In a recent interview with El Mundo, Toni Nadal has spoken out about his reduced workload as a coach as he now prefers to be at home with his sons more often, and how he has warned his nephew, Rafael Nadal, about the dangers of money and fame.
Toni Nadal is famous for pushing his nephew to face adversity and to not back down when things get tough, something he believes is highly important for a player to be able to do.
"You can train everything, mind and body. Since he was very little, Rafael had a very difficult mental predisposition to improve, and he worked on resistance. I prefer to accept errors because if you get used to justifying your errors, you restrict your personal growth."
“As a coach, I consider character more important than improving technique. I think people who succeed in life are the ones who have perseverance. It’s what I wanted to inculcate in Rafa from the beginning. My goal was to teach him to be always willing to face adversity and overcome it,” he said.
"I always pushed Rafa to try his best even in the worst conditions. I coached my nephew for tennis, but I would have done the same if I had to prepare him for any activity in life."
“I have always believed that a big problem of the current education system is that you teach kids things you can find on Google and you forget what’s fundamental: teaching them how to work on their emotional intelligence and to dominate their will. That’s what I tried to do with Rafa."
“Being human means being set in one’s ways. If you teach them to work every day without being demoralized or without inventing excuses, you end up considering this as something normal in the life," he added.
However, Toni admits this can sometimes cause a rift to form between him and the world number five.
"I remember once in Madrid. Rafael was going through a complicated period. The match was going well but Rafa was starting to get confused and I told him: "Be careful now." He was like, "Do not tell me anything because you make me get tense." At that moment I turned around, crossed my arms and didn’t return to follow him. In the locker room, he understood I was nervous and he believed my reaction was exaggerated. I replied that I had told him what I believed too, and if he did not like that I supported him he did not have to be disrespectful,” Nadal said.
“Probably I did exaggerate but if I had allowed it, then anything could have happened. I have seen coaches who, after an argument, have abandoned the court and taken a flight home. To me, if it happened, I would be ashamed for one week."
Changes in the uncle-nephew relationship and concerns about fame
"When we started to travel, Rafael was so little and my responsibility went beyond tennis but as he grew older, our familial relationship took second place.”
"During a tournament, in San Juan de Luz, Rafael was 16 and he went to have dinner with my friend. The following day he said to me that they ate shellfish stew and I replied that he was not old enough to have it and that the correct thing was to eat a hamburger. He had already signed important enough contracts with sports brands and he could afford it. I was worried that fame and money would affect his career and because of this I wanted him to behave like a normal boy."
Reduction in travelling with Rafa
"My sons are grateful to their cousin. Thanks to him, they have had the opportunity to go to US Open, Australian [Open] and Wimbledon, among other tournaments. For sure at the beginning I travelled a lot but now I alternate with Francisco Roig and stay away from home for only 180 days. There were years where I stayed more time away from home. The most important thing is to have the luck to do what I like."
"When he usually won they said that I was a good coach. Now that he does not do so well, I’m the reason why Rafa loses. I believe [I have] the luck to coach a good player."
Toni also fully believes that his nephew will enjoy his retirement when the time comes.
"He will be a totally happy person because he likes so many things: he likes playing golf, going fishing, and staying with friends and his family. His life is not only about tennis."