Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 24 August 2019

Rafael Nadal can follow 12th French Open triumph with Wimbledon title, insists uncle Toni

The Spaniard is a two-time winner at the All England Club and his former coach believes he can win title No 3 this summer

Rafael Nadal celebrates with the French Open trophy for a 12th time after beating Dominic Thiem in Sunday's final. Getty Images
Rafael Nadal celebrates with the French Open trophy for a 12th time after beating Dominic Thiem in Sunday's final. Getty Images

Freshly-crowned Roland Garros champion Rafael Nadal has not lifted the Wimbledon trophy in nine years, but his uncle Toni Nadal, who has coached him for the majority of his career, believes the Spaniard is finally ready to end that drought.

Nadal, a title winner at the All England Club in 2008 and 2010, picked up an 18th grand slam crown on Sunday by defeating Dominic Thiem in the French Open final – his record-extending 12th success on Parisian clay.

Toni, who stopped travelling with his nephew as a coach at the end of 2017, was in attendance, along with the entire Nadal clan, in the French capital and is convinced that a Wimbledon title is very much on the table.

“When I talked with him today, I told him, ‘I think you have the possibility to win Wimbledon this year again’,” Toni said in Paris on Sunday.

Last season, Nadal reached his first semi-final at Wimbledon since 2011 but ended up losing it in a tight two-day, five-set affair with Novak Djokovic.

“Last year he was very close, I think he had the possibility to win and I want to hope that this year will be possible,” Toni said.

“I know Federer is there, Djokovic is there, Dominic, many good players, but I think that Rafael has the possibility, because it’s impossible to work well without confidence. So he has to think that.”

Nadal is now just two grand slam titles behind Federer’s all-time men’s record of 20, and many believe that mark is well within the Spaniard’s reach.

His coach, Carlos Moya, quickly dismissed any talk of Nadal catching up with Federer.

“We don’t want to think about that now. Let us enjoy a little bit. It’s been two tough months, let’s enjoy this win here and we’ll see what’s happening next,” Moya said after the Roland Garros final.

Nadal says Federer’s record is “a motivation, but not an obsession”. Toni realises the opportunity is there, but is also aware of the fact that his nephew is 33 years old and is trying to stave off the challenge of the tour’s next generation of stars.

“Now the most important thing is to have the title here in Roland Garros, and I’m sure in the next weeks he can think about being only two behind Roger,” Toni said.

“We know, or I think he knows, that every year is more difficult to win something. Today was difficult with Dominic, and every year new generation people are coming who can play hard. They are really good and Rafael would be one year older, it’s not easy, but we can see.”

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Rafael Nadal's 12 French Open titles - in pictures

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Nadal was once again emphatic on the French Open’s terre battue, dropping just two sets en route to the title - one against David Goffin in the third round and one against the fourth-seeded Thiem in Sunday’s final.

He maintained his intensity throughout the two weeks in Paris, and upped the ante against Thiem, winning 23 out of 27 of his net points in a devastating display of attacking tennis.

Toni says that Nadal’s resilience and determination are innate traits.

“I think it’s a natural thing for him. Picasso said, ‘When the inspiration arrives, I have to be working’; it’s the same for a painter, the same for a sportsman, for a journalist, for everyone. Inspiration is good one day, but it’s the work that matters,” said 58-year-old Toni.

“I remember when I practiced with him when he was really young. For me every practice was the same like the final, because I can’t understand life without this commitment in the work. That is what he has done during many years.

“Then I think for him it was nothing special to do this every day. At the end, when you can do this, you have a big personal satisfaction and that’s the most important thing in life.”

Still, Toni stresses the fact that being a hard-worker doesn’t mean Nadal is not a gifted tennis player.

“I think the passion is very important. But of course he has very good talent. Many times I heard that he has normal talent,” Toni said.

“When he arrives to one ball there and makes this [hits a curling forehand] and the ball goes on the line, that’s big talent.

“He has 18 grand slams, even though 15 times he couldn’t play in grand slams. If he had won some of these 15, then we would be talking differently.”

Updated: June 10, 2019 10:11 AM

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