All coaching relationships in tennis have an expiration date, but if one has stood the test of time, it’s Rafael Nadal and his uncle Toni. After 2017 though, that dynamic will be changing as well.
As told to Il Tennis Italiano (for translation of that interview and a previous one with L’Equipe, see here), Toni, 55, has announced 2017 will be his final season traveling to tournaments, and that his coaching will be mostly based around the young players being tutored at the new Rafa Nadal Academy, where Rafa, 30, obviously trains as well.
“The relationship with my nephew has always been good, over all these years we never had any to argue about. But until he was 17 I decided everything, then the agent Carlos Costa came, his father got closer and everybody had his own opinion. And the truth is that every year I decide even less, until the point that I won’t decide anything anymore. I traveled with Rafa for many years, now I want to deal with the training of the young people and our academy is the ideal place,” Toni said.
The news comes not long after fellow Mallorcan and former World No. 1 Carlos Moya was added to Nadal’s team, the major addition many in the tennis community had been clamoring for. Moya was, by all accounts, an immediate help, with his intense scouting of opponents a differing style to Toni’s old school methods and a boost to Rafa, who reached the Australian Open final, his first major final since 2014.
While it will be a shock not to see the elder Nadal in the coaching box at all, he had cut back on travel in recent years. For example, Nadal’s secondary coach, Francisco Roig had taken Toni’s place in Indian Wells in recent years. Nadal and Moya take certain weeks off to be with family, and Roig works with other players, so the three divvy up the year’s schedule to accommodate their other personal and professional obligations.
It appears the announcement was not fully coordinated, as Benito Perez, a member of Rafa’s PR team, told AFP, “These words took us somewhat by surprise. If he said that, then it means just that. I will speak to Rafa about it in the coming days. I don’t think we will be immediately communicating on this subject.”
With his knees much healthier but his body less able to tolerate the extreme humidity of South American clay, Nadal was slated to play his first event post-Australia next week at the indoor hardcourt event in Rotterdam. However, he withdrew to ensure he was not pushing his body too hard so soon after returning from missing much of 2016.
Back up to sixth in the ATP rankings, Nadal will now return at the end of February at the 500 event in Acapulco, where he is 10-0 with two titles (2005, 2013), though the tournament has since changed from clay to hardcourt.