"Uncle" Toni Nadal

Toni Nadal, Rafa's uncle, coach and mentor, has always been somewhat of a mercurial figure in the Nadal box.

A man who has had an unparalleled influence on one of the greatest tennis players of all time.

A modest man with a clear set of ideals who accepts no money from Rafa for his coaching success.

But what to we really know about Uncle Toni?

The Nadals are a close family and share an apartment building in Mallorca, Spain. Toni has three brothers including Sebastian Nadal and Miguel Angel Nadal.

Sebastian Nadal is Rafa’s father who owns and manages his own window glass company.

Miguel Angel Nadal
Miguel Angel or the "Beast of Barcelona” is a retired professional football player who played for Mallorca, Barcelona, and the Spain national team. This is one of the reasons why we frequently see Rafa hanging out with the Spanish and Barcelona stars.

Toni Nadal studied law and history at university, but his passion was tennis. He became a Spanish tennis professional with some success in regional and national competitions.

Toni introduced tennis to his nephew Rafael Nadal at the young age of four. One of the first things he taught Rafa was to play left-handed even though he was naturally right-handed. Toni believed this would benefit his double handed backhand.

Toni’s coaching strategy was always based on instilling Rafa with the qualities of hard work, modesty and level-headededness. It is documented that Rafa trained on old courts with bad tennis balls, just to teach him that winning or losing isn’t about the conditions but about attitude, discipline and perspective.

A reader of this blog, Mariah sent us some of Toni's quotes that I believe shed some more light on the character and beliefs of this man. I thought they were quite interesting so I thought I would share them with you. (I make no guarantees about the authenticity of these quotes. Most of them are from Tennis World, French Tennis Magazine and from Chinese SINA).

What triggered your interest in the sport?
Toni: In 1972, I was able to go to the Masters that took place in Barcelona. That year, I saw Ilie Nastase win and he became my idol. So, I started to play in the Tennis Club of Manacor, Rafa’s current club and I’ve been a member since 1974.

Is it true that when he was a kid, you made your nephew believe that you had magical powers?
Toni: Yes (smiles). Rafa was the little boy in the family and everybody always had so much fun with him. As a joke, I made him believe all sorts of things: that I was a star at AC Milan, that I had won the Tour de France five times with a moped (laughs)…Indeed, I also told him that I had magical powers. One day, he must have been about 7 or 8, we lacked a player in the 12-year group to compete in a team event. I took him along with us and to reassure him, I told him that he didn’t need to worry if the match went badly because I have the ability to make it rain. It was winter. So, when the match got tight at the start, it started to rain and then, Rafa turned to me and said: “It’s alright, you can make it stop now, I’m going to win!” Another time, we were watching a match of Ivan Lendl on tv. It was a replay of an older match during which Lendl retired. Rafa didn’t know that. So, at the exact moment when Lendl retired, I told him: “Alright, I’m going to make Lendl lose.” He couldn’t believe his eyes. I have a lot of examples like that.
Many guys out there have five cars, three houses, even a share in a jet. What does Rafa own?
Toni: At the moment, Rafael have nothing. He has not house, because his parents have money and some good houses. He has some cars - one form a sponsor (KIA), one Mercedes he win in Stuttgart. But personally for me is no is no good that young man have a good car. I don’t like to see a young people have things like that.
What do you and Rafa do together, hobby-wise?
Toni: Rafael like fishing very much. Together, we like soccer and golf. 

What role does religion play in your life?
Toni: Zero. I don’t believe. I studied history in university. Religion comes from ignorance in people. Tribal societies, when they see a flash of lightning or something unusual, they say it come from the Magician. But when society move forward, and technology discover more, religion goes in the back. For me, is very important to be moral – to be good person. But not religion.

When you think back to those moments and you look at him now with his incredible achievements, isn’t it you who can’t believe your eyes now? 

Toni: I am surprised by his career, yes. Because I look around us and I see a lot of players who are just as good as he is: Murray, Djokovic, Gasquet, for example…These are players who perhaps have an easier touch of the ball. And yet, Rafa has by far the best career. So, you ask me whether I’m surprised. Yes, I am. I’ll go even further, I don’t understand it.
But don’t you think that Rafa has something more than the others in this regard? 
Toni: Perhaps so, yes. He has an incredible game intensity and a good mentality. I think that he has a better mental control than the others.

At the start of his career, a lot of people said: “his game is too intense, it won’t last…”
Toni: (interrupts) But a lot of people talk without understanding what they’re talking about.When he arrived on tour, he was very young and not really ready for all of it....... All year long, Rafa had to play against adults whereas he was just a boy. In those circumstances, the only thing he could do on court was to run and to run everywhere. It’s true that in the beginning of his career, he did nothing but that. However, this is the image that has stuck with him often without people noticing that gradually, his game was evolving. Today, if you really look at him, he doesn’t run any more than the other players on court. Just look at the Roland Garros final and you will see that Rafa ran much less than Söderling. Same when you look at the semi-final in Wimbledon against Murray but in a different context. That must mean that his tennis is good, no? If Rafa had started out on tour later than he has, when he was already fully formed, people would surely not have said this about him.

Are a man like you and a youngster like Rafael comfortable, culturally, at a place like Wimbledon?
Toni: Well, I have a different concept of life. I believe that all these formalities are just because of where it is, and I understand it. But I like a more normal life, and I think Rafael is a more normal person.
For example, Moya is a very kind person, a good person, but he was here and when he need a car I see that he told his coach, “Phone for the driver.” When you get used to doing nothing for yourself, it’s too easy. With Rafael, I say in that situation, do it yourself. It’s better. This was my work with him.


Follow tennis players on Twitter

Just wanted to let you guys know about a great site, Tennis Players on Twitter, that was sent to me today.

It is a well designed page that allows you to follow tennis players who use Twitter. Well done Jim on making such a simple yet useful resource for tennis fans.

Looking forward to the Nadal vs Djokovic final today.

Rafa to go on the attack against Nole

Rafael Nadal has said that he has to be more aggressive when he takes on in form Novak Djokovic in today's final at the Sony Ericsson Open.

After beating Federer in the semis, Nadal now faces another tough game later today against new world number 2 Novak, who has been in great form so far in 2011.

After winning the Australian Open, Nole has gone on to win titles in Dubai and Indian Wells, where he beat Rafa in the final.

Nadal said:

"I felt I had a chance last week in Indian Wells. I lost a little bit of focus and rhythm in the second set, so I started to play a little bit more defensively. Against a player like Novak, it’s impossible to win the match playing like this. So on Sunday I have to play very well all match. I have to play aggressively and I have to play all the points, and that’s what I am going to try. He’s winning very easily in all the matches. He’s playing fantastic. I can just congratulate him about what he did in the first three months of the season."

Play fun online tennis game

If you want to play a cool online tennis game for free, click here.

The game was designed by Gamedesign. It's still on our site, we just wanted to make it more playable and bigger in size.