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Rafael Nadal: The ‘tough love’ that shaped a 20-time Grand Slam champion

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From the first ball Toni Nadal threw towards his three-year-old nephew, he could see there was something different about the kid lining up a shot on the other side of the court.

Once a top Spanish amateur player who competed in the national championships, the coach had hundreds of children come under his watchful eye at Manacor Tennis Club on his home island of Mallorca.

“When I hit the ball to Rafael, he went towards it. He didn’t wait for the ball to arrive to him,” Toni tells BBC Sport.

“Normally, when I sent a ball to a small kid, he stood and waited until the ball arrived at him. But my nephew, he went looking for it. For me, this was special.”

That assessment proved to be right. Rafael Nadal was a special talent and, with Toni shaping him as a player and a person, the 34-year-old has gone on to prove it.

No player in history has won more Grand Slam men’s singles titles than Nadal.

The Spaniard equalled Roger Federer’s all-time record of 20 major victories at last year’s French Open and now has the chance to overhaul the Swiss’ tally.

That opportunity comes over the next fortnight at the place where a Nadal victory has been almost as close to certainty as anything else in sport over the past 16 years – the French Open at Roland Garros.

Yet, as Nadal has so often acknowledged, it is doubtful he would have achieved the same scale of success without the man known throughout the tennis world as ‘Uncle Toni’.

There are many tales of Toni’s tough-love tutelage. Without them, a youngster described by his sister Maribel as “a scaredy-cat” may never have transformed into the ‘raging bull’ we know on court as one of the most ferociously competitive athletes of his generation.

Other than the terracotta courts, you would be hard pressed to find many similarities between Manacor Tennis Club and Roland Garros.

Manacor is a typical Mallorcan village and the tennis club – several clay courts overlooked by a medium-sized clubhouse which houses a restaurant and sun-filled terrace – is similar to many on the Mediterranean island.

Toni, who turned 60 in February, was in his early 30s when Nadal first joined in with a small group of children he was teaching.

In the very early days of their time together on court, when Nadal was still part of the wider group, he would be treated differently by his uncle. But this was no case of nepotism.

The young Rafael – described by Toni as mild-mannered and quiet at that age – used to get annoyed by what he felt was overly tough treatment.

“I demanded a lot from Rafael because I cared a lot,” says Toni.

Nadal’s mother Ana Maria recalls how her young son used to arrive home from training in tears but wouldn’t reveal what was upsetting him.

Once he told her Toni had called him a ‘mummy’s boy’, and she wanted to confront her brother-in-law. Nadal insisted she shouldn’t make a fuss and asked her to keep quiet to avoid “making things worse”.

Rafael Nadal hits a return at a junior tournament
Nadal turned professional in 2001, playing on the second-tier ATP Challenger Tour when he was 15
Nadal has said his uncle used to shout and try to frighten him, sometimes leaving him with a “sinking feeling in his stomach” if he saw it would be just the two of them training together.

If the young boy’s mind drifted off while they were on the court, Toni used to knock balls towards him to grab his attention.

At the end of practice, Toni insisted Nadal had to pick up all the scattered balls and sweep the red dirt, while the other kids wandered off home. If he forgot his water bottle, he had to train without rehydrating in the hot Mallorcan sun.

Toni says all of this, laid bare in his nephew’s 2011 autobiography, is true.

“I believe in the work and I believe in the players who are strong enough to cope with the intensity of this work,” he tells BBC Sport.

“I cannot understand another style of life. In my opinion you always have to know your place in the world.

“This is why I was like this with Rafael. I knew he could cope.”

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‘If Roger Federer, Nadal and Djokovic hadn’t existed…’, says ATP ace

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The Big 3 have dominated the last decade and a half of this sport, as well as having collected as many as 60 Grand Slam titles. Many believe that their opponents were unlucky to happen in this era, not having had the chance to win as much as they deserved.

Andy Murray has been for many years the most valid alternative to the domination of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, so much so that he hoisted himself at the top of the ATP ranking in 2016. The Scottish phenomenon boasts three Majors in his palmarés, without forgetting his triumph at the Finals five years ago.

Injuries have affected the Brit’s career in recent seasons, having brought him one step away from retirement before his lifesaving hip operation. Although he has not managed to reach the same level as in the past, the former world number 1 is back to having fun on the tennis court and can still take away some satisfaction.

In an interview given during the Antwerp tournament, Murray was asked if he was happy to play at the same time as Roger, Rafa and Nole.

Andy Murray on the Big 3
“Do I regret being born at the same time as Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic? It’s a difficult question,” Murray said.

“Obviously, on the one hand, I regret it because I tell myself that I could have won a lot more if they hadn’t been there or if I had been 5 or 6 years younger. I would have had more opportunities. On the other hand, I had the opportunity to play and challenge the best players in history in the biggest tournaments.”

The Scot believes that facing such high-quality opposition in so many big matches helped him improve as a player. “I was able to face Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros, Roger Federer at Wimbledon, Novak Djokovic at the Australian Open and the US Open and always in the final, even at the Olympic Games,” Murray said.

“I obviously did not win all these meetings but I won a few. I feel lucky to have been able to play against them, they allowed me to improve by setting the bar so high.” Andy Murray was also asked which young players were most likely to dominate the tour in the years to come.

“For me, right now, Medvedev is best equipped to win on hard,” Murray said. “He just won the US Open, but before that his hard results were excellent. I think his game is more complete than the others, (but) on clay it’s hard to say.”

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Naomi Osaka cries after question from ‘bully’ reporter in first press conference since French Open media flap

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Nearly three months after her French Open media blackout prompted a firestorm and debates about media and mental health, Naomi Osaka returned to the press conference stage for the first time on Monday.

She broke down in tears.

The four-time Grand Slam champion spoke with reporters ahead of this week’s Western & Southern Open, where she has pledged any and all of her winnings from the tournament to Haiti earthquake relief.

She immediately faced questioning about her relationship with media from the Cincinnati Enquirer’s Paul Daugherty, who prefaced his question by declaring “you’re not crazy about dealing with us … yet you have a lot of outside interests that are served by having a media platform.” He then asked, “how do you balance the two?”

“That’s interesting,” Osaka said after asking for clarification on what Daugherty meant by “I’m not crazy about dealing with you guys.”

“… I would say the occasion, like when to do the press conference is what I feel is the most difficult.”

She then paused to gather her thoughts.

“I’m actually very interested in that point of view,” she continued after the moderator asked if she’d like to move on. “For me I feel like this is something that I can’t really speak for everybody, I can only speak for myself. But ever since I was younger, I’ve had a lot of media interest on me, and I think it’s because of my background as well as how I play.

“But I would also say, I’m not really sure how to balance it too, I’m figuring it out at the same time as you are, I would say.”

As another reporter asked about tennis and her Haiti pledge (3:45 above), Osaka started to cry. She then took a break from the podium before returning to address more questions from reporters.

Osaka’s agent slams ‘bully’ reporter
After the press conference, Osaka’s agent Stuart Duguid criticized Daugherty in a statement while describing him as a “bully.”

“The bully at the Cincinnati Enquirer is the epitome of why player / media relations are so fraught right now,” Duguid said, per The New York Times’ Ben Rothenberg. “Everyone on that Zoom will agree that his tone was all wrong and his sole purpose was to intimidate. Really appalling behavior.

“And this insinuation that Naomi owes her off court success to the media is a myth — don’t be so self-indulgent.”

Daugherty has not responded to Duguid’s criticism.

Osaka ‘proud’ of taking stance after talking with other athletes
Osaka made brief appearances at media scrums after her matches at the Tokyo Olympics. But Monday marked the first time she’s sat down for a formal press conference since criticizing the format as taxing on hers and other athletes’ mental health.

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Osaka told reporters on Monday that she was initially embarrassed at the onset of the uproar, but that she’s proud of her stance after hearing support from other athletes at the Olympics.

“I would say for me in that moment I wasn’t really proud,” Osaka said. “I felt like it was something I needed to do for myself more than anything. I felt like I holed up in my house for a couple of weeks, and I was a little bit embarrassed to go out because I didn’t know if people were looking at me in a different way than they usually did before.

“I think the biggest eye-opener was going to the Olympics and having other athletes come up to me and say that they were really glad that I did what I did. So after all that, yeah, I’m proud of what I did, and I think it was something that needed to be done.”

As the tournament’s No. 2 seed, Osaka received a bye for the Western & Southern Open’s first round. She’ll open play in the second round against the winner of Tuesday’s match between Coco Gauff and Hsieh Su-wei.

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Popular Tennis Star Nudes Leaked online – See Photos

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Maria Kirilenko has reportedly become the latest celebrity to fall victim to apparent leaked nude photos scandal. Highly personal and private photographs from her mobile phone were posted on several celebrity gossip websites yesterday

FBI Investigating

Celebrities and nude photo scandals seem to go hand-in-hand. The 34-year-old tennis player’s nude photos were leaked online through hacked phone on Friday (October 22, 2021) and spread across the internet like wildfire. “The FBI is aware of the alleged hacking incident and is looking into it,” an FBI official told the press.

Nude Picture Controversy in Russian Magazine

The editor of a Russian celebrity gossip magazine defended its use of the photos, citing there was “a clear public interest in publishing the Maria Kirilenko pictures, in order for the debate around them to be fully informed.” That’s also why we, at Fulloaded, decided to publish all the nude photos. In public interest and just for the sake of information.

Note: graphic content for younger viewers

“Maria Kirilenko Nude Leaked Photos” Gallery

Five nude photos (apparently “hacked” from her phone) have surfaced and spread across the internet

The nude figures photos were probably taken by the tennis player with her phone, during a visit at the Louvre Museum in Paris earlier this month. Some of you may recognize the nude “Grand Odalisque” by French painter Ingres, the nude “Sainte Marie-Madeleine” by German artist Gregor Erhart, a Roman marble of a nude wounded Gaul, an Egyptian nude porcelain doll, and probably a picture of convalescing Spinee playing with a tennis ball (while the latter is unlikely to be linked to the nude photo scandal).

Besides being a talented tennis player, Maria Kirilenko seems to also nurture a secret passion for fine art and nude photography.

The FBI is investigating the celebrity phone and email hacking case. Meanwhile the tennis player leaked nude photos are making a sensation on the internet.

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