Toni Nadal
1,696,864 views • 18:01

For many years, I've been Rafael Nadal's coach and I've met two important requirements to be a good coach. The first one is that I'm his uncle, is always harder to fire a relative than somebody else, and the second is that as we are half Catalans I've been the cheapest coach in the circuit and that counts too. For that ... (Applause) For that I've stayed in that position many years, not for other reasons. Once, in Monte Carlo, we had to play the final against a not very good Swiss player, he played for a while. So, we had to play against him and Rafael asked me, "How do you see the match today?" And I told him, "How do I see it? I see it a bit tough." "Federer has a better drive than yours, his backhand is better volley is better too" ... And when I was about to tell him, "And the serve, there's no comparison," He told me, "Whew! Stop, Stop." "You really support me before going to the pitch." And I told him, "I could lie to you but in a while Federer isn't going to do so. It's better for you to know what you are going to deal with, from now on we are going to look for answers." That has been the way I've understood, a kind of way that I've understood training. Accepting reality is one complicated thing to do nowadays. It seems today that we always have to give messages to our relatives, positive ones. We have to say to them constantly that they are almost the best ones, that they are really good. I think that this is not a good principle, I prefer the other one. Knowing that I'm not good enough. I think that when you know that you are not good enough and you know reality, that's the first step, the starting point, to reach your goals. That's how I've always understood it. I've always avoided an overvaluation of the boys I was training, mostly of Rafael. He was, obviously my nephew and I could do it. I remember I add after telling him that, I told him, OK, well, if you are capable of playing every point as if it were the last one, if you are capable of playing this match as if life depended on it, if you are more excited than him and you are ready to run faster than him, I think you'll have lots of chances of victory. I've always believed in chances of victory although, the truth is, it hasn't gone out very well. That girl I told her that she didn't know how to play, ended fourth of Spain in her category, which wasn't that bad. This search of impartiality, of avoiding a hoax, as I was saying, it hasn't stopped me from having the maximum confidence in knowing that we'll reach our goals. Always. I've always had the maximum trust that Rafael would achieve his goals with work, obviously. I remember, many years ago, at Carlos Moyá´s place, Carlos Moyá asked me — Rafael was about 15 years old, he asked me, "Would you sign for Rafael to become an Albert Costa in the future?" Albert Costa had just won Roland Garros, he was the seventh at the ATP. And I told him, "No, I don't sign for that." "I don't think that Rafael will be better, I want to believe that he'll be better." Carlos Moyá was surprised by that statement Because Rafael was just a young promise and aiming to also be a Roland Garros champion, wasn't that easy. Immediately afterwards he asked me, "Would you sign for Rafael to become a Carlos Moyá in the future?" I answered... "Of course!" Carlos Moyá also won a Roland Garros, he was world number one, five years among the eight bests. I told him, "Yes, I sign for him to be a Carlos Moyá." We had dinner, he invited us. We said goodbye, but just as the door closed, when Rafael and I left, I told him, "Well, there's no way I would sign it." (Laughter) In his house, obviously, I couldn't let him down. There's no way but to shape well the character. I have been a coach who took care more of shaping Rafael's character, strengthening his character, than to form him well technically. That's the reason behind those strange hits that he makes over the head, or serving as he does now, although I think he serves better, but for many years, I didn't manage to make him learn. But the truth is, it never was my fault that he didn't learn how to serve. It was always his fault ... (Laughter) because, as many years ago I told to the father of a pupil I trained, who, seeing how disastrous his son was, asked me, "Is this what you teach to my son?" and I answered, "No, this is what he learns, what I teach is very different." (Laughter) (Applause) I've never liked to assume the responsibility, that's why, since he was a child I made Rafael assume his responsibility. I have the fame to be a strict coach, I have actually been strict, I have been a tough coach. I don't believe in roughness as an aim, I believe in roughness as means. I have been a demanding coach because I cared a lot a great fondness for my nephew. I wouldn't have ever been tough to somebody who couldn't cope with it or who couldn't cope with that thoroughness. But I would never be tough with somebody who I didn't feel a great fondness for, for somebody I didn't appreciate truly. Since I wanted the greater good for my nephew, I was really strict. I think this is a main condition. And to be strict, well, this thoroughness I always tried that it turned into self-demanding. One can't always be stretching constantly to his player, in this case, or to anybody who you train in any activity. That's why I always tried that Rafael felt the responsibility himself. I think that he assumed it, since: Many years ago I went with him to a tournament with another player. I accompanied him and ... I remember that they scheduled the match at the same hour than the other player I was also accompanying. I was seeing my nephew playing from afar, and he was being a complete disaster. He was losing 5-0 against a not so great player. In that moment, a friend of mine arrived, he was a former player, and he told me, "Hey! I think your nephew is playing with a broken racket." The ones that have played tennis, with a broken frame is almost impossible to play, the balls always go out, except inside the court, they all go out. I went to Rafael's court and I told him, "Listen, your racket is broken, I think your racket is broken." The guy did like this, "Damn! Yes, it is broken, I'll change it." Well, he changed it, the scene changed, but at the end he lost 6-0, 7-5. So, when the match was over, I went to him and asked him, "Can you tell me that a boy" — he was 15 years old, I think — "Can you tell me that a boy after playing for so many years, doesn't know when a racket is broken?" And his answer was very clear, he told me, "Look, I'm so used to always be blamed, that I didn't even think that the racket was the one that was making me lose." (Laughter) (Applause) The speech has always been the same. A few times ... I think that a sense of self-criticism is necessary, it's very hard to progress, to improve, without a good sense of self-criticism. I've always tried for him to have it. I have always made sure that he never gave me excuses, neither about his defeats, nor about anything that happened. It is too easy to justify, to justify oneself constantly. In the academy I was asked to put up some phrases to motivate the guys. I don't know if I motivated them, or if I discouraged them. But I remember that one of the phrases that I put up was, "Never an excuse made us win a match." And that's the truth. Some years ago we were at the US Open and in that edition, the balls didn't give a spin that Rafael wanted. We were playing and it was a disaster. Everyday when we were going to train, "These balls aren't right for me, they don't give the spin." "Interesting," I told him. The next day was the same; excuses bother me a lot. He won his first match, the second, the third; but tired of hearing him, I told him, "Listen, what you should do, is to lose, lose and, in Majorca, the ball will give a spin." He listened to me: he lost. (Laughter) He lost, but he didn't go to Majorca, he went to Beijing, and I went to Majorca and later we met again in Naples. Curiously, in Beijing he won the next tournament. He beat everybody, he defeated the world number three, the number five. He made a great tournament, I saw in on TV. I knew the balls he was playing with and were the same than the US Open ones. I said "f***!" when I met him again, I asked him, "By the way, what ball did you play with in Beijing?" And he, a bit embarrassed answered: "No, with Wilsons." So ... in Beijing they give a spin, in New York they don't, but in Beijing they do. Whatever, it's always the same. Now he was in Australia and when he played his fourth match, and he didn't play too well I said to him, "Yuck!" He called me after the match and I told him, "You haven't played too well." And the first thing he told me was: "It's because it was too hot." It seems that it was hot only in one half of the court, not in the other. The other player did play really well. (Laughter) (Applause) As I said, I tried to strengthen up Rafael's character, and I did trying to encourage his ability to endure because I think this is what is decisive in life. The ability to endure. Years ago I was in a school, and I heard a teacher that told us, "In life we have to learn to articulate the phrasal 'put up with'." He articulated it in a different way. Well, he told us, "I put up with, you put up with, he puts up with." "We put up with," said the teacher. Rafael learnt how to articulate it: "I put up with myself, I put up with you." I was hard to put up with. For many years I made him train with balls in bad shape, with tennis courts in bad shape. I told him, "We are going to train for one hour and a half," and then I used to go on with the training indefinitely because I was interested in making him learn how to put up with everything. I was interested in teaching him how to strengthen, mainly, his character. I think that this is decisive, that is what has been decisive in life. I believe that character builds up thanks to difficulty. And I think this is the great mistake nowadays. Nowadays, the children having so many more things, having all the technology behind them, even having nutritionists, having biomechanical studies, audiovisual studies, analyzing the hits, statistics that tell you what to do, in the end, people find it harder to improve. I give a very clear example. When we arrived to the professional circuit, the first ones there were: Hewitt, 21 years old. Roddick, 20 years old. This Swiss was already there, 21, Federer. Coria, 21. Nalbaldian, 21. Ferrero, 23. Safin, 24. I think Moyá and Agassi were there, they were a bit older. Nowadays, the top ones are: Federer, 36. Rafael, about to turn 32. Murray and Djokovic, 31. Wawrinka, 33. Del Potro, about to turn 30. Čilić, 30. Berdych, 33. What has happened? Why does it take so much to the new ones to replace the old ones nowadays? I think it is simply because they haven't understood what is essential. The essential ... Obviously, I'm not against technology. The world progresses and technology is going to help us, but I think there are things that, mostly on the training stages, don't help. Making the life of the young ones so easy I don't think it helps at all. I believe that sometimes it's better to restrict a bit the advances and go back to the essential. For us the essential was always: perseverance, it was the respect to the opponent, it was the effort, it was the sacrifice, it was the discipline. Technologies weren't ever the essential. I think that's what all the young ones should understand. This is what I understand that was fundamental in Rafael: be sure that everything that happened was his responsibility, being ready to fight until the end. Rafael had many problems, physical, of injuries ... I do not like complaints, when he used to tell me that he had many problems, I answered, "Well, this is what it is, that's what with have to fight with." And I understand this is fundamental, not only for Rafael, but for anybody who aspire to reach high goals. I've confirmed many years later that I used to think that Borg, McEnroe, Lendl, were exceptional people, also, I used to think that their coaches were also great managers. I believed that they have been gifted with a special talent. Well, I have verified that a boy from Manacor, a normal child, well, I don't know if he has reached McEnroe's or Lendl's level, but that with effort, with sacrifice, he has managed to reach many goals that he decided when he was young. That's why I understand that if he has managed to make it, obviously many people, many of us, can make it. I don't know if everybody could become world number one, right now, number two from Monday on, I don't know if we all can reach this but I'm sure that all, all or almost all, can improve and progress. Thank you very much. (Applause)