Nadal's uncle Toni open to coaching Djokovic

Serbia's Novak Djokovic on the way to a 2-6, 6-1, 3-6 defeat by Slovakia's 140th-ranked Martin Klizan in second round of the Barcelona Open on Wednesday.
Serbia's Novak Djokovic on the way to a 2-6, 6-1, 3-6 defeat by Slovakia's 140th-ranked Martin Klizan in second round of the Barcelona Open on Wednesday.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

BARCELONA • It is fair to say that it will take someone special to pull Novak Djokovic out of the malaise that has permeated his game.

The former world No. 1 is without a proper coaching team after parting ways with American Andre Agassi and Czech Radek Stepanek, both of whom were unable to help him break out of his rut, in April.

But Toni Nadal, the former coach of his nephew Rafael, may be the man to help the Serb regain his mojo after the older Spaniard said training a player with Djokovic's pedigree was akin to taking charge of "Barcelona or (Real) Madrid".

Toni stepped down as the world No. 1's coach at the end of last season to focus his time and energy on training emerging players at the Rafa Nadal Academy.

And while he does not believe Djokovic will turn to his services, should the opportunity of working with the 30-year-old come along, he will consider returning to the ATP Tour in a coaching capacity.

"It will not happen," the 57-year-old, who won 16 Grand Slams with Rafa, told Spanish daily La Vanguardia, but added: "It would be difficult to say no to Djokovic, he is a (former) No. 1.

"I wouldn't go to the limit as with my nephew, but I would be delighted to accompany him to a tournament.

"Training Djokovic would be like training Barca or Madrid," he said.

Djokovic suffered yet another shock second-round exit from the Barcelona Open on Wednesday, when he was beaten 6-2, 1-6, 6-3 by world No. 140 Martin Klizan of Slovakia. He has not reached the last eight of a tournament since last year's Wimbledon and there have also been questions over his fitness following a long-term elbow injury.

Djokovic, a 12-time Grand Slam champion, lost to Austria's Dominic Thiem in the last 16 of the Monte Carlo Masters last week, and looked far from his best in what was his second career appearance in Barcelona with the French Open looming.

REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 28, 2018, with the headline 'Nadal's uncle Toni open to coaching Djokovic'. Print Edition | Subscribe