Rafael Nadal has not had a good year. Much of the current discussion in the tennis world has been about his lack of confidence and anxiety issues. One issue that hasn’t been mentioned and maybe should be is a coaching change.
Nadal’s Uncle Toni has been a long time mentor and has achieved Hall of Fame milestones, but something has gone off track for Rafael and does not seem to be getting fixed.
Now the clay court season is only two tournaments old and in the past has been the cure-all for Nadal’s season, but this year is different. The Spanish champion has been losing to players he used to own.
After his recent loss to Fabio Fognini, Nadal said,
“I played poorly,” he said, “I didn’t play like I should have. This is a blow for me, but I accept the challenge and the negative day I had. There is no other way forward than to accept it or die.”
This is his second consecutive loss to Fognini and Nadal is on the edge of dropping out of the top four ranking spots heading into the French Open.
Even Uncle Toni has commented that,”He is training well, but on the court; he hasn’t the strength of mind that he had before, but I hope it comes back. I think he needs a win to regain confidence. I hope that things will change … If you lose, you can’t have confidence. He lost the match against opponents of low rank, and this is the first time that he has had a problem of this type.”
Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Andy Murray have all coaching changes or additions that have paid off. Nadal’s loyalty to his uncle is admirable, but it is time to at least get some new points of view.
Toni Nadal does not have to disappear, but he needs some other eyes to address Rafael’s game. Besides the normal advance of time catching up, Nadal has to figure out a way to stop Djokovic who so far is leaving everybody in the dust this year.
The bigger question is what coach could handle and adjust Nadal’s extremely physical game to counter Djokovic and all the other players who no longer are intimidated by Spain’s number one tennis player.
The usual list of names will be floated around like Paul Annacone, Brad Gilbert etc. and there will be the current mode of picking a former player, but this will be a special challenge. No one hits a tennis ball like Nadal and the decision will have to be made on how to adjust a style that has been so overwhelming for so long.
And with the French Open so close, no coaching change at present would be beneficial, but down the road, a coaching change should be considered.
But between now and then, each loss increases the pressure on Nadal to win his record setting tenth title at Roland Garros. He has overcome some mighty challenges in the past, but his year could be the biggest one yet.