Uncle Toni gives his take on Rafa’s relationship with French fans
Toni Nadal tells Welovetennis.fr that the two worst defeats he has seen his nephew suffer were at the 2012 Australian Open, in five sets and nearly six hours to Novak Djokovic, and at the 2009 French Open, to Robin Soderling. It was Rafael Nadal’s first loss at Roland Garros. Toni says that while some of the crowd was tough on Rafa, others remained behind him.
"I am thinking that there is a lot of explanations for this problem," said Toni Nadal. "Today, we live in a world of images. To simplify, we see a player [who plays beautifully] and think he is a good person in life. Instead, we see someone be more brutal or jerky, less fluid, and it is said that it is the same outside the courts.
"I think Rafa still has a good image in France. L’Equipe gave him the award for best sportsman of the year, he often makes the front page of the newspaper...No French [athlete] makes the "A" sports newspaper in Spain...Except [soccer player Zinedine] Zidane, when he played for Real Madrid. I conclude that the French still enjoy a little Rafa."
Toni Nadal added that he was affected by the Parisian crowd’s reaction to his nephew’s performances at times.
"I would say I am an idiot if I did not feel dissatisfaction at times," he said. "But much has changed I the past two years. One day, a tournament director told me at the end of a match: ‘I am very happy that Nadal has won. Unlike his opponent, Rafa is the same, whether the camera is there or not.’
"He’s not hypocritical. Rafa is a good man. What happened to him against Soderling, it was just unthinkable. A four-time winner of Roland Garros cannot be whistled against a player who was not exactly the friendliest in the world! The French love the beautiful game. Rafael is Spanish, it is another [game]. And he also beat Federer. But for me, it is normal not to be enjoyed by everyone."