Woodbridge: Rafa / Uncle Toni split no surprise

Published by Todd Woodbridge

Rafa and Toni Nadal will be parting ways at the end of 2017. Photo: Getty Images
Most of the tennis world was shocked at the announcement that Uncle Toni would be leaving Rafael Nadal at the end of 2017. Most, but not Todd Woodbridge.

It was surprising to hear that people were so shocked at the news that Uncle Toni is leaving Rafa. Let’s get one thing straight: Toni Nadal is never going to leave Rafa. What the announcement about their ‘split’ says is that they are preparing for what I like to call ‘the afterlife’: what Rafa will be doing after tennis.

Toni is world-renowned for being Rafa’s coach. They have just invested a lot of money in the new academy in Mallorca and they need to get the kids in. In reality – and he may not like me saying this – Toni Nadal is going to become the European equivalent of Nick Bollettieri. He is a coach with both the experience and the knowledge of how to create a world-class player; he knows the expectation, the pressures and what is required.

It all makes sense.

And no, I don’t believe that Rafa was surprised by this announcement at all. I read an article where Toni said that he forgot to mention it to Rafa first. Are you kidding me?! They have been having big round-table discussions for years about the ‘Nadal business’, and Toni has always been a huge presence in those conversations.

And let’s not forget that if Rafa wants Toni at, say, the French Open because of a feeling of safety or reassurance he’s going to go.

Moving forward, we probably won’t see any obvious changes in Rafa’s game when Toni ‘leaves’. But sometimes a new voice, or a different perspective on a strategy or tactic can influence a player. We saw this happen for Federer – I’m a firm believer that Stefan Edberg extended his career by three, four, maybe even five years.

The relationship that Rafa already has with Carlos Moya is strong one – he has been around Rafa as a friend for a long time, and they’ve already had some good results together this year. So I actually think that this change will be good for Rafa; it will help him to have someone new driving him a bit differently.

In all honesty I don’t see anything negative about this move. It’s not Toni saying ‘you’ve lost form and I don’t think you can do it anymore’. This is all about Rafa and Toni planning for the future. The reality is that all things have to finish at some point, and they are preparing for that ‘afterlife’.

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