The premier clay court tennis tournament in the world, the French Open, sets to begin on May 27th at the Roland Garros. With a recent straight set victory in the Italian Open final over current No. 1 ATP-ranked player Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal proved he’s still the “king of clay” and undoubtedly the favorite to win it all entering Paris. The win over Djokovic propelled Nadal back into the No. 2 spot, leapfrogging longtime rival Roger Federer.
A Unique Tennis Coach Relationship with an Uncle
Rafa’s uncle Toni Nadal, a former professional player himself, introduced Rafa to tennis at the age of 3 and has been his tennis coach ever since. Realizing his potential in the sport, Uncle Toni intensified Rafa’s training after a youth championship win at the age of 8. Rafa’s game quickly excelled as a result and he turned pro seven years later.
But what was it about this unique relationship – being coached by an uncle – that helped Rafa rise to where he is today? Many players start out with family coaches, but leave for professionals as they show more potential. How did this help him rise to become one of tennis’ all time greats?
Nadal was lucky enough to have his uncle Toni throughout his entire life, from youth to present, to serve as his coach and mentor. Toni was notoriously hard on his nephew, with Rafa pointing out that as a kid sometimes he would come home from training crying, or how once he had to play without a water bottle in a youth match. Rafa has always been quick to mention though without the constant tough coaching, he would not be the player he is today. “Everything I have achieved in the game of tennis, all the opportunities I have had, are thanks to him. I’m especially grateful to him for having placed so much emphasis from the very beginning on making sure I kept my feet on the ground and never became complacent…he pushes me always to improve and do better.”
This unique mentor-coach to athlete relationship is exactly what CoachUp tries to foster in their own athletes. While a tough, hard nosed style of teaching worked for Nadal, it doesn’t work for everyone. CoachUp is sure to recognize that as it allows their athletes to find the exact coach that suits their style, and switch to another if they don’t.