On the eve of Rafa Nadal’s bid for a 16th Grand Slam title tomorrow in the men’s final of the US Open, Inside Tennis caught up with one of the soothsayers of the modern game, Rafa’s uncle and coach, Toni Nadal.
INSIDE TENNIS: What are you most proud of about Rafa?
TONI NADAL: I’m never proud of no one.
IT: What gives you the most satisfaction?
TN: To be in the final. For us it is a very good thing playing the final in a Grand Slam, the US Open. I think Rafael has played every day a little better. Now he has to play better on Sunday.
IT: Are you surprised that he’s done so incredibly well this year, and when did you sense that he would return to the very top?
TN: I don’t know. I am a little surprised that he’s the No. 1. In the last year we don’t think about this, because every year we have some problems, physical, and we can’t play the full season, and it was impossible to be the No. 1.
IT: How did he develop his incredible forehand? Was that something that came about over the course of years? Was it how he started to hit?
TN: Rafael has a very good forehand, but in the last years he lose his confidence, and the shot wasn’t good enough. When we met with Rafael in November [and] we talk about the new season, I said to him the forehand has to be a very good shot.
SPORTS ILLUSTRATED [S.L. PRICE]: He seems to have reached a great balance in his life. He seems to me the most happy. Is that one reason you think he’s playing so well this late in his career?
TN: No. It’s because he has no problem in his head and no problem [physically]. I don’t know if he’s more happy now or not.
IT: When did you sense that Rafa would be such a wonderful tennis player?
TN: When he was young. When he was seven or eight years old, I thought he’d be a very good tennis player.