Is Rafael Nadal's "Uncle Toni" Becoming a Problem?

Khalid SiddiquiCorrespondent IIJune 3, 2009

LONDON - JULY 05:  Rafael Nadal of Spain's coach and uncle, Toni Nadal conducts a practice session on day twelve of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on July 5, 2008 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

"Hey jou fan!!!! What jour problem? 'Ow dare jou cheer for anywon except my Rafa? Jou stupid French don't know greatness when jou see eet. Jos becoz Rafa eez from Spain..."

(And the rant continues.)

Seriously, Toni Nadal has emerged as a completely sore loser. Not even the Djokovic family can lay claim to alienating tennis fans as much as Toni Nadal has done with the venting of his "true feelings" on radio Cadena Ser.

In one stroke of his public relations genius, Toni Nadal has just made sure that as long as he remains sitting in Rafael Nadal's box, the French Open crowd will continue to jeer Rafa's coach.

So what exactly is going on in the Nadal camp? Does Toni Nadal think that Rafa is omnipotent on clay and that he can't lose to a "lesser" opponent?

And why shouldn't an audience become a partisan one when it feels that the underdog actually has a chance of creating a huge shock wave in the world of tennis? It is, after all, the nature of sport that the majority of the crowd will mostly favor the underdog, especially if he is playing out of this world.

Following Rafa's humble post-match press conference, Toni Nadal's unnecessary rant has undone all the praise Rafa had earned from the media and fans for being so gracious in defeat.

The more I see of Uncle Toni when the cameras focus on him during Rafa's matches, I am (for some sordid reason) reminded of one of those "cruel" taskmasters who drive their trainees to do so much that the trainee's body and mind seem to lock up in rebellion.

So the question is begging to be asked: Is Toni Nadal now becoming a liability for Rafa? Do Rafa and Uncle Toni need a bit of time apart from each other so that they can reflect in isolation on the ups and downs of their relationship?

The fans understand that he has been Rafa's coach since Rafa was a toddler, but to strive for omnipotence is markedly different from striving for perfection in a sport. Every sportsman is mortal (yes, even the likes of Michael Jordan, Carl Lewis, Joe Montana, Roger Federer, Pete Sampras, etc., have been proven so).

Most sports fans will always long for an upset, especially if a sportsman's winning streak keeps getting longer and longer. It's natural for a sports fan to demand an upset once in a while and to root for the underdog as a neutral.

Toni Nadal has no right to question who the fans cheer for. He has come across as a sore loser and a public relations disaster, in my humble opinion. Of course, he can always gloss it over and say that the comments were taken out of context, but using the word "stupid" on the air usually represents only one context.

Sure, Toni Nadal may be a great coach, but a great spokesperson he is not. It may be better for him and Rafa to keep the media appearances limited to Rafa only, in order to preserve goodwill for the Nadal camp in future tournaments.

Would Uncle Toni have a problem if the fans at the US Open cheered wildly for someone like Mardy Fish or Sam Querrey against Rafa? Will he take a cheap shot at the barren trophy cabinet of American tennis players by saying that no American has won a Grand Slam since 2003?

He did something similar in his radio interview by saying that the French haven't had a great tennis player since Yannick Noah and are just jealous of Spanish success on their turf.

If there is something going on behind the scenes that is compelling Rafa's body and mind to rebel against Uncle Toni's coaching methods, it may be worth the effort to undertake a few degrees of separation.

After all, having a blood relative for a coach isn't always ideal because they don't tend to feel it if they may be getting out of line at times. Family honor becomes a sacred, interfering detail. We've seen already how Richard Williams used to create public relations disasters for the Williams sisters. However, now his media presence has been reduced by a great degree.

To use the "ethnic bias" card against an audience who is there for the love of the sport is uncalled for. Toni Nadal, at the very least, should tender an apology to the fans of Roland Garros for calling them "stupid" and "jealous of Spanish success."