“He was a special player, he was a monster”


Rafael Nadal recently won his 20th Grand Slam tournament at Roland Garros. Whether that makes him the Greatest of All Time (GOAT) in men’s tennis is still debatable, but what can’t be denied is that he will always be remembered among the greatest in the sport.

Two coaches in Spain have now recalled their experiences with Rafael Nadal as a junior, saying that Nadal had incredible intensity and perseverance even back then. A big part of the credit for that goes to his uncle Toni Nadal, who coached the Spaniard from his childhood right until early 2017.

Uncle Toni, himself, has spoken many times about how he was very demanding of Nadal as a youngster, perhaps a little more than he should have been. But that is perhaps one of the reasons that the Spaniard has overcome adversity on so many occasions in his career, to become the legend that he is today.

Rafael Nadal wins the 2020 French Open at Roland Garros
Rafael Nadal wins the 2020 French Open at Roland Garros

Speaking about how instrumental Toni has been, Miguel Navarro recently recalled interacting with Rafael Nadal during the 1990s. Navarro, a reputed tennis coach in Spain, accompanied Nadal on his first trip outside Mallorca – to play a junior event in Madrid.

Nadal lost in the quarterfinals the first year but came back to win the tournament the following year.

“Toni (Nadal) was always there to speak clearly to Rafael and to tighten the rope if necessary and it was the case,” Navarro said, as per the Milenio website. “He was a special player, he was a monster.”

“I remember that in a junior National he played the first game with the wrong weight in the racket string, which made it difficult for him to score points,” Navarro added. “The guy was fighting, he won the first set suffering and then the second he took it 6-2. Another kid would have given up, but he was a beast.”

Rafael Nadal playing his first US Open in 2003
Rafael Nadal playing his first US Open in 2003

Rafael Nadal had an intensity higher than the others: Coach who met the Spaniard at the age of 12

Toni Colom, another coach, spoke about a meeting with the Spaniard and his uncle at the Balearic sports school. Rafael Nadal was 12 years old at that time, and played with opponents who were 16 years old.

Colom recalled that Nadal played with a lot of power and intensity even back then.

“The memory I have of this 12-year-old boy is that he hit the balls with an intensity that the rest did not; there were children who did not play the same. He had an intensity higher than the others,” Colom said.

Published 18 Oct 2020, 12:17 IST

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