Rafa Roundup: So does Rafael Nadal need a new coach or not?

Photo: Nike
Photo: Nike


The “What’s up with Nadal?” questions hit the double-digit mark this week, after his latest loss to a lesser-ranked player—on clay, no less. This time it was Pablo Cuevas, the kind of journeymen Nadal would dispatch 6–2, 6–2 not long ago.

We want easy solutions and explanations. Fire Toni! Take a year off! Quit now! But this doesn’t lend itself to hot takes. We are, undeniably, witnessing an athlete in decline. And tennis is both the cruelest of sports and the most accommodating…

Nadal is not yet 30. His body, improbably, is holding up. Nadal may never win a 15th major. But I don’t see how you flatly write off a player of his caliber. The first step is regaining that self-belief and translating that on the court. Taking more risks on the serve, in the rallies and on big points. Playing closer to the baseline. Finishing off third sets. Right now, he doesn’t need a new coach so much as needs Stuart Smalley reminding him of who he is.

“Descent,” of course, is a relative term when it comes to Rafa on dirt. He reached the semis in both Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro, and lost by razor-thin margins both times. For the most part, aside from his serve, I thought he played pretty well. Still, this is Nadal we’re talking about. No player has ever come as close to invincibility on a single surface. Making the semis at a clay-court event is never going to be a satisfying result for him.

Once upon a time, Nadal didn’t lose these types of rallies when he needed them. On match point, the opponent’s desperation forehand would sail long. When Rafa had the other player out of position, he would put the ball away and stride back to the baseline with his fist in the air.

AUDIO: The Tennis Podcast: Will Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal ever win another grand slam title? | The Telegraph

Roger Federer has won more Grand Slam singles titles (17), and spent more weeks as World No 1 than anyone in history. Rafael Nadal has won 14 major wins, including nine French Open crowns, and Olympic singles gold. But is that it? Will either win another major title in their careers?





  2. Listen how could adding a new voice along with Uncle Toni hurt? Out of loyalty Rafa would never want to completely ax his uncle out and I don’t think anyone expects him to so…it’s a shame but I believe Rafa is done . I have enjoyed him from day one and its hard to see him decline but if you are not willing to even try something new then so be it. I will always be one of your most loyal fan and win or lose you will always be my Champion.

  3. I think Rafa needs to move in ASAP, work on his first serve, and serve more into the body to reduce the effectiveness of the return of serve of the opponents. An assistant coach might help if he can work well with Toni.


    • I don’t think he needs to FIRE Tony, but adding another coach to the team with some new ideas wouldn’t hurt. Seems there are things he could do to improve his first serve. For one thing, he could do more serves to the body that are difficult to return.

  5. @ Linda Arnold – Why in the world would I want to take anything back? Everything I predicted and wrote about Rafa for the last two-plus years has proven to be correct, whereas you and your fellow cheerleaders and pom-pom wavers have nothing but egg on your face with your pie in the sky predictions and analysis. That’s neither inane, hateful, nor a rant. It’s just a simple, obvious, irrefutable fact.

    • I don’t get what your talking about what pie in the sky predictions and analysis…or Pom Pom waving..yes Rafa does need a new coach one that praises his achievements Tony put him done from a young age..I’m not fan love I can see the truth but it is still his decision ..as well as when he retires or not..a light will go out in tennis when he does ..lets hope he listens

    • I wish you had egg in your mouth to stop the constant tirades, You are boring.

  6. Excellent response by Deep Thinker below – March 7, 2016 1:25 PM – to Linda Arnold’s unhinged, delusional, hate-filled rant. The so-called “arrogant idiots” now look PROPHETIC in our predictions and recommendations for our favorite player. The rest of you, not so much.

    • Haha your laughable ..I’m not unhinged …why am I in your soooo modest opinion delusional ?..and I certainly don’t hate anyone..let me get this right it’s ok for you to call people “Pom Pom wavers” sycophants ..and inane groupies ..in your inane rants shame you can’t take it back…

      • Ps update I forgot there are 3 idiots on here..all think Nadal is going to listen to their prophesy and predictions ..if he wants a new coach he will get one..Nadal has not been the same since that appalling display of the crowd at the Australian Open final 2014..it destroyed his confidence …and what gives your buddy the right to call people he doesn’t know brain dead..total arrogance

      • Pss true Nadal fans don’t disrespect each other ..they usually unite ..I’ve had “debates “for want of a better word with others regarding Rafa they are usually Roger Federer fans and some of them are vile…real haters..makes me wonder about some of the “so called fans on here”

  7. Rafa’s uncle has recently spoken out and said the the problem is that tennis has become faster and it takes time to adapt to this new form of tennis. He failed to take account that Rafa’s footworks have become slower. He is not really offering a new perspective or solution to the problem except the waiting game

    • Rafa has poor footwork because he does not have a clear game plan, which causes indecision, hesitation and delay. What he and his uncle don’t seem to understand is that if he’s going to play offensive tennis, he has to 100% commit to it from both a tactical and technical standpoint. Half measures will not work. They will just make things worse for him. As top ATP coach Larry Stefanki emphasized and explained last summer, our champ can play offensive tennis with the best of them, but only if he replaces his defensive mindset with an offensive one. He’s done it in the past. He can do it again. With the RIGHT coaching and direction.

  8. Thank you J Beer and Deep Thinker for your compliments below. I enjoy reading your comments as well. They’re informative, insightful and a breath of fresh air from the inane cheer-leading and pom-pom waving of Fan Love and the other groupies, sycophants and apologists for our favorite player.

    • You are welcome son. We are stearing the crowd in the right direction. All great leaders stand alone for a while and are called crazy…until they are finally taken seriously.

      • Leaders!!! What have you guys led? A constant tirade of negativity. You have a false sense of your own importance.

    • “Your favourite player” that’s a laugh..when you and the Beer man have stopped patting each other on the back consider this ..Rafa will do whatever he wants to do you really think he gives a dam what you two idiots think..he’s a multi millionaire with a room full of trophies..yes he does need a new coach fresh ideas…he alone will decide when he retires..if you really don’t want to watch him anymore “DONT”..such arrogance to think that your some kind of banner waver for the good of Nadal…No one wants to see lose least of all me…I’m not a pom-pom waver or a sycophant but a true fan ..you two waffling on just massaging each other’s egos helps mothing…

      • Very classy Linda, to call people names, just because you don’t like their opinions. Do you realize that you make yourself look like a kind of fascist?

      • Thanks so much Linda for your ‘great’ comments! I’d advise you make that 3 idiots. That is, the legendary J. Beer, the unbeatable MIROMO and my humble self, the Deep Thinker.

        The 3 of us have been severally been called all sorts of names on this site, simply because we say the truth all the time. About 2 yrs ago, when the 3 of us (I mean the 3 ”idiots”) first raised alarm on Rafa’s game and the possibility of an irreversible downward slide unless a new coach is engaged, all hell was let loose and virtually everyone here wanted to crucify us!

        But 2 years after, everyone here is crying and begging Nadal to hire a new coach! The 3 idiots have been proved right and vindicated for the upteenth time!

        So i wonder, who really is/are the idiot(s)? If we are idiots, then how come we are always RIGHT and the rest of you guys are (for want of a better word) simply brain-dead?? Have you ever introspected and asked yourself that question, dear Linda Arnold? Why are the 3 ”idiots” always right all the time?

        So, as far as this site is concerned Linda, we are truly happy to be ”idiots” since it took all of you brain-deads almost 2 yrs to catch up with the pace of wisdom of the 3 idiots.

  9. If you wish to be vindictive and nasty please make sure you quote the right person who said the quote.I never said anything about Uncle Toni and Rafa pretending and then beating Novak at the French open.

    Please keep it accurate.An apology wouldn’t go astray please?

  10. dear rafa
    i have seen rafa with fire in his eyes and anger on his face
    i have seen rafa with his mind running like a computer for the shot selection
    i have seen rafa getting quickly in position for the next shots and pounce on it like a cheetah
    i have seen rafa whose opponent have already half match lost attitude when u enters a tennis court
    i have seen rafa fighting for each point like his life depends on it
    i have seen rafa who has his attitude 200 % for winning every grandslams
    i have seen rafa who is capable of making comebacks when he is thrown to the corners and when all the chips are down

    i believe in u rafa & sure u can make it, it is not hard to bring back what v had seen in u rafa

    vamos rafa

    have a great health an enjoy

    • I agree 100%. His pre-serve rituals are a total waste of time, energy and focus. And they get worse every year. I recently watched his 2009 Aussie Open final against Roger and felt like I was watching a completely different player and person. The pre-serve rituals were about 10% of what they are now. He’d bounce the ball a few times and then serve it. In stark contrast to his current routine of repeatedly fiddling with his shirt and hair and then bouncing the ball 2 dozen times before serving. All that extra time to think just makes him more nervous, indecisive and tentative. A real coach would’ve spotted and corrected this problem from the jump, instead of letting it get worse and worse and worse like Uncle Toni did, perhaps to the point of no return.

      • I agree. The body language is not exactly: “Give me that ball and I will blow this serve through the court”. It’s more like: “God, this is gonna be hard”.

      • Well, Oscar Borris did help Rafa in 2010 and Rafa did destroy Djokovic with his big serve. Then again, Toni refused to adapt new things. I really think with that kind of attitude, this is the end of Rafa. He just won’t take a change of coach. His body doesn’t listen to him anymore. His footwork is way too slow for an old time defensive style in the prime.

        So sad…

  11. Quite frankly, I’d rather Rafa retire than continue on like this just going through the motions. If he’s not willing to make the necessary changes to regain his form and ranking, he should hang it up and go home, instead of stringing his fans along wasting our time and his. Unlike some other folks on this website, I don’t get a kick out of watching him self-destruct right before our eyes.

  12. So if it is Rafa’s mind, that is not so simple.
    I am sure many people on this sight have experienced depression and anxiety, which is not as simple to fix as taking a pill if allowed by the governing body.I think we ought to keep on remembering that we are NOT the experts on what Rafa should or should NOT do.It is entirely up to Rafa.It could be that he is ready to retire, then all the negative commentors will be boo hooing about how boring tennis has become without Rafa, and the colourful, creative mix that he brings to the tennis circuit.THere has been nothing Peter Pan about that.
    SOme positive comments wouldn’t go astray, as if Rafa actually does read these comments it would be enogh to make him anxious and depressed,Love Alaine/Sydney

    • Elaine, your comments, or Fan Love his comments, are considered positive comments by you and by the posters themselves. To others, like me, and like the Legendary MIOMO, the wonderful Prophet Who Speaks etc, those types of comments are actually very, very negative ones. For those comments contain no proposed solutions, not even a hint of a step forward. Your comments agree with defeat. Your comments look for positives in downward spiralling. Horrible! Those comments are soft words spoken to a dying patient who actually can still be saved, when the right help is called for. And despite the fact that all of you seem to feel good about chosing this approach, the truth is: not one tennis expert, not one former pro, not one columnist has written a message that would indicate that he or she would agree with you. The general consensus is very close to what the so called negative comments (in your op) call for. It’s not negative to say that Rafa Nadal should man up. It’s the feedback he needs more than the pity cries. The latter will not help him any further. I strongly believe that the more people will call for change, more likely it will come. Whether it means Nadal will quit, or hire new staff, one of the two should happen. Continuing like this, is bad for everyone around.

      • J. Beer, this is nothing but a master stroke from you! Honestly, I find it extremely hard to choose the better (deep thinker) between you and the incredible MIROMO. Without you two, this site would have long closed shop, because a lot of readers/commentators will have heart attack from the daily reading of posts from the likes of Elaine, the utterly ludicrous & ridiculous Fan love and the very silly Abu Parker – these guys are just so empty and have nothing to offer even themselves.
        Was it not Elaine that posted something so stupid like: ”….Nadal and Uncle Toni are just pretending so that Novak can be destroyed at French Open” Even Nadal may suffer heart attack reading such fantasies!

        I doff my hat to you, J. Beer for being so consistently consistent in speaking nothing but the absolute truth at all times.

      • BINGO!!! Brilliant comment by J Beer. One of the best comments ever contributed to this website. If not THE best. The “dying patient” analogy was pure genius. IMHO, great comments like that should be transferred to this website’s home page – or perhaps linked there – for more exposure to the general public. Well done J Beer. Very well done.

  13. Good point J Beer about Ivan Lendl winning the Aussie Open in 1990 when he was 29 years old. But let’s not forget that he had an incredibly EASY draw that year, not having to face a high seeded player until the final against Stefan Edberg, who had to retire in the 3rd set of that match due to a torn stomach muscle he incurred in the semifinals. “A win is a win”, as Lendl said after the match, but not all wins are equally impressive.

    As for Borg, McEnroe and Wilander, as I stated earlier, each of them won their LAST slam singles title while still in their mid-twenties. Not because they had Rafa’s Peter Pan mentality, but because they suffered from mental or physical burnout.

    Rafa, by his own admission, is not suffering from any kind of burnout. He is suffering from his unprofessional, stubborn and childish refusal to leave the nest, clinging to his uncle like a baby clings to its mother, instead of going out and hiring a REAL coach like virtually every other top player in the history of the game did after outgrowing their initial tennis instructors and coaches, many of whom were family members just like Toni is.

    Our favorite player – our champ – needs to finally grow up. Or go home.

  14. Some people on this site make the weidest statements. So if RAFA is suffering from the Peter Pan mentality by inference so did Bjorn Bjorg, Ivan Lendl and John McEnroe.
    Does anybody take into account that the type of play Nadal uses is EXTREMELY hard on his body and after winning 14 Grand Slams and a bag of other titles that his body might be over it all, and like Leighton Hewitt your body can’t keep being punished time and time again.
    Give Rafa a fair crack of the whip for goodness sake.love Alaine/Australia

    • If it were so simple, no one here would be in the state of agony that many of us are. The sad thing is, that it is not Rafa’s body, but his mind, that is letting him down. A direct consequence of his Peter Pan status. Rafa has always been very open about the state of his physique, and for more than a year he has stated all is fine. So on the basis of that, there are a lot of reasons to shout from the rooftops that he’s ruining some of the best years of his career, by not acting like a man, but to stroll through the ATP tour with the look of a small afraid rabbit on his face. It is as if he’s doing a career path in reverse. He’s looking more insecure than most 16 year olds when they walk onto the big stage for the first time. Who would have thought that the 17 year old cocky teenager who beat Federer on hard courts in March 2014, would look like this 12 years later?

  15. Great point J Beer. Bjorn Borg(11 slams), Ivan Lendl(8 slams), John McEnroe(7 slams) and Mats Wilander(7 slams) all won their final slam singles title while still in their mid-twenties. With each passing day it’s looking more and more likely that Rafa is about to do the same. His never-grow-up Peter Pan mentality has cost him. Big time.

    • I think Lendl won his last Aussie Open at 29 and was RU one year later at age 30? The way Lendl – by the way – tried everything possible to improve, especially in order to win Wimbledon, deserves admiration. Exactly the opposite of what Rafa has been doing in the last years (when no. 1 saying ‘this is not gonna last long!’).

  16. I have been thinking about tennis greats that fell hard, and concluded that Rafa’s fall has been the hardest in decades. Here are a some other remarkable cases, feel free to add yours:
    – Jim Courier. Jim, winner of 4 majors and 5 masters, won his last major and his last masters, at the tender age of 22. Jim retired due to a burn out at age 29. He had been battling it for 7 or 8 years, he said. Maronn’!
    – Sergi Bruguera. In ’94 he won his second Roland Garros. He never won anything anymore after the summer of ’94 (aged 23 at the time). He has won the most Grand Slam titles for someone not elected to the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
    – Lleyton Hewitt, the man who was supposed to be a tennis revolution according to some dumb journalists who copy each other (I immediately saw him as the intermediairy medium level champ that he indeed turned out to be), won his second and last major at the early age of 21. He played his last major final, still only 23. He retired at 35, having won nothing significant in the last 13 years of his career.

    And you, J Beer, what about you? No, this is not about me. This is about tennis history and the hard fall of Rafa Nadal. One can fall of the Everest, very few reach the top, and even fewer will slide all the way down when falling. Who’s gonna stop this slide?

    • J Beer, it is very clear to all on this site that you are the person to stop this decline of Rafa, so go for it, you apply to be his next coach and we will all be happy, good luck and Vamos to you both.

      • Hi Connie, thanks for acknowledging this. I am currently not available as a coach but I will keep giving the good advices, free of charge, until finally Rafa will man up or quit.

  17. The truth is Rafa needs another Round 1 exit to enable him put his tennis in proper perspective.
    in view of that, my dream round 1 match up will be Nick Kyrgios Vs Rafa Nadal.

    If this dream should come true, i’m confident Nick will send Rafa packing in the 1st round and then Rafa will be forced to eiher retire outright or repair his tennis.

    • My wish would be that he wins RG but that is never ever going to happen again given the direction he has taken (if he would drastically change his team, maybe next year he has a chance). I am sure he will exit early at RG unfortunately. Probably in a 4 or 5 set battle, that many here will describe as ‘unbelievable’ like the low quality fights with Fognini and Verdasco (who had a tough draw indeed) in the last two majors, while in fact it is just two players going at it at mediocre level.

  18. Uncle Toni will NEVER step down as Rafa’s “coach”, because if he did, he would lose his lucrative endorsement deal with Iberostar Hotels & Resorts. Likewise, if Rafa fires Toni, the endorsement money disappears. As far as I know, this is Toni’s primary source of income. Rafa does not pay him a coaching salary or stipend. He just covers his travel, lodging and dining expenses. At least that’s how Toni has described the arrangement in press reports.

    So what’s the solution to this very awkward dilemma for both player & coach?

    Rafa, IMHO, should offer Toni a full-time job – starting immediately – running his tennis academy in Majorca, with a salary equivalent to the endorsement income he will no longer receive from Iberostar. While he’s at it, Rafa should say adios to Francisco Roig, who’s obviously in way over his head as the part-time coach. Our champ needs a totally fresh start.

    Rafa should then try to hire two of the best tennis minds in the business, Andre Agassi & Larry Stefanki, with each alternating as his coach on a tournament to tournament basis. Two heads are better than one, as they say, and I doubt that either Agassi or Stefanki would want to make a full-time coaching commitment.

    Problem solved. Assuming of course, that Agassi and Stefanki are available, and that Rafa is ready and willing to make such a move. The latter, unfortunately, is a very BIG assumption, considering our champ’s notorious fear of leaving the nest.

    • Yeah it’s ridiculous. A lot of players at this age have the composure and experience that makes them win matches they would have lost at a younger age. With Rafa, it’s all in reverse now. He refused to grow up and this is now haunting him.

      • You will never be the person Rafael Nadal is. You, grow up and stop trying to convince people that you have all the answers. Get a life, enjoy it.

    • As usual you are presuming that Toni Nadal’s income comes from Iberostar. He has a share in the family business, established long before Rafael Nadal became a global star.

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