Rafael Nadal of Spain (left) serves as his coach and uncle Toni Nadal looks on.
Rafael Nadal of Spain (left) serves as his coach and uncle Toni Nadal looks on. Bernat Armangue

Nadal says he's accepted uncle's decision to step aside

TENNIS: Rafael Nadal has spoken about the shock split that will end one of tennis's most successful partnerships at the of the 2017 season.

Earlier this month Nadal's uncle Toni - his coach of more than two decades - announced he would no longer be part of the Spaniard's team in 2018.

Instead, he will devote his time to developing players at the Rafa Nadal Academy in Mallorca.

Speaking ahead of the Mexican Open at Acapulco, Nadal wished his uncle all the best and said he completely understood why he was making the decision to stop touring with the 30-year-old.

"Toni is completely free, like he has always been, to take his own decisions and to choose what makes him happiest," Nadal said.

"I am comfortable with what he decides is best for him.

"Probably it's the moment to focus on other priorities and he said that the academy is one of these ones.

"It's a very ambitious project and also we don't have to forget that he has a family, three kids, and two of them play tennis.

"I feel better when people who I love are happy and if it makes him happy, for me it's okay.

"Before being my coach, Toni is my uncle.

"He has been with me for a lifetime and the relationship with him has been a little bit more special than the one I have with my other uncles because I have lived every day with him and I am very grateful to him for all the things he did for me."

Toni's decision caught Nadal off guard, and the 14-time major winner was one of the last people to find out about his uncle's career shift.

Toni said he'd decided on the plans before this year's Australian Open and told his brother (Nadal's father) and Carlos Moya (a new face in the Nadal coaching box) but kept his star pupil out of the loop because he didn't want him distracted during his surprise run to the final of the year's first grand slam.

"When I travelled to Australia I had decided to leave," Toni told Spanish publication El Espanol.

"When I left for Melbourne I did not tell Rafael, but I said goodbye to everyone because I knew it would be the last time I would go there: the driver, the person who looks after us, the director of the tournament ..."

Toni later said he regretted keeping the news from his nephew.

Nadal said he would sit down with Moya and assistant coach Francis Roig when the time came to make any decisions about what path the team will take in Toni's absence.

"At the end of the year we will sit down and I will speak to Francis and Carlos," Nadal said.

"Primarily I suppose my team could stay the same if there are no issues. I don't know if I will need someone who can help me for some weeks but if I do, it will be a consistent relationship."

Nadal's first match in Acapulco is against Mischa Zverev, the man who upset Andy Murray in four sets at Melbourne Park in January.

News Corp Australia

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