Rafael Nadal’s uncle and former coach Toni has admitted that he wished Roger Federer didn’t retire. The 41-year-old ended his career at the Laver Cup with Nadal by his side, playing one final match in the doubles before hanging up his racket. But Toni Nadal had hoped that his nephew’s rival would keep on playing.
Federer’s 24-year career came to an emotional end at the recent Laver Cup as he returned for his last dance, playing alongside Nadal in the doubles after spending more than a year on the sidelines with a right knee injury. The 20-time Major champion had announced that he had to listen to his body and end his professional career, waving goodbye at London’s O2 Arena.
Nadal’s dad, sister and current coach Carlos Moya travelled to London for Federer’s send-off, while his Uncle Toni was not there. And Toni has now shared his thoughts on the 41-year-old’s retirement as one of his nephew’s biggest rivals.
Asked how he experienced Federer’s final match alongside his own nephew and former charge, Toni told AS: “With emotion, as I think the vast majority of people.” The current coach of Felix Auger-Aliassime admitted that the 103-time title winner’s retirement “hurt” as he said he wanted to see Federer keep going.
“The retirement of someone like Federer is something that hurts you,” he continued. “We knew he was close though because he hadn’t recovered from his injuries. But when the time comes… A person like Federer, the benchmark he has been, all the years that we live with him, they are still many years of fighting for the same thing. In the end, that affects everyone.”
Toni piled praise on Federer as he claimed he could be one of the most respected players even above his own nephew, adding: I, in particular, would have liked Roger to have continued playing. First for a tennis issue, I really like watching him play.
“And then because a figure like his is good for sport. It’s hard to say what icon or number you are, but he’s one of the biggest icons in sport, and probably one of the most respected, maybe the most.”
While Toni was not at the Laver Cup, his current protegee Auger-Aliassime had one of his biggest wins as he upset Novak Djokovic in straight sets on the final day. And Nadal’s uncle said he “trusted” that the Canadian could improve to become one of the best young players.
“He has a very high potential because he has extraordinary physical capacity, he has power, he’s fast, he has a good drive, he serves very well,” Toni said. “Sometimes we have problems with the backhand and we have to consolidate the game.”