“Federer and Nadal have been more transcendental in tennis than Djokovic” – interview with Toni Nadal

Toni Nadal
Toni Nadal, tras le entrevista con CLAY en Manacor, julio de 2023 / SEBASTIÁN FEST
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MANACOR (Mallorca, Spain) – Novak Djokovic is better than Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal because he won more titles than them, but the Swiss and the Spaniard are more trascendental in the history of tennis than the Serb. Who says so? Toni Nadal.

And he says a few more things: that if the tennis circuit were fairer in terms of surfaces, Nadal could have won 35 Grand Slams. That his nephew is coming back to play at the highest level in 2024 and, if he succeeds, he won’t retire yet. That the ATP and the players are mistreating the smaller tournaments. And that Felix Auger-Aliassime has to change some important things if he wants to win more.

The interview with CLAY takes place at the Rafael Nadal Tennis Academy in Manacor, on the island of Mallorca. There, somewhere sheltered from the eyes of the hundreds of players, parents and coaches who stream through the academy on a bright summer morning in the Mediterranean, Nadal is fine-tuning the machinery to get back on the tour.

“Right now he’s here at the academy, training. He’s been here every day doing physical training,” Toni Nadal tells CLAY in a conversation with Toni Nadal ‘s hallmark: sincerity without speculation.

Interview with Toni Nadal

– Juan Mónaco said in a recent interview with CLAY that Federer and Nadal are more important than Djokovic in the history of tennis.
– I think Federer and Nadal have transcended their sport more than Djokovic. And Federer has transcended his sport more than anyone else. When it comes to categorising who is the best… we would have to establish clear standards that are always a bit open to opinion, because who is the best, the one who holds the world record or the one who wins the Olympics? I don’t know. I think the one who has managed to play at a better level and do more difficult things is Federer, the one who has won more is Djokovic and if we were to count all the things Rafael hasn’t played because of injury, he would probably have won more than the others.

– Are you saying Djokovic is better than Nadal?
– Well, Djokovic is better because he has won more titles than Rafael. If Djokovic is 23? But let’s establish a number of things: we live in a tour that is always played on fast courts. My nephew always plays three Grand Slams on the surface he doesn’t do well and one on the surface he does well. He has always played all the Masters on the surface he doesn’t do well on. In the world of sport, the officials can tip the balance one way or the other. Who wins the Tour de France? If the sports officials puts in the mountains, one type of rider will win it, and if he puts in a time trial, another type of rider will win it.

– If Australia were played on clay, would Nadal have 35 Grand Slam titles?
– Of course! It’s a lot of little things that people sometimes don’t take into account. If you put one type of ball you favour one player or you favour another. When the football world introduced the rule of more severe cards for certain offences, if they had done it earlier Maradona would probably have got tired of dribbling.

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– Nadal always complained that he could never play the Masters on clay, didn’t he?
– If the Masters is the closing tournament of the year, the sum of the results of the tennis year on different surfaces, it would be logical that on some occasions you would also play on other surfaces, not always on the same one. The sports officials are reluctant to change, because change is always a risk.

– Monaco said that if Nadal returns in 2024 it is because he is well, and if he is well, he will win, and if he wins, he will not say goodbye in 2024, he will continue to play.
– I think it’s a bit like that. Yes.

– You do?
– Yeah, I think it’s a bit like that. Then we’re going to see… Rafael is already 37 years old, the years weigh heavily. What I know, because I talked to him, is that Rafael wants to come back, he wants to recover well. And if he recovers well I think he will want to continue…. Then we’ll see, because he has to get the results, which won’t be easy, because when you lose the ranking it’s more difficult, because you have to compete with the best faster. Then you have to be more days well and you have to play hard matches more times. Let’s see…

– Mónaco says that it is not that Nadal was not in condition to play Roland Garros this year, but that he noticed that he was not in a position to win it.
– Rafael was not in conditions to compete at a good level. Rafael can not have the illusion of going to Roland Garros to pass three rounds.

– If he comes back then it is because he is at a good level?
– It’s a bit more difficult now, the ball goes faster. I remember a phrase of Gaston Gaudio who said I do not know what happens, if the ball goes faster and faster or my legs slower and slower. And that always happens a little bit.

– Is Nadal training?
– Yes, physically, but still can not train tennis, the doctor advised him not to do so, to wait for a full recovery. In a month’s time he will be able to start training on the tennis court.

– The fantasy of many was that Nadal was on his yacht, far away from tennis, far away from everything.
– No, right now he’s here at the academy, training. He’s been here every day doing physical training.

– That speaks of desire.
– Yes, yes.


Rafael Nadal’s statue at the Rafael Nadal Tennis Academy / SEBASTIÁN FEST


– You’ve had the experience of being the director of a tournament, the ATP 250 in Mallorca, on grass. How is that going?
– Well, with the difficulty that minor tournaments have, sometimes they are unprotected by the ATP and even by the players. We have entered a world where people no longer give much value to small tournaments. I think that’s a mistake. Rafael, whether it was a 250 or a 500, put the maximum attention.

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– How do you feel the lack of protection?
– Felix (Auger-Aliassime) told me: you win any tournament and it’s almost nothing, you have to win a Grand Slam to get recognition. Not even winning a Masters 1000… Players sometimes take small tournaments as if they were an exhibition tournament, without the necessary passion. The ATP should be clear, when they make the tournaments, that these smaller tournaments help generate business for a larger number of players. If only the Masters 1000 and Grand Slams were played, there would be 13 events. The mistake on the part of the players has been to double the number of weeks in the Masters 1000. It’s good for the tournament, but worse for the player, because it makes it much longer and allows you to play less in other places where you might be able to do well.

– What is your relationship with Auger-Aliassime?
– I am his advisor. Talking to him a few days ago in a videoconference I told him that it doesn’t make much sense for us to see each other at the Grand Slams. You can’t change anything at a Grand Slam. It would make more sense if he came to train here, to Mallorca, if there was the possibility of changing some things. I have a vision that in many things coincides with Fred [Frederic Fontang, his coach], in others we vary a little. It’s about having a clear idea of what I have to do and then train it. At a Grand Slam it’s impossible. What do you want me to tell you at Roland Garros, I’m not going to tell you to hit it differently? Do what you’ve been doing all along.

– Is Auger-Aliassime going to train in Mallorca?
– Yes, yes, but he has had many problems, a knee discomfort that has prevented him from playing normally. When he finished at Wimbledon I told him that he needs to recover completely in his knee, because otherwise he can’t play at a high level. You can’t play without being able to play. If I play I have to be able to play at my highest level, to compete at the limit.

– You have said more than once that Auger-Aliassime is a good person. Can you elaborate on that?
– He’s a very good person. Sometimes he’s a bit preoccupied with what he’s doing, with making mistakes, and that has sometimes prevented him from letting loose more. But he’s the kind of guy who takes advice, a very polite guy, which is something I appreciate very much, because I detest rude people.

If you liked this interview with Toni Nadal, don’t miss this link to our site, where you can find many other interviews with the great tennis stars.

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4 Comments to ““Federer and Nadal have been more transcendental in tennis than Djokovic” – interview with Toni Nadal”

  • Pustnjak Cetinjski

    Right Toni. If Rafa did not have a late discovered gluten alergy that prevented him to do his best before he was 24? Or if Rafa was not forbidden to compete in many tournaments due to the covid vaccination issue? Or if Rafa was not annulled 2000 points from Wimbledon? Or if Rafa had no elbow injury and surgery that kicked him out from the right competitive level from 2016-2018? Or if the main tournament fans do not support Djokovic which is a great competitive advantage in any sport? You forgot to add all of this. If all of this was on Rafa or Roger side they would win more then Djokovic for sure.

  • Siddhartha Tripathy

    That’s rich of Uncle Tony to say so. Because the surfaces were significantly slowed down, Rafa benefitted more and Roger won a lot less than he would have. If the grass court season was nearly as long as the clay court season, we would have seen a different story play out. Tony is smarting from the fact that Djokovic’s greatness is being measured way more against Federer than against Nadal. And yes, Federer — not Nadal — is the one that transcended tennis. Nadal benefitted from being Fed’s nemesis. On his own, the guy has no charm whatsoever.

  • That rage though

    If my grandma had wheels, she would be a bicycle.

  • Balkan

    Hahahah what a bulshit. I can’t stop laughing what Toni said

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