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Rafael Nadal did not know about Toni Nadal split until public interview

Toni Nadal revealed in an interview in Budapest last week that he would be splitting with Rafa.

News 16 Feb 2017, 10:54 IST
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 03:  (L-R) Toni Nadal and Rafael Nadal of Spain chat during a practice session ahead of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Tennis Centre on August 3, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
The two have shared a coaching relationship for 27 years – and a family one for life

What’s the story? 

Toni Nadal, the uncle and coach of 14-time Major winner Rafael Nadal, revealed in a new interview that Nadal had been unaware of the split until he read about it in the news.

 The older Nadal was interviewed by French sports news outlet L’Equipe last week at a coaching conference in Budapest, during which he revealed that the two would part ways at the end of the 2017 season – and it has now emerged that Nadal, like the vast majority of the public, found out only after reading the interview.

Nadal’s spokesperson confirmed the news today, saying in a statement that the ace “had not heard about his uncle’s departure from the coaching squad until that interview.”

In Case You Didn’t Know

Last week, 55-year-old Toni Nadal, who has been coaching his nephew, former World No.1 Rafael Nadal since the 9-time French Open winner was a toddler, revealed in a tell-all interview that he would no longer be coaching the Spaniard after the conclusion of the 2017 season. 

A child tennis prodigy, Nadal was largely guided and influenced by Toni, who has been a constant presence in Nadal’s life – and camp – over the years. Although Toni accompanied his nephew to various training camps early on, he had been Nadal’s primary coach for the majority of his career. 

Towards the end of the 2016 season, however, Nadal brought former World No. 1 Carlos Moya onto his coaching squad, a change that has appeared to bring very quick results.

Heart of the Matter

Nadal, however, appears to have been intentionally kept in the dark. “I told my brother (Nadal’s father Sebastian), and I told Carlos Moya,” Toni said, also telling the New York Times that he had decided to part ways with Nadal prior to the Australian Open, but did not tell him at the time so he would “not be distracted.”

But Toni admitted that he believes this was a mistake.  “My error. If I thought it was big news, I would not have said it there in Budapest in that setting.”

Toni Nadal said his influence in the Rafa camp had been fading significantly over time. 

“Until Rafael was 17, I decided everything, and then came the agent Carlos Costa, and then Rafael’s father got more involved, each one with their opinions. The truth is that with every year that passes, I decide less, and we have arrived at the point where I decide nothing,” he said. 

Sportskeeda’s Take

Given Nadal’s manager, Benito Perez-Barbadillo,  was also ‘very surprised’ at the decision, it is not entirely a shock that Toni Nadal kept the information from Rafa. That said, it is a reflection of perhaps a strained relationship within the camp. Toni Nadal has also spoken of his ‘waning influence’, another constant topic of discussion. 

Over the years, a multitude of fans and pundits have called for Nadal to make a definitive change in his coaching setup, and bringing Carlos Moya onto his squad, coupled with a break away from the sport – with Nadal recuperating from what I believe was serious burnout, appears to have helped the Spaniard significantly. 

The split was a good move, but the way it was orchestrated, perhaps, is less than ideal – and itself indicates just how imminent that decision was. 

What’s Next? 

Toni Nadal confirmed Carlos Moya would completely fill his role at the end of the year, but that the relationship between the two Nadals was ‘fine.’

He confirmed he would still attend Rafa’s matches, saying ““Look, next year, if Rafael asks me to come to Monte Carlo for the tournament because, say, Carlos Moya can’t make it, I’ll be delighted to do it,” Toni said. “All this decision means is that my contribution needs to become secondary and that I will focus on the academy. This is the reality, but it’s not the reality to say I have a problem with my nephew. Absolutely not.”

The ‘academy’ in question is the Rafael Nadal Tennis Academy in Manacor, Spain,  founded by Rafa and inaugurated by longtime friend Roger Federer in 2016. 

There has been no statement from Rafael Nadal yet; the Spaniard is on a well-deserved break after finishing runner-up at the 2017 Australian Open, and was seen last night at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Spain with his family, cheering on his favourite team, Real Madrid. 

Given his history and media-shy nature, it is possible Nadal may not publicly address the issue at all. 

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