches has already cut short the careers of many players, highlighting the likes of Gustavo Kuerten, Magnus Norman and Lleyton Hewitt as some of the top names.
"The problem has been evident for a long time and, even so, no measure has been taken to reduce the intensity of the rallies and the fact that too many tennis players of the stature of Gustavo Kuerten, Magnus Norman, Lleyton Hewitt (all of them former number one), to name just a few, had to retire early," he said.
Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Andy Murray have had long careers but paid a high price for it, says Toni
The highly accomplished coach admitted that while there is long list of players whose careers have been cut short due to wear and tear, the likes of Roger Federer, Andy Murray and his nephew Rafael Nadal himself have managed to have long and highly successful players.
However, Toni Nadal feels that the trio have had to play a "high price" for their sustenance at the top level.
"It has not been the case of Roger Federer, Andy Murray or Rafael, who have enjoyed very long careers, but not for that reason, the high price that has to be paid for it is belied," the coach wrote.
Toni, who left his nephew's team in 2017, has been devoting a lot of time to students at the Rafa Nadal Academy back home in Mallorca. He is also part of the coaching team of Felix Auger-Aliassime, one of the young stars of men's tennis right now.
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