Uncle Toni took his nephew Rafael Nadal under his wing when the Majorcan was just 12 years old, contributing a lot to the rise of the Spaniard to the world tennis elite. For 19 years, Toni has overseen every single aspect of the game of the former World number 1, suggesting some technical changes that would prove to be fundamental to the career of the 19-time Grand Slam champion.
In particular, during a chat with Mats Wilander on ‘Eurosport’s Players Cut’, Toni Nadal spoke about the changes made to make Rafa’s forehand one of the most lethal shots in the entire history of the game.
Toni Nadal: ‘Rafael moves his wrist a little faster’
“I observed his attitude, physically and mentally from a very young age, his skills and his coordination. And then I figured that Rafael Nadal could play with a lot of intensity, because this is how he loves the sport,” Uncle Toni said.
“I always wanted that Rafael to be able to hit forehand winners, but he played with a lot of a spin, maybe too much sometimes. When we arrived on the ATP tour, Rafael was really young, he was 16 years old, and then he started to play with older players, with people who were stronger.
Rafael started to hit the ball a little late, he started to play high above the net with extreme spin…I saw that it was a good way to win. His forehand is hit high above the net, but when the ball bounces, it keeps its speed, it accelerates (contrary to other players).
Rafael moves his wrist a little faster and then the ball bounces, the ball has so much pace. On clay, he has seen that with his extreme top-spin forehands were putting opponents in a difficult position because every time he could hit the ball two or three times over the backhand of his opponents pushing them to hit it back at shoulder height.
Then it was easy for him to get a short ball and hit to the other side” – he added. In majors, Nadal has won a record twelve French Open titles, four US Open titles, two Wimbledon titles and one Australian Open title, and won at least one Grand Slam every year for a record ten consecutive years (2005–2014).
Nadal has won 85 career titles overall, including the most outdoor titles in the Open Era (83) and a record 59 titles on clay. With 81 consecutive wins on clay, Nadal holds the record for the longest single-surface win streak in the Open Era.