‘Men’s dressing room no place for female coaches’

Rafa Nadal's uncle and coach has been slammed for calling into question the appointment of Spain's first female Davis Cup captain, a decision he considers illogical and inappropriate for the all-male dressing room.

'Men's dressing room no place for female coaches'
Rafa Nadal's coach and uncle Toni (L) and Spain's newly appointed Davis Cup captain Gala León. Photo: Martin Bureau,Matthew Stockman/Getty Images/AFP

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."

"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.”

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IN PICS: Rafa Nadal weds childhood sweetheart in Mallorca

Rafael Nadal married his partner of 14 years, Xisca Perello, at a castle in Mallorca on Saturday.

IN PICS: Rafa Nadal weds childhood sweetheart in Mallorca
Photo: Fundacion Rafa Nadal

Nadal, the 19-time grand slam champion, tied the knot with 31-year-old Perello at La Fortaleza, with a reported 350 guests invited to a private ceremony.

Juan Carlos I, the king of Spain from 1975 to 2014, was believed to be among those in attendance while the Michelin-star chef, Quique Dacosta, was reportedly in charge of catering.

The newlyweds shared some official photos of the day through the Fundacion Rafa Nadal, the NGO the tennis player set up on Mallorca

Photo: Fundacion Rafa Nadal


Nadal, 33, met his wife through his younger sister Maribel, a childhood friend of Perello.

They started dating in 2005 when they were both teenagers after meeting several years before.

Photo: Fundacion Rafa Nadal

The couple announced their engagement in January and revealed that the tennis ace had proposed on a romantic trip to Rome last May but chose to  keep the news private.


Perello, has always shunned the media spotlight although she has been pictured courtside at some of Nadal’s biggest matches.

Nadal kisses Perello after winning against France's Gael Monfils in the final tennis match at the Monte-Carlo ATP Masters Series Tournament in Monaco on April 17, 2016. 

But she isn't always there. In a 2011 interview with The Daily Telegraph, Perello explained: “He needs his space when he is competing, and just the idea of me hanging around and waiting on his needs all day tires me out.

“It would asphyxiate me. And then he would have to be worrying about me… No. If I followed him everywhere, I think there's a risk we might stop getting along.”

She works in insurance and is a business graduate but also serves as project director for the Rafa Nadal Foundation, the charity which Nadal launched almost ten years ago.

In an interview with sports newspaper Marca last year, the world number 2 hinted that he wouldn't be ready to start a family until he had retired from tennis. 

'I keep my commitment with tennis and my happiness', Nadal told Marca. 'I enjoy both in tennis and outside it. I have a girlfriend too and I am not alone to take decisions.

“Having family? I don't know, things are not easy to be predict. At this age, I thought that I would have already been a former player and that I would have started a family.”

READ ALSO: Rafa Nadal donates €1million to help victims of Mallorca floods