An excellent interview with Toni Nadal. It's long but it's worth the time to read it.
he was barely three years old. The attitude of that tadpole surprised him and the technician remembers him happy and proud. No one could think then that that boy would become an exceptional champion, a tennis player who accumulates titles, including 16 Grand Slams , the last won just a week ago at the US Open to return to the world number 1. In that track began a story to which the uncle of Rafael Nadal has put expiration date. Mission accomplished. Feel it's time to step aside. He is not a nostalgic person and he shows it when he poses for THE PERIODIC on that dirt track where everything started and talks about the adventure lived since that day.
-What memories brings you this clue?
Many. Here I started to train and I was responsible for the tennis school since I came back from Barcelona. Tennis was my great hobby and here I could practice as a coach.
"You started training your nephew here?"
Yes. So the track was concrete. Here he went from kicking the ball with his father to racketing with me. Since I first saw him with a racket I thought he had something special. I was surprised. When I was six years old, I came every day to train and I saw that I was doing well, that I had possibilities and my goal was to become number one in the world.
"One thing is to think it, the other to get it, is not it?" In life, I think we have to value reality and illusion. One feeds on the other. I was always excited that my nephew was very good and put to dream, why do not dream at the top? Always have the maximum illusion and believe that one can be good.
Appealing for that, at that age, seems risky. No. The risky bet was to leave my coaching job in Manacor to dedicate to my nephew. I decided it when I was 10 because Rafael was already emerging and thought that it was necessary that he had an exclusive follow-up to accompany him in the tournaments and train him. The risk was mine and the illusion of the two was to compete and win tournaments.
- From his hand, Nadal has become a great champion. How has evolution been?
It's been changing over time, that's normal. You can not be the same for 30 years. You do not act the same with a boy when he's 10 years old when he's 20 or 30 ... When Rafael was a little boy I had to make the decisions of what had to be done, if I was going to a tournament or another, if we trained two or three hours , but as it has grown we have shared more things, also the decisions, and there are more people involved.
"They say he's always right ... I'm from Manacor and people can think," How far is he prepared? "Everyone has his own criteria. But all my life I have believed in myself and, although I do not presume, I do feel that I am a very capable person. I understand that more and more people will participate in the process and my contribution will be lower. I have never had the pretense of deciding what I do not have to decide. I give my opinion, but if you do not listen to me is your problem.
"What is the most important thing you have brought to Rafael?"
In his time of formation I gave him a good tennis criterion, first. Then I analyzed his physical, coordinating, mental characteristics to apply even a game system that would suit him.
"I do not understand to play without passion and that is valid for Rafael and for any child that begins"
-Define yourself as a coach.
I am an atypical coach, I do not like to have an overprotection of the player, but also that 70 people are with him. I do not like to make a game somewhat scientific. I do not like to double the work, I never liked it, but also I think that when someone intervenes in a subject that does not know, normally it is wrong.
-What do you value most?
I give the maximum value to the formation of the person, to education. That is fundamental. Then on the track the player does not always do everything you want. For example, I do not like Rafael striking the blow above, I like more like Federer. As a child it was an exaggeration that tried to change his blows, but then he would say to me: "If it is not broken do not fix it".
"Have you had any doubts?"
I do not obsess about the way I do things, I know there is not a single way to achieve the goals. It is true that sometimes, perhaps because of that, Rafael has been lost and played worse and then I have tried to redirect the situation.
-What do you consider fundamental for a tennis player?
Having a good technique, and that's what I say here in the academy: first the technique, then we will improve the head or the physique. In fact, when Rafael played badly it was because he failed the blows. But I do not do much theory either. My criterion is logic. Tennis is not so complicated. It is necessary to adapt the game to the characteristics of the player. I would not train like Federer or Djokovic.
"There will have been disparity of criteria with Raphael.
Clear. For years I had a tennis discussion with him to ask him to hit the ball later, but he told me he felt better behind and I showed him videos of Federer, Djokovic, Verdasco, who hit the ball as he asked I. Raphael told me that [Steffi] Graf did as he did. And who was right? Well Rafael, because playing like that won. But my judgment was not wrong either and he insisted that in the future he should evolve and beat him later because it was better and easier. Another issue is that you say that you feel more at ease.
- Has the technical revolution allowed you to continue to the highest level? The way to understand tennis and sport in a passionate and competitive way has helped him to win many titles, but I always told him that tennis was changing, the ball now goes much faster and tennis is now a matter of power of blows, it is no longer a matter of strategy. Rafael also had to improve the placement. He has a strange coordination and sometimes people think that Rafael does not have talent, but he has a lot because by badly striking he gets to make big hits. For many years with Francis Roig we said that if he did what he touched, we would not want to think what he would have won. But Rafael understood the game differently. Evolution has come because of his physical problems, which has forced him to seek solutions.
"The injuries, the big problem. Playing with those problems has great merit. We had to change trainings, preparation systems, reduce time. But in the end it has gone out. Rafael told me many times that he was tired of having pain and I told him that most players would change for him with their eyes closed. Adversity is part of life.
"Passion is a very important engine in your nephew's career. Also for you?" I do not understand doing a thing without passion. It is fundamental to have fun at work. Playing without passion has little grace. Not only for Rafael or any professional, this is valid for any child who is trained. If you play without passion, the path you will have is very short and you will never enjoy what you do.
"Rafael knows that life has treated us better than we could ever imagine"
- The passion you have or you work?
You have that, but you also work because even if you have it you can lose it. You have to renew it and set yourself high goals, not to conform. Passion is necessary to get anything. If you are a grateful guy, which is what touches in the case of Raphael, you must maintain that passion. Rafael knows that life has treated us better than we deserve, better than we could ever imagine and that has to be valued.
"Then there was a moment when he seemed to lose that passion. Yes, it was from the final of Australia losing against Wawrinka. He was about to get his 14th Grand Slam, he felt capable of getting it and got injured. It is the first time he looks helpless and can not play a final. Then the physical problems accumulate and that affected his mentality. I was anxious when I played.
"For years we lived with the sword of Damocles of an injury that could withdraw"
"What was he saying to you then?"
I was trying to see what had been achieved. If his career had ended at that moment, he insisted that it would have been much better than we would ever have imagined. For years we lived with the sword of Damocles of an injury that could remove to him. We thought that his career would last until the 25 or 26 years for that injury in the foot.
"Did he listen to you?" Well, when you have problems, listen little.
And then came the change, the recovery of the game. Yes. The click came to the end of 2015 in a match with Fognini in the US Open that won by two sets and ended up losing. I congratulated him on that defeat. Lost but competed to the end. He fought like he had not seen for a long time. It was a turning point. He returned to training with enthusiasm, with enthusiasm. He made the final in Beijing, semifinals in Shanghai, final in Basel and semifinals in the Masters and, better, ran less than the rivals.
"But the next year also had problems. He already played well, but wanted to make a change of strings. Someone told him he would hit harder. In training he was doing very well, but at the time of competing did not work. I had no control. The balls were escaping. I told him to go back to the old one, but at first he did not listen to me. Then, in Rio de Janeiro, I was right. He returned to the old and everything improved. He made the semi-finals of Indian Wells, he fell with Djokovic, Montecarlo won, Barcelona ... He picked up the thread again, although the wrist injury broke the progression.
"The US Open has been, of all, the easiest Grand Slam to win"
-If you're told two years ago that Nadal would win two Grand Slams again and be number one again, what would he have said? Well, I was convinced that I would win Roland Garros again and I told my son in 2015, when things went wrong. He reminded me a few days ago. Last year he would have won if he had not been injured. When I speak, I try not to deceive myself. Personally I think Rafael is the best on earth, another thing is hard track, but once Djokovic and Murray disappear because of their problems I know that Rafael knew that he was one of the maximum favorites to the title in the United States, with Federer, that yes. Moreover, I think that this last Grand Slam is the one that has won the most of all, seeing the rivals he has had and his great level of play. It suffered a little at first, but the only real complicated rival was Del Potro, the rest were far below in the standings.
-And now, again up, you have decided to stop training Nadal at the end of the year. Have not you rephrased it?
No, it's settled. I leave because I am already an age, 53 years, and I want to be closer to my family. I'll train at the academy. I will do what I like best. I have been very happy to accompany Rafael all this time. I am happy and proud of what you have achieved and you will still succeed. He knows that I will follow him, but in another way and that he will have me if he needs me. With Francis [Roig] and Carlos [Moyà] will be very well attended. I think my contribution is no longer necessary. I have it clear. In his day I left a job to train my nephew, to accompany him, because he thought it was a good thing for him; Now I understand that you do not need me.