Toni Nadal on Rafa: “He still has two or three good years left”

Rafael Nadal’s uncle and former coach is confident about the 35-year-old’s future and his chances of winning at least one more Grand Slam.

Toni Nadal, Monte-Carlo 2021

Having already been reassured about the recovery of his nephew, Toni Nadal is confident about the ability of his former protege, Rafael Nadal , to reach the highest level again. The 35-year-old is currently sidelined by a foot injury and will not return until 2022, but the elder Nadal looks forward to success upon his relative’s return to tennis.

In a a podcast published by the Spanish sports daily Marca, uncle Toni spoke about the rivalry between the Big 3 of the circuit: Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic. In the podcast; the Mallorcan coach of Félix Auger-Aliassime was confident in Nadal’s chances of winning another Grand Slam at some point.

“I think that for Federer, it is more complicated because he is 40 years old,” Toni commented. “He has returned from several operations (editor’s note: three, to be exact) and I do not know if it went well. In Rafael’s case, I’m sure he has a good two or three years left. I am convinced that he will be able to win a Grand Slam again. The reality is that every year it gets harder and every year, the young people get closer.”

Rafael Nadal et Toni Nadal à Roland-Garros en 2017
Rafael Nadal and Toni Nadal at the 2017 French Open

THE “BIG 3” EVEN SUPERIOR TO THE NEW GENERATION

About the new generation led by Daniil Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas, and Alexander Zverev, the Spanish coach has not yet seen any specific player stand out – despite the Russian’s coronation at the US Open. Toni believes that they all still have work to do to be consistent at a high level.

“I don’t know who’s the best,” the 60-year-old admitted. “Their high level is very similar; the problem is their low average level. When Medvedev plays well, he is at the level of Nadal, Federer or Djokovic. What happens is that when he plays badly, his level drops a little more than that of Novak, Rafael, or Roger. Whoever manages to stabilize it will be the best of the [younger generation].”

Federer and Nadal’s last public appearances have been on crutches. But the champions, who – together with Djokovic – aim for the title of greatest player of all time, are determined to return.

IF YOU LOOK AT THE NUMBERS, THE BEST IS FEDERER OR DJOKOVIC. BUT RAFAEL HAS MISSED MANY GRAND SLAM TOURNAMENTS WITH INJURIES AND FACED OTHERS WHILE INJURED.

Toni Nadal

Toni remains a privileged observer of the incredible rivalry which has marked the last 15 years in tennis.

“I could never have imagined that they would achieve as much as they did,” Toni said of Nadal and Federer. “Federer, yes, we saw that he would be one of the best in history – because he does everything well. When I saw that Rafael at [23 or 24 years old] had already [won every] Grand Slam, I started to think that he could win a lot and that he could aspire to be one of the best.

“I saw 18-year-old Djokovic play against (Juan) Monaco (at the 2007 US Open) and when I got to the locker room I said to Rafael, ‘We have a problem,’ because I saw a very good player. When someone is very good, you find out quickly.”

Djokovic has certainly proven him right. At the US Open, the 34-year-old Serb came within one victory of capturing the calendar-year Grand Slam and overtaking his two biggest rivalries in the all-time men’s singles major titles race.

“If you look at the numbers, the best is Federer or Djokovic,” Toni concluded. “But Rafael has missed many Grand Slam tournaments with injuries and faced others (while) injured.

“We will wait until their careers are over to establish who is the best.”

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