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Toni Nadal announces that he will not coach Rafael Nadal after this year

Nadal will stay on with former World No. 1 Carlos Moya.

Exclusive 11 Feb 2017, 22:16 IST
LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 13:  Uncle and coach Toni Nadal with Rafael Nadal of Spain in a practice session during the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals previews at O2 Arena on November 13, 2015 in London, England.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Split! Nadal and his uncle and longterm coach Toni have parted ways

What’s the Story?

Toni Nadal, the coach of former World No. 1 Rafael Nadal, has announced that he won’t coach his superstar protege after the end of 2017. The Spanish superstar has been associated with Toni since he began playing the sport as a toddler, so this will be a huge change in his career.

His uncle, a former tennis professional himself, is widely regarded with pushing Nadal into the beginnings of what has been perhaps the most successful clay court career of all time. 

The news was revealed by Toni Nadal himself, in an interview with French sports newspaper L’Equipe.

A Background into the story

Dubbed the King of Clay, 30-year-old Nadal has been associated with his uncle in a coaching capacity since he was three years old, with the older Nadal, who earned the nickname Uncle Toni, traveling the world with the Spaniard when he went pro at 15. 

Over the years, Nadal won a total of 14 Majors, nine of them on clay. 

Although Nadal is a clay prodigy, Toni Nadal is credited with giving Nadal’s career more focus and direction especially in its earliest stages. 

Many in the past had called for Nadal to part ways with his uncle/coach after a significant title drought and career stagnation, but it was only at the end of last year that Nadal made concrete changes to his team, bringing on former World No. 1 Carlos Moya. That may have been some indication, perhaps, that Nadal may have been ready to move on. 

Heart of the Matter

Toni Nadal was interviewed by French sports news outlet L’Equipe in the weeks after Nadal’s Australian Open success, when he revealed that he would be parting ways with the Spaniard at the end of the 2017 season. 

“I will stop traveling with Rafa in 2018,” he said, “and focus on the academy.”

The Rafael Nadal Tennis Academies in Manacor, Spain, were inaugurated by Roger Federer earlier this year, and train young children with promising tennis talent.

There had been no indication of an impending split between Toni and Rafa, with even Nadal’s business manager, Benito Perez-Barbadillo, saying he was “very surprised” by the news, and had no prior information on the issue, meaning even those closest to the pair had no inkling.

Struggling with his 2016 season, Nadal sat out both the French Open and Wimbledon, and suffered an early loss to Frenchman Lucas Pouille at the US Open, choosing then to sit out the remainder of the season. 

He returned in strong form in the 2017 season, and saw a dream run to the finals, setting up a much-vaunted clash with arch-rival Roger Federer; despite a valiant fight from Nadal in every set, and upto the final game of the match, Nadal eventually went down in a tense five-set battle. 

That form, perhaps, was precipitated by Nadal’s end-of-2016 decision to bring on former World No. 1 Carlos Moya of Spain. The two have got off to a strong start, with Nadal finishing at the quarter-finals in Brisbane in the lead-up to the Australian Open. 

In past years, many fans and pundits had called for Nadal to split with his uncle to bring about a change in his game – and it appears that now, that is exactly what has happened.

What’s next? 

The news appears to have taken most – including Nadal’s closest associates – by surprise, with his manager expressing shock at the news. It appears thus that it may have been more of a sudden decision than most believe. 

Sportskeeda’s Take

The split may perhaps have been a necessary move. Although Nadal’s uncle coached him for much of his life, the Spaniard had seen some serious career stagnation in the lead-up to 2017 and needed a change in his regimen. 

Despite fewer physical struggles than he has seen in previous years, Nadal had been struggling mentally, and visibly so. Seriously burned out, Nadal admitted himself that he was stuck in a rut and had grown disillusioned with the sport and his career, and desperately needed a change of direction.

The change has already brought good fortune to Nadal, and going forward could well see him win the French Open for a record tenth time this year.

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