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On Tennis: For Rafael Nadal and His Uncle Toni, the Coaching Never Ends

Toni and Rafael have been a pair like no other in the modern game. Toni was Rafael’s first teacher, giving him his first lesson at age 3 on the Spanish island of Majorca that the Nadals still call home. Toni has remained Rafael’s mentor for the last 28 years as Rafael has become one of the greatest tennis players of all time.

Consider how many coaches Nadal’s rival Roger Federer has had along his trail to the very top: Peter Carter, Peter Lundgren, Tony Roche, Jose Higueras, Paul Annacone, Stefan Edberg and now Ivan Ljubicic with Severin Lüthi remaining the closest thing to a constant in the 36-year-old Federer’s later phase.

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Toni Nadal will step down as Rafael Nadal’s full-time traveling coach at the end of this season.

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Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

But Toni and Rafael have gone through all the phases together — quite a feat considering how different a task it is for a coach to teach a player the fundamentals of the game and to help a player find the motivation and, to use one of Rafael’s favorite words, “solutions” once they have already…

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