Rafael Nadal's uncle and former coach Toni Nadal recently spoke to a Spanish sports website about a variety of topics. Toni touched upon the Barcelona Open final between his nephew and Stefanos Tsitsipas, before giving his thoughts on why Novak Djokovic still remains Nadal's closest rival on clay despite the Serb's recent lull in form.
When asked to analyze the championship match at the recently-concluded Barcelona Open, where Rafael Nadal triumphed for an unprecedented 12th time, Toni was critical of both his nephew and Tsitsipas. The 60-year-old opined that there weren't many high-quality exchanges during the match, even if the two players displayed a lot of emotions throughout.
"The Barcelona final was not a great match, Rafa and Stefanos did not play well even if it was very emotional," Rafael Nadal's former coach & uncle Toni said.
Toni went on to point out that Rafael Nadal committed several uncharacteristic errors during the match. But in the same breath, he claimed that the Barcelona victory ought to boost the 20-time Major winner's confidence going forward.
"Rafa made unforced errors that he doesn't usually make. But this win will give him confidence," Toni said.
Novak Djokovic can change things quickly if he plays a good match: Rafael Nadal's uncle Toni
During the interaction Toni also shed some light on the news of Novak Djokovic's withdrawal from the Madrid Masters, and how that might affect Rafael Nadal.
Toni suggested that Djokovic could be out of rhythm when he returns to the court. He went on to add, however, that the Serb can raise his level significantly with just one good match, and even called him the "ultimate rival" to Rafael Nadal on clay.
"Djokovic will have more doubts in the next tournament he plays," Toni said. "But he is one of the players who can change quickly if he plays a good match. He is the ultimate rival for Rafa on clay."
Novak Djokovic has certainly tested Rafael Nadal's claycourt skills over the years. The duo's recent matches on clay may have been lopsided, with Nadal having won the last four on the trot, but that hasn't always been the case.
The Spaniard used to find it tough to break down Djokovic's game during the early 2010s, even on his favorite surface. He succumbed to straight-set defeats against the current World No. 1 at the 2011 Madrid Masters, the 2011 Rome Masters, the 2013 Monte Carlo Masters and the 2015 French Open.