“I was very hard on Rafa because he was willing to do so”

under the motto ‘Everything can be trained’, Toni Nadal was in charge of closing this Saturday in style the first FID Santander Group Bárymont. Rafa Nadal’s uncle and former coach shared before more than 800 spectators in the Festival Palace his reflections on sports and life, focusing on his stage preparing his nephew. Before that, Gemma Mengual, Lydia Valentín and Sara Andrés did the same, co-stars of the last of three days packed with people from the highest level of sports.

“I was a tough coach, very demanding, sometimes too much. Between the desire I had and the fear that I wouldn’t get it, sometimes I tightened the rope more than necessary “, admitted Toni Nadal during his motivational talk. “I went because I knew what we were going to face in the future, because I saw a boy willing to accept that harshness and because he had great esteem for my nephew”, explained the Balearic before justifying his method. “I made him play on courts in bad conditions, with balls in bad conditions, I lengthened his training sessions. Always with the idea that it would last a little longer. I knew that holding on a little longer was going to be the determining factor, and I have been able to verify it”Nadal detailed. “In Australia this year, when Rafael was down two sets to love, he managed to turn it around. At a press conference he said that he thought he would lose, but that he had to resist”.

With a dedicated audience, the man in charge of molding the tennis player with the most Grand Slams in history gave more details about that process. “I made him feel responsible for everything that happened to him. When he looked for some justification for me, I told him not to go that way because he was not going to help us. An excuse never made us win a match”, told an honest Toni. “My commitment to Rafael was always to tell him the truth, and I have prepared him to face reality,” he pointed out before telling an amusing anecdote. “Before a final in Monte Carlo against Federer, Rafael asked me how I saw it. I told him Roger had better drive, better volley, better backhand. And when he was going to tell him that he had better serve too, he told me not to continue. I told him that, if he wanted, he would cheat on him, but that in an hour the dance floor wasn’t going to fool anyone. To win, I explained to him that he had to play each ball as if it were the last. Tony detailed. “I knew that with what I was going to tell him, the result would not change much, but I wanted to remind him that if he won, Federer still had better things, so that my nephew could continue with the intention of improving. He knew that he accepted that reality.”

The man from Manaco placed special emphasis during his speech on simplifying things during the preparation of an athlete and, also, in life itself. “I asked my nephew three things: hit the ball as hard as you can, if possible throw the ball where the rival is not, and inside the track. He also told him to hit the ball as best he can every time, not to wait to do it in the Roland Garros final because he won’t make it if he thinks like that. The differential factor is the preparation, not the day of the final. It’s the preparation that gets you there.” he added before returning to speak about the spirit that leads the Spanish tennis player to never give up. “As a child he told him that, when the game is practically lost, he had to keep fighting, that he had to leave with the peace of mind of having done everything possible. There will be a day that you turn the score around, and that day will justify the rest that you have not been able to. This is how Rafael trained”. This attitude was illustrated by Toni Nadal with an anecdote. “In Australia 2009 he played the final against Federer, he was coming off a very tough semifinal against Verdasco in which he was exhausted. He told me before the final that he couldn’t run, and I told him that he was probably never going to be that close to winning the Australian Open, so it was his decision. He repeated to me that he couldn’t run and I told him that if they put a sniper in the stands I wouldn’t stop running. For two hours I tried to change his attitude, his face changed with 15 minutes left before the start of the match and then I found that my nephew three hours before going out on the court could not move and ended up beating Roger Federer”.

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Toni also explained how he founded the colossus that is now his nephew. “The challenge I gave Rafael was not to win Roland Garros or Wimbledon because I don’t know how to do that, winning doesn’t depend exclusively on us. The challenge for him was to improve, because I do not conceive of doing things always the same. My nephew grew up with two very simple ideas: improvement is necessary and it is possible”. In addition, he detailed to the Cantabrian public his main interest when training. “All my life I have been a somewhat atypical coach, I sought success through personal development. For a building to be tall and durable, a large foundation is needed. We had to lay the foundations right. On a personal level I tried to strengthen character, I was more concerned with technical training. I always considered my nephew a normal person, and I think that attitude is more important than aptitude”, sentenced a Toni Nadal who left several jokes that sparked laughter from an excited audience. “My nephew told me that, with what it cost him, to continue with him. For many years I have been the cheapest coach on the professional circuit.”

The paths to success of three great athletes

Sara Andrés, Lydia Valentín and Gemma Mengual starred in the first session of the Santander night, in which they discussed the different routes they have taken to achieve success. “I have found many stones, and at other times I have not had a brake. There are times when you have to reinvent yourself. The important thing is to mold yourself to each situation, get the most out of each experience”, expressed the weightlifter, who repeated participation in the FID. “The ’92 Olympics marked me, she dreamed of enjoying sports, but she didn’t think much of it. Over time things became more serious and she dreamed of belonging to the Spanish National Team. Going to Madrid at the age of 15 was a dream, clarity is essential for what you want in life and I was clear about it. She said that she wanted to be an Olympic champion, brave of me because I didn’t know everything that was needed for it”.

Mengual narrated how difficult it was to make a semi-unknown sport grow a few years ago. “My generation was very new to this, I was a bit of a guinea pig. We had to learn as best we could, seeing how they trained in the United States or Canada and imitating it that way, ”said the former swimmer before remembering how hard it was for her to compete again after a pregnancy. “They didn’t make it easy for me, let’s say. They left the door open for me to see if I took the hint, and I did. I wasn’t enjoying it, and you have to do this because you like it. I cried many days when I got home and I said until here. Finally, the Paralympic sprinter Sara Andrés moved us with her point of view: “Bad things can have a good reading, learning.” Earlier, both Mengual and Valentín went to the city center in the morning to meet the children who participated in activities organized by the FID to promote sports activities, confirming the success that these conferences have had in Santander.

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