If there was any doubt that Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer were nearing the end of their glorious careers in the 12th year of their rivalry, John McEnroe spiked that bubble when he said this week the two players who dominated the game for nearly a decade had “maybe one or two more years” to add to their combined total of 31 majors.

On Saturday, Nadal, 30, signalled his intent to challenge that assumption when he announced he was adding the former world No1 Carlos Moya to his coaching staff. He will retain his uncle Toni, who has been with him since childhood, when he travels to Melbourne for the first major of the new season in mid-January.

“I am very excited to announce that Carlos will join my team immediately and will be working together with Toni and Francis Roig,” the Spaniard said. “To have someone like Carlos who is not only a friend but also a very important person in my career, is something special. He will be next to me on my practice and competition. At the same time he will also join the Rafa Nadal Academy by Movistar working with Toni and the rest of the technical team.”

Federer, 35, who wound up his 2016 season in July to recover from knee surgery, won the last of his 17 slams four years ago and returns to the court at the Hopman Cup in Perth, Western Australia, in January, but will enter the Australian draw ranked 17, the first time he has been outside the top 10 in 15 years. Nadal, who has 14 slams, nine of them on the clay of Roland Garros, quit the French Open due to a wrist injury after two wins this summer and returned to competition late in the season without making an impact.

Moya, 40, who was twice runner-up in Melbourne and won the 1998 French Open, has left the world No 3 Milos Raonic to join Nadal, a long-time friend of the Nadal family.

“Toni called me while I was at the IPTL competition,” Moya said. “It was great to receive that call. To be able to help Rafa is something special for me and I am sure that, together with Toni, Francis and the rest of the team we have a great common project.

“Rafa is a special player and, above all, a great person. I have a lot of trust and confidence that he will be able to continue winning important titles. At the same time, the academy is an important challenge in an already very professional structure with great professionals that do an excellent work.”

Toni Nadal said, “When I knew Carlos had stopped with Raonic I called him. Carlos has always been a special person for us. He was always there to help us. We think it is the right moment to have him join our team.”

This article was written by Kevin Mitchell, for The Observer on Saturday 17th December 2016 14.26 Europe/London

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