Rafael Nadal prefers continuity to celebrity, won't seek high-profile help

While Rafael Nadal's rivals have employed Boris Becker, Stefan Edberg, Ivan Lendl, and Michael Chang - Grand Slam winners all - tennis' leading player prefers to work with his uncle Toni.

Updated: January 03, 2014 22:28 IST
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Doha: World number one Rafael Nadal approves of the latest trend of top players using legends as coaches, but says he won't seek such high profile help himself.

While Nadal's rivals have employed Boris Becker, Stefan Edberg, Ivan Lendl, and Michael Chang - Grand Slam winners all - tennis' leading player prefers to work with his uncle Toni. (Also read: Rafael Nadal's atonement brings New Year resolution)

That's not only because family is special for the islander from Majorca, but also because of Nadal's self-description as a "long-term boy". Continuity is more important for him than a celebrity whose experience may nevertheless help other players gain an extra edge at the top.

"My idea of life and teamwork is to have continuation on all the work for so many years. I never fired anyone in my team since I started my career," said Nadal, whose start to the 2014 ATP World Tour continues by seeking a place in the final of the Qatar Open here on Friday.

"I changed physio (Joan Forcades) but he left because he has kids and he prefers to be at home, not because I fired him," Nadal emphasised. "I feel comfortable like this. If I haven't changed it by the age of 27 I'm probably not going to change." (Related: Fitness is Nadal's top-priority in 2014)

Lendl works with Wimbledon champion Andy Murray, Becker has recently been taken on by seven-time Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic, Edberg has joined up with Grand Slam record-breaker Roger Federer, and Chang has linked with the top 20 Japanese player Kei Nishikori.

However it seems unlikely that any of these legendary ex-players is likely to contribute a great deal technically to the modern greats, because the game has changed so dramatically since their day.

Their greatest contribution may more often be in the mentality, the ambience, and the attitude which they encourage - a feeling of being a winner and a way of approaching the big tournaments confidently.

Nadal, who has 13 Grand Slam titles and time to overtake Federer's record 17, already knows how to create those feelings, possibly having learned from a professional football culture amongst members of his family and friends.

Toni Nadal probably performs other functions, amongst which may be overseeing detailed training sessions and ensuring chronicled performance records remain close secrets. Because Nadal is a tennis athlete with few equals this is vital.

However it works, it is certain that theirs is the longest lasting coaching partnership in the elite game. At the same time Nadal likes what others are doing.

"In the end tennis is a simple sport," he said. "You don't need to study a lot to teach tennis, in my opinion.

"But in talking about the tour, it is true it's much better if you have big stars, past stars involved like Lendl, like Becker, like Edberg. It's great news for our sport that they will be around the tour more often today because of the new status that they have.

"What makes sports big is a combination of history and new events. It's great to combine events with a lot of history, and so it's great to combine the past champions who have a lot of influence on the tour today with their status."

Nadal was keen to point out that everyone is different. "Everybody has his feelings. The same things don't work for everybody. I am a person that 95, 99 percent of the time feels that if something is going wrong is because of me - not because of others.

"Today I am working with Toni, and with Francis (Roig, assistant coach) and for me it works well. If what I have never worked well, maybe I could think of a change. But if works well it is because the team is the right team."

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  • Tennis
  • Francesca Schiavone
  • Andy Murray
  • Shahar Peer
  • Rafael Nadal
  • Roger Federer
  • Svetlana Kuznetsova

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