Toni Nadal is widely credited with helping his nephew Rafa achieve his huge success in the sport, including four Davis Cup championships, an Olympic gold medal and 14 Grand Slams.
But the uncle turned trainer has seen his reputation take a battering after arguing that the Davis Cup captaincy isn’t suitable for a woman.
On Sunday, Spain’s Tennis Federation announced via a communiqué it had appointed former tennis player Gala León to lead her country in 2015’s Davis Cup men’s tournament.
León, currently a coach with over nine years of experience, is the first female Spanish captain in the federation’s history and will replace Carlos Moyá following his decision to step aside last week after Spain were relegated from the Davis Cup for the first time in 18 years.
“It doesn’t cease to surprise me for several reasons,” Toni Nadal, who has coached Rafa since he was a boy, told Spain’s National Radio RNE.
“Firstly because she isn’t a person we know from the men’s circuit, obviously that will be difficult for her as she isn’t familiar with the kind of game we play.
“There’s also a logistical problem which will be hard to overcome as Davis Cup team players spend so much time in the dressing room with very little on, it seems strange to have a woman in charge.”
Nadal, who asked for his words not to be misconstrued, argued he had nothing against a woman coaching a player but said he would have preferred the federation had chosen a captain who knew Nadal, Verdasco, Feliciano López, Ferrer and other top Spanish players well.
“It’s all a bit awkward,” he added.
Scottish tennis star Andy Murray was one of the first high-profile names to dismiss Nadal’s comments, saying "I'm sure if Amélie Mauresmo (Murray’s new coach) played tennis against Toni Nadal it would be a pretty comfortable win for Amélie."
En baloncesto femenino, el 90% de equipos que he visto los entrenaban hombres y ningún problema. Es una estupidez mayúscula lo de Toni Nadal— Quique Peinado (@quiquepeinado) September 23, 2014
"In women's basketball, 90% of the teams I've seen have been coached by men and there wasn't a problem. What Toni Nadal has said is complete nonsense"
José Luis Escañuela, president of Spain’s Tennis Federation, has also spoken out about León’s appointment, stressing that it was provisional.
“She might or might not (be the captain in July’s group stages),” he told Radio Marca, adding that the board’s final decision would have nothing to do with Toni Nadal’s words or the fact that León is a woman.
“The two Fed Cups (top female tennis tournaments) Spain has won were under the coaching of men. And I don’t think any of the players had a problem in the dressing room.”