Toni Nadal rips 'hypocritical' critics amid Rafael Nadal-Saudi Arabia deal backlash

Uncle Toni comes to Nadal's defense amid the criticism aimed at his nephew over the Saudi deal.

by Dzevad Mesic
Toni Nadal rips 'hypocritical' critics amid Rafael Nadal-Saudi Arabia deal backlash
© Getty Images Sport - Michael Dodge

Toni Nadal has called out "hypocritical" people amid the criticism surrounding Rafael Nadal for his decision to accept a deal with Saudi Arabia as Uncle Toni claims his nephew is going to the Kingdom only because he believes he can make a positive impact there. 

Just before the start of the Australian Open, the news came out of 22-time Grand Slam champion Nadal becoming a global ambassador for the Saudi Tennis Federation. For Saudi Arabia - which isn't hiding its intention to get involved with tennis as much as possible - it was a major move as Nadal is widely recognized as one of the greatest and most iconic tennis players. 

While Saudi Arabia was celebrating the big move, some tennis fans were left enraged with Nadal, calling him out for "taking money over morals" as the critics argued that Saudi Arabia was using the former world No. 1 for "sportwashing to improve their reputation."

Addressing the criticism aimed at his nephew, Uncle Toni didn't hold back. 

"My nephew was offered to try to get young people to do sports in that country. Rafa believes that what he can contribute can help change and improve society and the lives of many young people just as if he did it in Cuba or in Venezuela," Toni Nadal said, via 20minutos.

"I think that today we live in an excessively hypocritical world. How do you help improve a country more, by boycotting Saudi Arabia or helping its young people?" 

Toni Nadal and Rafael Nadal
Toni Nadal and Rafael Nadal© Getty Images Sport - Julian Finney

Why Nadal accepted to work with the Saudis?

When making the announcement, Nadal explained his decision to work with the Saudis by insisting that there is a big interest in growing tennis in the Kingdom. With that being said, Nadal claims he saw there was an opportunity to impact growth and he would like to be a part of it. 

"Growth and progress that’s important to see and the STF is working on that. In a recent visit I saw the interest in both aspects and I want to be part of that role of growing the sport of tennis around the world. The kids are looking to the future and I saw they are passionate about sports… I want to encourage them to pick up a racket and enjoy the benefits of a healthy living," Nadal wrote on X on January 15th.

Also, Nadal defended Saudi Arabia and the criticism aimed at them, saying that they as a country are also progressing.

"Wherever you look, you can see growth and progress here," Nadal said.

Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal© Getty Images Sport - Bradley Kanaris

Nadal on the 'sportwashing claims'

In February - a month after his deal with Saudi Arabia was announced - Nadal addressed the claims that the Saudis are planning to use him as a tool to improve their image. In a lengthy interview given to a Spanish publication, Nadal bluntly stated that Saudi Arabia "does not need me to wash any image." Also, Nadal said that Saudi Arabia started making positive progress even before their deal came up. 

“I don’t think Saudi Arabia needs me to wash any image. It is a country that has opened up to the world and it is a country with great potential,” Nadal told LaSexta. 

“Therefore, it is logical that the world is going there and the feeling is that everything is bought with money and that now Rafa has also sold himself to money. I understand that people think that, of course they do."

While Nadal did his best to defend the Saudis, the 37-year-old Spaniard acknowledged that there is definitely still room for further progress and improvement. 

“Are there things that need to be improved today? Without a doubt. It is a country that is very behind in many things, it has recently opened. If the country does not achieve the evolution that I believe it needs to follow in the next 10-15 years, I will tell you that I was completely wrong," Nadal said.

“I believe that I will have the freedom to be able to work with the values ‚Äč‚Äčthat I believe I have to work on and that are correct. If it doesn’t happen, I will tell you that I made a mistake and that I was wrong.”

Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal© Getty Images Sport - Chris Hyde

Meanwhile, Nadal is preparing to return to action. After suffering a muscle tear injury in his first comeback tournament in Brisbane, Nadal arrived in Indian Wells last week and he is preparing to compete in the opening Masters tournament of the season. 

But before Nadal launches his Indian Wells campaign, he has something else on his schedule as he is due to play Carlos Alcaraz in the Netflix Slam on March 3rd in Las Vegas. The Nadal and Alcaraz exhibition in Las Vegas will be quite special as it is going to be the first time that Netflix is airing live a tennis match. 

For Nadal, the Netflix Slam will be a good opportunity to see where he is after not playing for two months.

Toni Nadal Rafael Nadal