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

Photo: Nike
Photo: Nike

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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?

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125 comments

  1. What a depressing state of affairs. There is no news from camp Nadal and whereas this used to be good news in the years before 2012 (cause since then we had to hear injury messages about Olympics, US Open 12, Aussie Open 13, back injury Aussie 14, elbow US Open 14, appendix WTF 14, extended to Aussie Open 15 coming too early basically), it now is bad news in fact. What will be camp Nadal’s approach towards a real comeback? No news means bad news. The website nadalnews.com has even stopped posting since Aussie Open 15. Like Eminent used to rap: “…Now how the f*ck did this metamorphosis happen
    From standin’ on corners and porches just rappin’
    To havin’ a fortune, no more kissin’ *ss
    But then these critics crucify you, journalists try to burn you
    Fans turn on you,…”.

    • website nadal.com doesn’t tolorate any critisim. My comments never passed their censorship that’s speaks volume about that site. I can assure anyone that my comments were not disrespectful at all.

  2. In the mean time a good idea would be to spend more time with francis roig and give uncle toni a rest …….

    • So you do agree that Toni is no longer suitable? Why not a real professional?

      Andrei Agassi, John Mc Enroe, Bjorn Borg,etc. They are all willing to help Rafa.
      Even Oscar Borris did help Nadal having megaserve in US Open 2010. Look at how Rafa is serving now. The problem is Toni won’t walk away. He should have done it in 2015 like Serena Williams’s father. Walk away and invite a real professional. Serena did have a horrible time in FO 2012 but found her rhythm back after hiring Mouratoglou.

  3. Come on folks…. “Rafa needs help with his confidence”. Listen to Rafa himself and you will learn that confidence comes with playing well… The better you play the more confident you become… Rafa needs help with his GAME … The game of tennis has changed and although “Uncle” Toni has guided him to greatness …that was then… Now the game is faster…the rallies are not as long… The serves are harder… The up and comers are hungry… And because of Rafa’s losses, they come on to the court against him with confidence that they can win…
    Rafa needs a new perspective… He needs a weapon like Feds SABR… He needs to up his game to fit into today’s world of tennis… Let’s face it , Rafa is all about family and Toni is “la familia” … And if he wasn’t ” Uncle” Toni, I believe Nadal would have cut him loose already…Toni ought to step down for the sake of his nephew and give Rafa a chance to get a new coach who can help turn things around for his champion… And btw …When Novak brought Becker in …look what happened…Federer has changed coaches and his game might not be of Novaks caliber but he’s still hanging in there.
    The handwriting is on the wall for Rafael Nadal, now he needs to do something about it…

  4. Yeah right! Keep fooling yourself. I see no technique points in this article. Only some crazy points like “Rafa is not yet 30”. Are you-so called fan aware of that Rafa’s knees was damaged? I don’t think that many people here wants Rafa to quit. Don’t label them. They just want to take a change of coach.

    Rafa since Wimbledon 2011, has never improved his serve and net play. That’s the biggest reason for early exit in that fast surface since then. He keeps losing to unknown guys like Dustin Brown, Lukas Rosol, Darcis, and so on. The point is he isn’t afraid of losing. Wimbledon? Good. If not, we still have clay court season? And when he falls on clay, he will eventually starts to panic.
    That’s not a good attitude of uncle Toni. This article only shows how great Toni was but never points out a good reason to not fire Toni.

    Rafa must act now. Time is gold. When both of you realise that truth it’s gonna be too late.

  5. @Elizabeth Howard
    I have supported Rafael since I first saw him, he captured my imagination and my heart. That has never wavered. I think that he is over anxious and needs to remember who he is. Re a coach, I would like to see someone in on a consultancy basis. Pat Cash or John McEnroe are the men I would like to see in that role. Little things can turn around his season. Vamos Rafaaaa

    I agree 100% with your comment Elizabeth. My sentiments exactly – little things can turn things around – a new face and voice will help Rafa. Marylynn

  6. I Rafa and Fans, since the question is being posed, I feel that another coach would help Rafa more than hurt him. They could have the new coach work with Rafa 3 or 4 days out of the week then he could be with Toni and Francisco the remaining days. Rafa needs to feel comfortable with this new coach – and I’m sure that he will. Another person could say what Toni and Francisco are saying but in a way that might get through to Rafa in a more positive way. A new voice and perspective might be all he needs. This person could possibly help Rafa feel good about himself it may inspire self-belief and a renewed desire in him. Rafa possibly would not turn a deaf ear (so to speak) to a new voice. He needs this, only if it is for a year. What in the hell could it possibly hurt. Come on, a new super coach, even part time could and just might get through to him in a way no one including Rafa and team thought possible. GIVE it a try. If Rafa still has a mental block against some new “super coach” and it is not doing any good, then by all means he can go back to the way things were, but at least give it a try for at least 6 months. Stay healthy Rafa, and God bless you. Love, Marylynn

  7. Congratulations to Rafa’s fellow Spaniard Caria Suarez Navarro who has just won the Quatar open in Doha , the biggest win of her career and now number six . Another Spanish player like Rafa who has dignity and respect, for such a quiet and shy individual her reaction at the end was brilliant . Good luck to Rafa in his next tournament my fingers are crossed

  8. Rafael if you think your body is near 100 percent fit n your mind in Neutral, please beg Uncle Toni to help you by engaging a past Tennis Legend to help out in your Camp. Serving Aces, Aces, Aces – these guys nowadays are more or less winning Games by serving Aces? I pray for you Rafa. God bless you. Love your Aussie Abuela.

  9. A short extract from the autobiography:

    ‘While Toni’s refusal to let me off the hook has its value, in that he pushes me always to improve and do better, it can also be bad because he creates insecurity.
    I often feel this way, especially in the early rounds of a tournament, and the truth is that while he deserves credit for so many good things in my career, he also deserves blame for me being more insecure than I ought to be.
    The point is to hold on to the lessons I’ve absorbed from Toni but to impose my own judgment more, striving to find the right balance between humility and overconfidence.
    Sure, you must always respect your rival, always consider the possibility that he might beat you, always play against the player ranked 500 in the world as if he were ranked No 1 or 2. Toni has helped me to have this very clear in my mind, maybe too clear.’

  10. Rafa defnitely needs a new coach. Please read this article and the answer to the problem is very clear and made by Rafa’s own admission:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/tennis/rafaelnadal/8707878/Rafael-Nadal-Uncle-Toni-terrified-me-but-without-him-Id-be-nothing.html#

    When we analyse the latest matches of Rafa, it is very clear that Rafa is playing with lots of tension. Normally when he is playing lower ranked players he should not be so tensed and feeling so insecure but the reason why he is facing this problem is the coach. The answer lies in Rafa’s own admission that his uncle made him a good player but also created a lot of insecurities in his game. When he was playing a lower ranked player, he was told to treat it as if he is playing a match with the top ranked players. Today he is feeling very insecure even when he playing these players because of the overemphasis to treat them as top players. This is the reason why Rafa is not feeling shocked by these losses as other players do because he treats these lower ranked players as top ranked and he is not questioning why he is losing to these players. This is the conditioning he has received from his coach since he was a child and now the insecurities are becoming permanent because the losses are increasing and Rafa is always justifying this by saying the lower ranked player played a fantastic match. He does not question why Verdasco is immediately defeated by the next opponent and why a player of his calibre is no longer surprised that he is losing matches that he never used to lose before.

  11. He needs a new coach like yesterday. Rafa needs someone that reminds him of who he is, a 14-time grand slam champion. Toni can’t do that. He turned him into an insecure underdog, and those days are over. He’s the consolidated champion now, he needs someone to remind him of that fact.

  12. I see rafa issue of confidence is not a big one but a tricky one, if he handeled it carefully and rightlybto sort it out and that to quickly we will see him back sooner but the difficult part is if it is not handeled carefully and properly and think of delaying it then this problem is such that it will keep on aggravating and will make it worse for rafa knowing tjlhe fact that the rest of the field is playing fearless tennis ……

    So rafa pls do meditation , play 1 set matches with good local player in practices for few days, get someone new to give new ideas or do what ever u think best But get rid of this problem quickly

    Stay healthy stay positive and all the very bst luck

    Eagerly waiting for ur game my champ rafa

  13. Rafa just needs help with his confidence ,,,a new mind set ,,,,the talent is still there ,the fitness is still there ,the wanting to win is still there ,,,,,his commitment is still there ,,,,,,he just needs to be told over and over and over again ,,,remember who you are ,,,,,,walk out on court with positivity ,,,,,,get on with the game ,,,try getting rid of your old routine ,,,,,it’s not doing you any favours ,,,or helping you at all ,,,,,,best wishes Rafa I hope your game returns ,

  14. New coach, new game, easier said than done. Nadal and his team are not dumb. Do we think we know more tennis than they do? They know what’s wrong. They know know Rafa needs to change som aspects of his game. They have been practicing these changes but implementing the changes on a tourney is never easy. Rafa has done it before in 2013. He serves better, his shots flatter and the angles are ridiculuous. So dont we think they know what works and what does not? C,mon!

  15. VAMOS DEAR RAFA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! : ) : ) : ) : ) : ) Ola sweetheart!!!!!!!!!!!!!! : ) Hope you are enjoying your days & enjoying everything about your upcoming Academy & US tour!!!!!!!!!!!!!! : ) : ) : ) : )
    On a different note DEAR RAFA , Please take comments here with somewhat disregard to the volume & numbers of comments. Same person here writes same comments with slight variations under different assumed names & then answers themselves back & forth, giving themselves “red 1 person like” at the bottom of their comments. The volume of last posting is obviously falsely made up & it is getting more and more obvious during the last two months or so. I urge folks who resort to such tactics to see it is not about the fans…but rather it is all about RAFA. Fans do not have to feel competitive w each other, or have agenda about their posting other than fully supporting RAFA. It is doubtful I am the only commentator to have noticed that. I had chosen to not express my observation for a while now but this is time in between Rafa’s tours & I urge folks commentating here to en hence Rafa’s standing & mighty beautiful game with positive support. Secondly, for the sake of this site reputation lets hope this rather obvious trend of assumed many different names writing the same content stops at once.
    It is important to adore Rafa as a fan, and having a free hand to express opinions, but it absurd to keep coming up with made up names delivering pressure and undo negative words to place ugly doubt in Rafa’s sense of his game & success or his magnificent effective team.
    “Once upon a time” we were all different , and as time goes on we all evolve & develop with new skills replacing old ones….RAFA is no different . It is time folks stops saying he “USED” to do this & that & hold him to past standards & unseasonable set of critics. Rafa’s success is a blessing and his tennis & other engagements are a treat to witness. He is a great guy & deserves nothing but the top best!!!!!!!!!!!!!! : ) As a fan I am delighted to have this site to follow Rafa’s tours, interviews, videos & photos….it is my sincere hope there will be an attempt to stop this ridiculous bashing under different names.

    VAMOS DEAR RAFA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! : ) : ) : ) : ) God bless you & have a great time preparing! Lots of love & happiness!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! : ) : ) : )

      • Abu Parker,
        You’re particularly fond of abusing people on this site, calling them all sort of names!
        Are you a ruffian of sorts or something?

        Well, be very careful. Nobody abuses a Prophet – a Man of God – and gets away with it.
        BE VERY CAREFUL.

      • Hey prophet, you’re a total A_HOLE, fruitcake. Now go ahead, place your god-illusion curse on me! O_O

  16. I am convinced that Rafa still has the talent, strength and ability to win another FO GS, but this topic is key. It is true that Toni Nadal deserves much credit for Rafa’s past achievements, but now Rafa needs new, innovative help on his coaching staff, someone who recognises what his grueling style of playing has done to his body, and can help him adapt his style to accommodate the injuries his body has had to observe during the past 10 years. His play needs to be less reliant on a strong youthful body, and should be less taxing on his body. He needs some strong guidance on his serve, and importantly, how to deliver shots that are difficult to return, and don’t force him to run all over the court.

    Let’s hope that he adds a good coach (Agassi would be a great choice) to his team VERY soon, and start changing his style before its too late. Vamos Rafa!!!

    • Agree! Rafa still has the potential, desire of winning but if he sticks to this current team then he will have to see Djokovic claims his first Roland Garros.

      He needs to adjust his game with his slow footwork. His forehand shots land short and are often shaky. Rafa could easily destroy his opponent by a powerful forehand but now it’s not. He can’t run like old time for a good position. Therefore, there are many many unforced errors from his forehand (especially his down the line shot). His serve is way too terrible. If he ever wants to compete at high level on fast surface like Wimbledon again, then he must bring a professional like Oscar Boris to learn a good first serve. Rafa now is way too predictable.

  17. Rafa just needs to go to YouTube, type “Nadal” then sit down and watch. He’s forgotten who he is.

    The serve needs to improve. He needs a serving coach.

    Once the fire is still there, there’s hope.

  18. Rafa needs more input than Uncle Toni alone. An additional coach with different ideas to bring another dimension to Rafa’s otherwise solid game is needed. A more innovative approach to gain that extra little bit that’s needed to win would surely be something that Rafa would benefit from. There must be coaches around on tour or from past champions that would bring that bit extra to Rafa’s game as is evident in for example Djokovic’s team. It’s surely worth a serious look.

    • Hega dear,

      I will bet my last $5,000.00 with you that if Uncle Toni goes home, Nadal would immediately announce his retirement from the sport!

      Wanna bet?

  19. Rafa needs a new team for his last 3-4 years..that is the only truth..here in greece we are all fans of rafa..make us happy..you are a very good man but if you want to be the number one again you know exactly what you have to do..if you are ok with your past,it is ok for us..

  20. Rafa needs a new coach for sure, and Toni should step down. The reasons are simple. They now form a poisonous mix: on the one hand Toni, who praises Rafa’s rivals as better than his own (some sick, not effective, reverse psychology that does not work) and on the other hand Rafa who has become a man without ambitiions (“I don’t need to win more slams”) while at the same time looking like the most depressed man after yet another loss (which confirms that he actually still prefers winning, he is just trying to move himself in an underdog position, out of fear). They should shake hands, look eachother in the eyes, realizing they won the biggest chunk of Rafa’s silverware together (for sure). It’s the only chance they have to add some silverware to the collection. You know, in most countries, young men, like birds, leave the nest. Rafa should leave the nest.

    • J Beer: can’t agree more with your comment. Toni Nadal should step down. If which is a big if Rafa hire a new coach, there would be conflict of views that makes Rafa to take side and we all know who’s side it would be. I am wondering if we should start an online petition asking for Toni Nadal to step down. I am sure there would be millions of fan to sign it.

    • You’ve explained perfectly exactly what I think. It’s a toxic relationship at this point, and what worked when Rafa was beginning as a young starter clearly can’t work today as a full-developed adult and seasoned player.

  21. I totally agree that Rafa needs new blood in his team, definitely a new coach to work alongside Toni, McEnroe would be top of my list, it appears Rafa is too anxious on court, he’s no longer fearless, makes mistakes on the big points, problem is that other players know this and when facing him they’re already thinking “I can beat Nadal”, that’s gives them the edge, please do something Rafa as these loses and your nerves are desperately upsetting for us fans, we will love you forever

  22. I think Rafa needs a new coach to work along side his uncle . I have the impression that Toni could be a bit tricky to work with so maybe uncle Toni could spend some time with his young family during the smaller tournaments and have more input in the grandslams. That said know one can take away that Toni has been and is a great and REAL coach and has helped Rafa achieve becoming one of the greats, but may be now at this stage in Rafa’s career he needs someone who can build his confidence and praise him instead of a negative approach that has worked in the past.I would like to see Rafa take some time off now until the French Open , decide what he wants to do with his career and team . Travelling month after month for years must take its toll especially when things aren’t going maybe one day Rafa will be the coach to his cousins that would be great

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