In an interview to L'Equipe, Rafael Nadal's uncle Toni commented on how the Spanish tennis will look like once Rafael Nadal retire. "What we’ve had and have for years and years in Spain isn’t ‘normal’.
The little Carlos Alcaraz (16), I’ve seen him play twice, once at our Academy, and I said right away he’ll be in the top 10", said Toni. "He does everything very well, and I think he could become a good champion.
It’s a very good thing for Spain. But, careful, he’s sixteen and he needs to improve every day. If he does that, yes, he’ll be very strong. After all, you don’t need to be very strong very early to become good.
Look at the Italian Lorenzo Sonego, who only started playing tennis at eleven. I do a lot of business conferences in Spain and I often say the same thing: if a person wants to be good at something, why not? If you start at eleven, you have to work a bit more than those who start at five, but you can become very good nevertheless.
I think someone like Ilie Nastase started late, especially in international competition [he couldn’t get out from behind the Iron Curtain until he was 20], and he still became world number one, right?" On the concept of talent, Toni added: "We often talk about a person's talent but, in my opinion, there’s a special talent that’s more important than all of the others: the ability to improve.
Lionel Messi was incredibly good when he was young, but, if he hadn’t improved day after day, he wouldn’t be the Messi of today. That also applies to a Federer, for sure. To a Rafael, to a Djokovic. It’s a comparison that’s often been made, I know, but at fifteen, Gasquet and Nadal were on the same level.
Why the difference in career trajectory later on? Because Rafael maybe has a superior ability to improve, and, in turn, that also depends on what they really want to do."