interview uncle toni

Uncle Toni Interview on Rafa Nadal


Coach Toni Nadal about his nephew Rafael Nadal and his rivalry with Roger Federer

Toni Nadal, the world of sport is astonished about the good relationship between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. Do you meanwhile see them as friends?

They got to know each other a bit more again through the exhibitions. But it depends how you define a friend. Of course Federer isn't that close to Rafa as his friends from Mallorca. Their relationship is good and they have lots of respect for each other but they aren't friends for me.

Isn't it extraordinary that two big rivals get so well along off the court?
That should be normal. The rivalry only exists on the court. Both are great human beings as far as I can judge this about Federer from outside. But Rafael doesn't only get along well with him but also with many other players.

How has their rivalry sportly developped? Do you agree with the impression that Nadal has more and more advantages?

Ok, 2010 Rafael had better results as Roger but that can change again quickly. It looked different in 2009 when Rafa had to go through difficult times. We have a new year and everything can become different.

Has Nadal become a better player due to Federer?

Yes. Of course it was incentive for him to have a player like Federer in front of him were you have to improve the whole time. But that's also the case for the other. Due to Rafael Federer get better in Roland Garros and improved his tennis on clay. But honestly said I would have prefered it if Rafael wouldn't grew up nearly in the same time as the best tennisplayer in the history. I could live with it when he would have a less stronger rival and therefore didn't have to play that good (laughs).

The claycourt specialist Nadal became an allrounder. What was the key for this development?

His will. He knew his game wouldn't be enough to win here or at the US Open. But there is something which people forget: When he came to the tour he was young. When he won Roland Garros for the first time in 2005 he got 19 during the tournament. When Federer was 18, 19, 20 years old he also didn't have a backhand as he has now. It is normal that you develop your game over the years. Of course Rafa doesn't have the same ease as Fderer. He had to learn a lot and was willing to do so.

How has this shown?

He is incredible tenacious. When something doesn't work he is looking for another way. He always hangs tough. Everyone wants to improve but the majority gets discouraged when they aren't successful soon. Rafael is different. We are working on the serve now for years, again and again.

Federer once said he wouldn't understand why Nadal hasn't worked on his serve before.

It's not that easy. Federer has a totally different game conception - to serve good and then to look to win the point. Rafael on the other hand brings the ball into the game first and balls get hit a few times before he hits the winner. That was the problem not the technique. When we travelled for the first time to a tournament in 2005 after an injury break he served excellent in Marseille with 210, 215 km/h. He was afraid at that time that he wouldn't be able to run as good as before and would need a good serve therefore. But when he got back his health he got back into his old rut. When we arrived for the US Open in 2010 he didn't had any feeling in the practice. He said to me he would need to serve better otherwise he wouldn't have a chance. Then he changed the grip and served very good for 2 weeks.

Has Nadal always been so officious, already as a young boy?

Yes. He has something which not many guys have: A huge sense of responsibility regarding his work. He always wants to do his best. That was already the case when he was young and we travelled 50 kilometres for a tournament. I drove him there and it was a responsibility for him to do everything as good as he could. He has a huge respect for his work and loves what he is doing.

Are you more an uncle or a coach?

At home in Manacor I'm the uncle. When he visits us, plays with my children, when we golf together. But here at the tournament I'm the coach and nearly everything is about tennis. Meanwhile he is 24 years old and an adult so I don't have to educate him anymore.

Is it an advantage that you know him that well?

I think you. I don't have to pretend myself and think about my words. In former times I often said: You do this and that was really bad. Today I fortunately can say it way less. (less) Sometimes I see coaches who have to be careful what they say to their players. That complicates things. I prefer ordinary circumstances and clear words.

And what does Nadal say when you criticize him harshly?

Nothing. What should he say? It's part of our work. It is normal that I say when something isn't good. That's why I'm his coach.

Federer had lots of problems in early rounds lately - against Falla in Wimbledon, here against Simon. Do you see this as signs of a slowly decline?

I think he had back luck sometimes. Ok, against Falla in Wimbledon he should have lost. But against Söderling in Paris he should have won. Also against Djokovic at the US Open. He played very well against Simon in the first 2 sets. Federer is still really, really good. I don't know if he is still as good as in former times but he is still good enough for big titles. He has played incredible at the Masters in London and he is the favourite for me here.


When he and Rafa both reach the final the chances will be 50 to 50. But I think the danger to lose before is much higher for Rafael.

Federer and Nadal won 21 of the last 23 Majors. Will their dominance continue?

At the beginning of a year I always think it will get different. Murray must win a Major, same as Djokovic. My logic tells me that it can't continue like this. Nothing stays forever. It would only be normal when someone else would win after so many years. When Djokovic won hre in 2008 I thought he would become the new #1. But he couldn't keep up his level.

Will Federer and Nadal play with the same enthusiasm when they won't be #1 and #2?

I think so. Rafael would still be very dedicated when he would be #5 or #6 - provided that he could win big tournaments. The same goes for Federer. But when have been so good once you won't be satisfied with just being present. They will probably both going to play as long as they are convinced that they can win big tournaments.

How long will this be the case with Federer?

As long as he wants it. Unfortunately. In 2008 a Swiss journalist told me that it would be over for Federer. Then he played excellent in 2009. In 2010 he won the Australian Open and the Masters and was close at the US Open. I hope he has to spend a lot of time with his two children so that he won't have that much tennis anymore for tennis and will leave something for the other guys. (laughs)

Credit to Eden from MTF

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