LONDON • Perched in the players' box, fidgeting behind his cap, Uncle Toni has been as integral to Rafael Nadal's tennis career as fiddling with his shorts and adjusting his water bottles have been to his in-game rituals.
But, while the latter habits remain, John McEnroe said the unthinkable on Thursday when he suggested that it was time for Nadal to get "a new damn coach".
The Spaniard appeared powerless to prevent Dustin Brown's shock win in the second round.
After reaching five Wimbledon finals in a row between 2006 and 2011 (he was absent through injury in 2009), winning twice in 2008 and 2010, Nadal has now been eliminated four years in a row by a rival ranked outside the world's top 100.
It marked the continuation of a difficult year for Nadal, who has gone past the quarter-finals in each of the first three Grand Slams.
And, in McEnroe's opinion, the 29-year-old may struggle to add to his tally of 14 Grand Slam titles unless he bites the bullet and dispenses with the services of the man who has guided his fortunes throughout his career.
"Rafael Nadal is one of the great champions - a class act," McEnroe said on BBC Radio. "He plays with a lot of effort and energy but, dare we say, is it time for some fresh blood in the Nadal camp?
" Uncle Toni has done a magnificent job since he was a kid - but clearly at this stage it would appear that some fresh ideas are in order."
When prompted by Tim Henman, his co-presenter, to say what he really meant, McEnroe exclaimed: "I'm saying get a new damn coach!"
All the other members of tennis' big four have benefited in recent years from a new injection of ideas from high-profile former Grand Slam champions.
Ivan Lendl was instrumental in taking Andy Murray's game to the next level while Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic have been working with Stefan Edberg and Boris Becker respectively.
THE TIMES, LONDON