After another early defeat at
calls for Rafael Nadal to shake up his coaching team began to take shape. John McEnroe led the charge, claiming it may
be time for Nadal to move on from the legendary "Uncle Toni". While there may be merit in this argument,
there's also no denying how big of a role Uncle Toni has played in Nadal's
success. Moreover, it's not like Nadal
has remained the same player over his career- under the guidance of Uncle Toni
he has continued to evolve and improve as a player.
The easiest solution may be a combination of both arguments. While Nadal has worked with other coaches in addition to Uncle Toni, he may want to keep Uncle Toni on board and bring in another big name on the side. Nadal may only have a couple of years left as a top level player, so if he's ever going to make a move now is the time. This way he doesn't have to deal with "firing" Uncle Toni, but still gets the benefit of a fresh perspective from a new coach. (And besides avoiding an awkward situation, he gets to retain one of the most successful coaches of all time as a member of his team).
It's extremely rare for a player to remain with a coach as long as Nadal has stayed with Uncle Toni. Many players leave their junior coaches behind soon after reaching the pro tour, and those that stick with them rarely do so for more than their first few years on tour. Even players who are coached by family members generally move on to new coaches at some point. It may be a bit awkward, but it's a move that is regularly made. The fact that Nadal is yet to make the move is a testament to how good Uncle Toni has been at developing Nadal's game.
But despite Uncle Toni's brilliance as a coach, Nadal has been struggling for a relatively long period of time (for at least over a year at this point). Some think the tactics Nadal employed in the past are losing their effectiveness, and he is becoming vulnerable to the big hitters who pounce on any ball that they can. His forehand has also become less of a strength, as he's clearly lost confidence in his best shot. It may not be fair to put too much of the blame on Uncle Toni for Nadal's recent failures, but if he's going to be given credit for his nephew's success he has to take some responsibility for Nadal's struggles.
Whether Uncle Toni would be willing to take a bit of a backseat (or at least give up complete control) remains to be seen, but he may do so if he realizes it would be best for Nadal. And if he refuses and Nadal decides he wants a new voice in his coaching box, Nadal has every right to move on from his Uncle completely. But unless egos get in the way, it doesn't seem like there's any reason why Nadal can't have it both ways.