Toni Nadal shares thoughts on fans’ hostility toward Novak Djokovic as well as Rafael Nadal’s future
Toni Nadal insists the main reason why many fans have an antipathy towards Novak Djokovic is due to the fact that he emerged at a time when the Roger Federer-Rafael Nadal rivalry was at its peak.
Federer and Nadal dominated the sport during the early years of the 2000s as they won multiple Grand Slams between them and dominated the rankings and ATP tournaments.
Djokovic initially broke through in 2008 as he won his maiden major at the Australian Open, but it wasn’t until 2011 that he became a dominant figure in men’s tennis.
Suddenly Federer and Nadal had a new rival to contend with, much to the dismay of the Fedal fans.
Although some insisted that it was Djokovic’s on-court behaviour that was a big a put off, others were unhappy that the Big Two became the Big Three and the debate about who would end up as the greatest player of all time, GOAT, proved to be an interesting one over the next decade.
With 20-time Grand Slam winner Federer retiring in 2022, Nadal and Djokovic are now left in the GOAT race as they are now both on 22 Grand Slams following the Serbian’s latest triumph at the Australian Open.
Djokovic, though, still have a lot of detractors and Toni Nadal, Rafael’s uncle and former coach, was asked by Vanity Fair Espana if understands the antipathy that some fans feel for the Serbian, he replied: “Well, I don’t know. It’s not a subject that worries me much.
“I think the problem he has had is that he came in when there was a clear rivalry between Federer and Rafael, and people liked that match-up.
“I think he never managed to be as well liked as the other two, and his behaviour on the court has been a bit more complicated at times. I have a good relationship with him.
“Besides being a great champion, he has always had a good relationship with me. There are people who like Rafael, others like Federer and others like Djokovic. It is true that almost nobody dislikes Federer, few people dislike Rafael and it is likely that Djokovic does have some detractors more than the two of them. But I don’t know exactly why.”
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Toni was also asked about Rafael’s future as the 22-time major champion has struggled with injuries for most of his career and some have suggested he could hang up his racket after this year’s French Open.
“When one has been there for so many years, as is the case with him, and after having had so many problems in the last year, where he ended up too injured, I don’t consider the future beyond the next tournament,” he said.
“You never really know how things are going to go. It is true that Rafael has a very punished body, but it is also true that he has been on the professional circuit since he was 16 years old and that is something you pay for.
“There are many years hitting the ball and moving at high intensity. When you have that, it is easy for the body to fail here today and there tomorrow. I trust that he can lift the Roland-Garros trophy this year, and then we’ll see.”
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