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Toni Nadal: “Rafa has not reached the point of saying: I’m leaving him”

Here in Santander he has given a motivational talk (during the International Sports Forum, last Saturday). Do you like that his example serves people?

I don’t know if my example has to serve people. They ask me to tell what we have done and that is what I tell. I don’t know if it serves as an example or not. I never tried to be an example for anyone because I have no category to be. I did things the best way I knew how and that’s what I say.

But, due to your career at Rafa’s side, do you feel that you have a special respect for him?

It’s normal, Rafael’s image and theme are associated with me. But I have said it many times, Rafael’s merit is almost exclusively his. When he was little, obviously, I was the one who decided things, what had to be done and how. But the one who made them was him. Mine has little value.

how did you live Federer’s retirement next to Rafa?

With emotion, as I think the vast majority of people. The firing of someone like Federer is something that hurts you. We knew he was close though because he hadn’t recovered from his injuries. But when the time comes… A person like Federer, the benchmark he has been, all the years that we live with him, they are still many years of fighting for the same thing. In the end, that affects everyone. I, in particular, would have liked Roger to have continued playing. First for a tennis issue, I really like watching him play. And then because a figure like his is good for sport. It’s hard to say what icon or number you are, but he’s one of the biggest icons in sport, and probably one of the most respected, maybe the most.

How important was Federer in pushing Rafa to get better every day??

When you have a rival that forces you to go to the limit, either you go to the limit or you go out. Federer always made things very difficult for us on any surface. There was no choice but for Rafael to adapt and always look for solutions. I think that both Rafael forced Federer to go to the limit, as well as Roger forced my nephew to the same.

How is your nephew now after this year of good and bad times?

Today I talked to him and now he is fine. It is true that he has had a difficult year. It could have been an extraordinary season, but it has been marred by the continual inconvenience he has had. The results went well because he won Australia and Roland Garros, but you leave with a bitter taste in your mouth. At Wimbledon he couldn’t play a semifinal when he was playing well and was a clear candidate for the title, there were also problems in New York… What an athlete wants above all else is to be well and play, and also win. My nephew has won, but he has been in more trouble than one can bear sometimes.

Rafa himself said that he came to think that Roland Garros could be his last tournament, and at Wimbledon we saw his father telling him to quit. Have you ever told him that it’s time to stop?

Never. I think that, as long as you feel competitive and have the luck to continue winning… What you like is playing tennis, there will be time to stop. Of course, if one is suffering more than necessary, there comes a time when you say you’re leaving. But Rafael has not reached this situation. It is true that he has had different problems and this affects you in the end, but the main thing is that he wants to play. To one who has that desire I would never tell him to stop. If Federer had had the chance to play, he would have told him to do so. I never remember the great players for his final stage. I don’t remember Seve or Tiger Woods when they played badly, I remember them when they played well, just like Federer or Rafael… There are people who are sometimes very demanding and want them to retire. No, as long as you can play and do what you like, the normal thing is to continue.

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Toni Nadal, during the interview with AS.CUBERO NACHODAILY AS

How much longer do you see Rafa on the track?

I’m not a fortune teller, I don’t know. I think that as long as he feels he has a chance of winning, he will continue. When he sees that he has no options, if he goes to a tournament and has no chance of winning, I don’t think he will play. In the end, he has won too much to fold badly. Federer went five years without winning a Grand Slam, but he was there, he was doing semi-finals, finals… he knew he could win. In fact, after five years he won three more because he felt like he had options. That is what leads the way. How much time does Rafa have left? I don’t know, he will clearly depend on his rivals, on his body…

Does the appearance of Alcaraz take pressure off Rafa in Spain?

I don’t think Rafael thinks about that in the slightest. Rafael plays for him, he doesn’t think about whether Carlos Alcaraz, David Ferrer or even Djokovic is there. My nephew plays and the appearance of this or the other you take him knowing that he is a tough opponent.

Did you follow the games? Alcaraz at the US Open?

I did not see them. I did see the final because I was playing against one of our players. When our player, Casper Ruud, lost set point, he then played a bad tie-break, and the set ball was played well by Carlos. From there, he disappeared. What I was worried about is Ruud, as you can imagine.

Precisely Ruud has had a great year, how do you see it?

Casper is one of the best and has been up there for two years now. He is a consolidated player among the best. It is true that he is not a very media-oriented guy and it seems that he enters on tiptoe, but the reality is that, for a long time, it has been very difficult to beat him on any surface. Proof of this is that he has beaten many top-10 players, very good people, and has been able to play two Grand Slam finals, which is not easy. It is true that he has lost both. With Rafael he lost easily, with Alcaraz he had his chances of victory. He is a player that I hope will continue to be there for a long time, that he will fight for number one in the following years. He is also a very serious tennis player, a great person and very nice.

He also continues to collaborate with Auger-Aliassime, who beat Djokovic in the Laver Cup. Is he still growing and can he reach the top?

Yes, also, I trust that it can arrive. It still lacks a bit. I think that, of the best, he is the one with the most room for improvement. He has a very high potential because he has extraordinary physical capacity, he has power, he’s fast, he has a good drive, he serves very well… Sometimes we have problems with the backhand and we have to consolidate the game. Just as I hope Ruud is up, all the more reason I hope Felix is ​​up.

The Rafa Nadal Academy continues to produce great players. Is the future exciting?

Last year we won the junior US Open in boys (Dani Rincón), and this year in girls (Alex Eala). We have a Spanish junior who I think can be a great player, Martín Landaluce (champion this year in New York) will surely be one of the best in the world. We train a guy from the Czech Republic who I think can be a good tennis player. But sometimes, the power you expect him to develop with doesn’t happen. But since I’m positive, I’m confident that before long we’ll see quite a few people from the Academy on the pro circuit. We have Ruud, Jaume Munar, soon we will have Alex Eala and Dani Rincón… There are plenty of options.

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