Toni Nadal: Rafael is pain-free, in top shape and awfully dangerous

by: Kamakshi Tandon | February 10, 2017

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Rafael Nadal, now ranked sixth, is taking extra special care to stay healthy in 2017. (AP)

Rafael Nadal's uncle and coach, Toni Nadal, says the Spaniard is pain-free and back in top shape.

Nadal, who had a lengthy wrist injury during 2016, began the season by reaching the final of the Australian Open.

"Rafael recovered his game," Toni Nadal told L'Equipe in an interview in French. "His tournament was good, his attitude was good and his matches were not bad against [Grigor] Dimitrov, [Gael] Monfils and [Milos] Raonic.

On the five-set semifinal against Dimitrov, he added, "It was a great match. I think Rafael was actually around his best level, whether in mental or tennis terms."

He sees Nadal maintaining his good play if he can stay injury free, saying that the changes in his game were evident as soon as the 30-year-old was healthy and practicing again during the offseason.

"It must not be forgotten that arriving at Roland Garros [in 2016], Rafa had excellent sensations,” said Toni Nadal, who is usually sparing in his positive assessments of his nephew’s play. “There was just this physical issue ... For the first time in a long while, Rafael has no physical problems to manage ... Since he has been playing with no pain, he has regained a high level."

The coach also praised Roger Federer's performance in the final, saying his play and the conditions helped him earn the five-set win.

"[Federer] played with extreme speed and resisting his game was very difficult,” he said. “It's also the case [that] his backhand was incredible towards the finish of the tournament. First, he had an inspired week--he made fewer errors than usual and stayed firm with his decision to hit the ball more flat.

"Then, I don't know if the courts had more speed, as many have said, but I think playing at night favored Federer because the ball does not bounce as high and he can anticipate more easily. The extreme topspin was simply not possible."

On the first-week defeats of top seeds Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic, Toni Nadal warned against "hasty conclusions," saying, "It is nothing more than a single tournament."

Nadal, citing fatigue and the desire to avoid injury, has announced his withdrawal from next week's event in Rotterdam. He is currently No. 6 in the rankings.

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