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Nadal's coaching void is pain in the back

Mark Hodgkinson
June 24, 2014
Rafael Nadal enjoyed the coaching of uncle Toni last month © Getty Images

Whatever the collective noun is for celebrity tennis coaches, you usually can't move for them at the Aorangi Park practice complex, what with Amelie Mauresmo, Boris Becker and Stefan Edberg - all former champions - taking sessions at the courts. One leading coach, though, has been missing from the scene at Aorangi and that's Rafa Nadal's uncle, Toni (who has mentored Rafa throughout his tennis life, and who wouldn't care for being called a celebrity coach).

Toni wasn't around for Nadal's lunchtime practice on Monday. Indeed, for the past three days, Toni has been unable to attend his nephew's training sessions because of back pain. "Toni's absence shouldn't be causing Rafa too many problems in practice - Rafa knows what he needs to be working on, and it's not as if Toni is usually the one hitting with him, so there's no change there," a figure close to the Nadal camp told me ahead of the Majorcan's opening match against Slovakia's Martin Klizan on Tuesday. "But if Rafa has any difficult moments in his first match, he will want to be able to look up at Toni for reassurance."

Nadal has described Wimbledon as "the most dangerous tournament" on the tennis calendar, as when the grass is green and lush in the opening days of the fortnight, he is more vulnerable to defeat. You have to spool all the way back to 2011 for the last time that Nadal won successive matches here - he was beaten in the second round in 2012 and on his opening appearance last summer.

Cool Amelie's pupils find it's good to talk

Victoria Azarenka is among those who believe that Andy Murray made a good choice by picking Amelie Mauresmo as Ivan Lendl's successor. Azarenka, who once employed the Frenchwoman as her coach, told me that Mauresmo is "a terrific person". "Andy didn't ask my opinion on that, but I can talk about what I experienced with Amelie and it was great," said Azarenka, a former Australian Open champion. "I think Amelie's a terrific person. She obviously has a lot of knowledge and I hope it works out for them. What I liked about working with Amelie was that I could talk about what it's like to win a grand slam. She had been through the same experience, so that was cool."

Andy Murray will find Amelie Mauresmo's grand slam experience helpful © Getty Images

Mark Hodgkinson is the author of Ivan Lendl: The Man Who Made Murray.Hodgkinson will be writing daily pieces for ESPN during Wimbledon.

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