Rafael Nadal’s uncle and former coach, Toni, recently commented on the ideal scenario for the Spaniard’s successful comeback, involving Carlos Alcaraz and Novak Djokovic.
“He wants to play in the Australian Open, and I think he is [going good] because I have seen, these last days, him practicing. He has practiced much better,” uncle Toni said during his conversation with Edwin Weindorfer for the Majorca Daily Bulletin.
“Now, what we need is, we need an injury – of Carlos Alcaraz, of Novak Djokovic and maybe, Daniil Medvedev. We need that many… a lot of problems and then Rafa can play really good.”
These comments grabbed headlines in the Serbian media, even though it was just a lighthearted joke about those injuries.
Uncle Toni had more insightful thoughts, but the Serbian media chose not to translate them. To discover why he holds mental health coaches responsible for exacerbating issues in tennis, read on.
“The teams behind the players have become so large, with many stats, analysts, nutritionists, and mental health coaches. It is the latter, mental health coaches, that I believe are the cause of many young players becoming frustrated and unable to handle defeat and pressure. Rafa never had a mental health coach, let alone a nutritionist. I’m not his mother; I don’t know what he ate, eats, or how much he weighs.
“It used to be just Rafa and me. Some days, I would play with him using old balls, take him to poor quality courts to train, and forget to bring water so he could build mental strength and get used to accepting defeat and making mistakes. I used to point out his mistakes to him.
“Today, there’s too much information, and it’s confusing. It’s all about positive criticism, which doesn’t always work. On the contrary, it leads to greater frustration for players when they lose. It’s a matter of dusting yourself off, training more, working harder, constantly improving your game, and moving on to the next tournament. That’s what I always instilled in Rafa, and that’s why he’s so mentally strong. There will be very few players ever as good as Federer, for example; he played a perfect game, but Rafa beat him.
“It’s about hitting the ball as hard as you can, as if your life depends on every shot. It’s a championship ball, getting the ball in, moving around the court, adjusting the ball’s movement, and not allowing the other player to beat you.“