Toni Nadal: 'Last year I told Rafa to change his face'

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Toni Nadal: 'Last year I told Rafa to change his face'

Rafael Nadal dropped off only seven games to Dominic Thiem in the semifinals, but according to his uncle and coach Toni Nadal, the nine-time champion did not play so well. 'Today he did not play very well. He played good, but he was a bit nervous and tense', said Toni.

'He was up against a player in great form, who had just beaten (Novak) Djokovic and had not dropped a set. I think that Rafael did not play at his best, but well enough. While the other saw a mountain in Rafael, and sometimes tried to hit harder than usually, and made more errors than he normally does.' Asked if Rafa can be World No.

1 again (he will be No. 2 if he wins Roland Garros final against Stan Wawrinka), Toni replied: 'Rafael has been playing very well the whole season, both on hard courts and clay. At the moment, he is the No. 1 in the race, let's see what we can do at Wimbledon.

If he can play there without being troubled with his knee, it will be very important'. Rafa can do it, as he defends only 315 points from now until the rest of the season, while last year Andy Murray, who has been at the top of the rankings since November, won Queen's, Wimbledon, Beijing, Shanghai, Vienna, Paris Bercy, ATP Finals Titles.

He also reached quarter-finals at the US Open and lost Cincinnati final. For sure Wimbledon will be more or less the key event for Nadal, who didn't play there last year. There was a fundamental conversation between Toni and Rafa last October after the bad loss in the Shanghai Masters 1000, which was the last tournament played in 2016, to Victor Troicki.

The word 'change' was the key, in all the aspects: mental, physical, tennis-wise, technique, on an attitude level. That's what Toni revealed during an event for Lavazza coffee: 'I remember last year when he decided to stop, we had a meeting in the academy.

He said ‘we have to talk’. I said ‘good, what do you have to do for next year? First he told me ‘until my wrist is better, I won’t come back’. Okay, then what do we have to do next year? We have to recover your forehand, you have to play your forehand harder, you have to improve your serve.

You have to change because life has changed and the game gets faster and faster every year’. Then I said ‘you have to change your face. You have to be competitive every tournament. It’s the same if you have problems or not.

If you can make this, then you have no reason not to be again at the top, but you have to make these changes. It’s your problem, you have to make these changes or not, do what you want’.' Today Rafa will have the change to win a Grand Slam title again for the first time in three years.

Toni said that although this win would be a little bit different than the other ones because last time Rafa lifted a Major trophy was 2014, he said number 10 is 'nothing special'. 'When we arrived here after winning the final against (Mariano) Puerta (in 2005), I thought ‘wow, this is so good, we have won Roland Garros’.

A dream many players work hard to achieve and we have done it. I thought ‘okay, we have this trophy now’. Then when we arrived the following year, we tried to not to think about 2005. But when he arrived here, Rafael was very nervous.

When we arrived in 2007, it was the same, we didn’t think about the previous two Roland Garros. And for me it was special when he won the third. It was special when he won the fourth. There is a bigger difference between one and two, than between nine and 10.

Between nine and 10 is only 11 per cent. From one to two is 50 per cent. Two of three is 33 per cent. And then is 25 per cent. This is the difference. Rafael’s life will not change if he wins this tournament for a 10th time. For us it was very important to win nine times here but it was important too when he won the eighth, seventh, sixth, or fifth…' ALSO READ: Toni Nadal: 'I may come back in Paris with another player'