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Uncle Toni turns waiter after Rafa Nadal's early exit

Fans in the queue.
by Matt Trollope
Wednesday 26 June 2013


Camping out in the lengthy queue for Wimbledon tickets is something of a rite of passage for tennis fans in London during June and July - but rarely does the experience come with coffee service from two of the world’s most prominent tennis coaches.

That’s how it was on Wednesday morning outside the All England Club, when Toni Nadal and Judy Murray went along the queue handing out Lavazza coffees to caffeine-depleted patrons.

Murray described Nadal as her "Manuel", a delightful reference to the bumbling Spanish waiter who featured in many of Basil Fawlty’s capers on the cult British sitcom Fawlty Towers.

Nadal didn’t dispute the moniker.

"I cannot make my work as coach (since Rafael lost). I have no player here, so I’m a waiter now. I am Manuel waiter. So I serve coffee, is my new work," he laughed.

The subject had been broached – Rafael’s loss to Belgian Steve Darcis in the opening round.

The defeat was an enormous upset that reverberated around the world, even more notable perhaps because it occurred on the very first day of this year’s Championships. Talk about the tournament beginning with a bang.

It was the first time that the Spaniard had lost in the opening round at a major, and raised all sorts of concerns about the state of his knees, the dodgy joints which have for years caused him problems and which most recently forced him off tour for almost eight months following the 2012 Championships.

He had only returned to competition in February.

However, Toni has a more simplistic view of the result.

"What happened, we lose the match. That’s what happened, nothing else. Rafael has played a bad game and Steve Darcis played so much better... he win this match and we lose," he said.

"The people said that (it was) the knees, but the knees are the same as in Roland Garros, in Indian Wells, or in Madrid or Rome. And with these knees we won the tournaments, we won Roland Garros."

This analysis may have only told part of the story.

Rafael skipped the Halle Wimbledon tune-up event in the week following the French Open, a move at the time put down to him simply needing to rest after another successful clay-court campaign. Now, on reflection, it was slightly more ominous.

Toni indicated that problems had arisen following Rafael’s incredible eighth triumph in Paris.

“He has made nine finals, (won) seven titles, he won Roland Garros. And then his health go a little down,” he revealed.

“We come here with not a very good preparation, it was very difficult to play here... without playing a tournament before.

“And here it’s true, it’s so much (more) difficult now for Rafael to play here because on grass you should play more down (lower to the ground), the movements are difficult at this moment. But what was very bad was our forehand, our serve, our volley, all these things.

“I’m sure next year we come with very good preparation and we can play so much better than this year.”

That great news for fans of Rafael, one of the most popular players in the history of the game as well as a huge tournament drawcard anywhere he plays.

Although he is most notable for his dominance at Roland Garros, Wimbledon holds a special place in the Spaniard’s heart.

“For us to play Wimbledon is unbelievable, it’s one of our favourite tournaments,” Toni explained.

“I can never forget the wins in 2008 and 2010. To lose the first round here playing Wimbledon is very bad, but so much worse is not to play here.

“(Just) to come here is special.”

Listen to Live@Wimbledon's interview with Toni Nadal

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