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Rafa’s Return Better Than We Expected

Rafa's Return Better Than We Expected

By Richard Pagliaro | @Tennis_Now | Thursday, January 4, 2024

Toni Nadal has long been one of Rafael Nadal’s staunchest supporters—and toughest critics.

Toni Nadal, uncle and original coach of Rafael Nadal, says Team Nadal is excited by the king of clay’s level of play.

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Speaking to Onda Cero Mallorca in this interview, Toni Nadal says the 22-time Grand Slam champion has exceeded expectations, scoring his opening-round win over Dominic Thiem and a crushing conquest of Aussie wild card Jason Kubler, 6-1, 6-2.

A fierce Nadal steamrolled Kubler, winning nine of 11 points played on the Aussie’s second serve and breaking four times in an 84-minute victory.

Toni Nadal says he’s pleased with Rafa’s performance and is intrigued to see how he will respond against higher-ranked opposition in both Brisbane and Melbourne.

“The truth is that Rafa can be very happy and excited because his level is good enough,” Toni Nadal told Onda Cero Mallorca. “We indeed have to see it in more difficult matches, but at the moment things are going better than we expected.

“Rafa has always had the condition of returning by getting back into form quickly. It’s more difficult this time, and we’ll see if he can continue like this.”

The former world No. 1 reports his body, particularly his surgically-repaired hip, feels good. Rafael Nadal said accumulating more match play before the Australian Open is important because it enables him to sharpen his strokes and point-by-point concentration.

“I think today, not talking only about today’s match, today in general terms, every day is a learning again, no?” Nadal told the media in Brisbane. “I need to play every single point focus. I try to do it because it doesn’t matter the result, it is something I need to keep doing, learn again how to play every single point focus and with the right intensity. In the end, it is something that you lose.

“You need to get used to the competition again and understand the moments of the match to know when you have to push and when you can play a little bit more relaxed.

“Is something that today I’m not able to do it, no? I need to play every single point very carefully. The thing that I need to do now is practice that. Of course, wins help you to be more self-confident and spend more hours in court.”

If two-time Australian Open champion Nadal can continue to improve in Brisbane and receive a favorable draw in Melbourne, then Uncle Toni Nadal believes…

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