Toni Nadal opens up on ‘physical problems’ Rafael Nadal had to battle ‘from birth’

Ewan West
Rafael Nadal in action
A disappointed Rafael Nadal

Toni Nadal has spoken of how his nephew Rafael Nadal had to overcome physical problems from birth as he expressed his admiration for the tennis legend’s achievements. 

The esteemed coach highlighted the impact of Nadal’s congenital foot issue and explained he learned from his nephew that goals can be achieved “even if you have many problems.”

Toni Nadal coached Rafael Nadal from his childhood until 2017, helping him win 16 of his 22 Grand Slam titles. He is the director of the Rafa Nadal Academy in Mallorca.

Despite suffering with a range of injuries throughout his remarkable career, Nadal is still fighting to compete at the age of 37 in what will likely be his final year as a professional.

The 14-time French Open champion has played just one tournament since sustaining a hip injury at the 2023 Australian Open and is hoping to return from his latest setback during the upcoming clay-court season.

Throughout his career, Nadal has had to contend with a chronic foot condition called Mueller-Weiss syndrome, which he feared might force him to retire as early as 2005. The issue also proved particularly troublesome for the former world No 1 during 2021 and 2022.

READ MORE: Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer compared to Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi by legendary coach

In an interview with Super Deportivo Radio, Toni Nadal reflected on the physical challenges Nadal has faced and how his foot issue has been a constant problem in his life.

“I saw a boy (Nadal) who had physical problems from birth and that he had to combat since he was little,” the 63-year-old Spaniard said.

“He taught me that, even if you have many problems, you can continue trying to achieve the goals you set for yourself. He taught me that, despite having many successes, he always kept his feet on the ground.

“Rafael had a problem with one of his feet from birth, a bad formation in a bone in his feet. It is a congenital problem that caused him a lot of pain. There were games that were long and the pain was incessant.

“This caused a lot of problems for his feet, they had to change his insoles, which changed the way he supported his feet.

“I remember that the doctor and specialist we visited in 2005 told us that his career was over, because other patients who had this problem only did very light sports.

“20 years have passed and my nephew is still trying; he has a record of consecutive participations in Masters at the end of the year and for 17 years he finished in the top eight.

“Thanks to Rafael, I was lucky enough to get excited about many things, seeing him win games and championships.”

The Mallorcan, who has worked with ATP player Felix Auger-Aliassime since 2021, also dismissed the possibility of coaching his nephew again.

“It would be utopian to work again with a young man like Rafael Nadal. I never deceive myself. I know that is impossible. My motivation and hope is to feel useful working with tennis players and help them,” he added.

READ MORE: Jimmy Connors issues his verdict on Rafael Nadal’s Indian Wells withdrawal amid criticism