Rafael Nadal opens up about split with uncle Toni: My relationship was special
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Rafael Nadal opens up about split with uncle Toni: My relationship was special

Rafael Nadal was taken by surprise when uncle Toni announced he would leave coaching the former world No. 1 to spend time in his academy in Spain

tennis Updated: Mar 01, 2017 11:59 IST
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This file photo taken on August 1, 2016 shows Rafael Nadal of Spain listening to his coach and uncle Toni Nadal during a practice session at the Olympic park in Rio de Janeiro. (AFP)

Rafael Nadal has opened up about his amicable split with long-time coach Uncle Toni at the Mexican Open in Acapulco where he is currently competing as the second seed.

Toni has been part of Rafa’s coaching stable for nearly two decades during which the Spaniard “King of Clay” attained the World No 1 spot and won 14 Grand Slam titles.

Earlier this month, Toni took everyone by surprise — especially Rafael Nadal — when he announced that 2017 will be the last year of his coaching association with his nephew.

At the time, rumours emerged that a possible rift between the relatives had caused the split but Toni soon cleared it up to confirm that he was doing so in order to join the coaching staff of the Rafa Nadal Academy in Mallorca, Spain from 2018 in order to help recognise and develop young talent.

Toni’s initial announcement of splitting from Nadal came as a shock because no one expected it, least of all Rafa.

And it was by design since Toni did not want to distract his nephew’s successful run to the Australian Open final in January.

(FILES) Rafael Nadal and his uncle Toni during a training session during the Rio Olympics last year. Nadal's career-long coaching relationship with Toni Nadal ended after the Australian Open. (AFP)

Having come through several injuries in the last few years, Rafael Nadal made the final of a Major for the first time since the 2014 French Open but lost out to long-time rival Roger Federer in a bid for a 15th Grand Slam title.

Confronted with the news after the Open, Nadal seemed to take it on the chin.

“Toni is completely free, like he has always been, to take his own decisions and to choose what makes him happiest. I am comfortable with what he decides is best for him,” Nadal was quoted as saying by news.com.au on the sidelines of the Mexican Open.

“Probably it’s the moment to focus on other priorities and he said that the academy is one of these ones. It’s a very ambitious project and also we don’t have to forget that he has a family, three kids and two of them play tennis.

“I feel better when people who I love are happy and if it makes him happy, for me it’s OK. Before being my coach, Toni is my uncle.

“He has been with me for a lifetime and the relationship with him has been a little bit more special than the one I have with my other uncles because I have lived everyday with him and I am very grateful to him for all the things he did for me.”

Rafael Nadal has added former Spanish star Carlos Moya to his team for the 2017 season. (AP)

Toni, who had made his decision well in advance, had already told his brother (Rafa’s father) and Carlos Moya (one of the senior members of Rafa’s coaching staff) before travelling to Australia for the Grand Slam in Melbourne.

In fact, while Nadal was busy on court, Toni was taking the time to say his goodbyes at the Australian Open which he would be visiting for the last time.

“When I travelled to Australia I had decided to leave,” Toni was quoted as saying by Spanish publication El Espanol.

“When I left for Melbourne I did not tell Rafael, but I said goodbye to everyone [at the Australian Open] because I knew it would be the last time I would go there: the driver, the person who looks after us, the director of the tournament ...”, Toni said.

Former world No 1 Moya recently joined Nadal’s coaching team and is expected to take up Toni’s role of head coach from the 2018 season according to several media reports.

Rafael Nadal said he will discuss the way forward with Moya and assistant coach Francis Roig when the time comes to make a decision.

“At the end of the year we will sit down and I will speak to Francis and Carlos. Primarily I suppose my team could stay the same if there are no issues. I don’t know if I will need someone who can help me for some weeks but if I do, it will be a consistent relationship,” Nadal said.

Nadal beat Mischa Zverev 6-4, 6-3 in the first round of the Mexican Open on Tuesday. He will now face 35-year-old Italian Paolo Lorenzi in the second leg match.

First Published: Mar 01, 2017 11:57 IST