PARIS | He stood behind the baseline of Court 8 on Friday, while his protege exchanged balls in training with Botic van de Zandschulp. Dressed in a chic white polo shirt, a navy cardigan tied at the shoulders, Toni Nadal nodded in approval to Félix Auger-Aliassime’s good shots.
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And when the Quebecer missed his shot, “uncle Nadal” mimicked the correct movement, sometimes going there with some encouragement in French.
It’s been a little over a year since Toni Nadal, Rafael’s uncle and former coach, who led him to 16 of his 21 Grand Slam titles, joined the Aliassime clan as an advisor. .
The objective was clear, he wanted to advance Felix to the highest peaks. Uncle Nadal was not always going to travel with the team, Frederic Fontang being the main coach of the pride of L’Ancienne-Lorette.
But he was going to move here and there, for this fortnight in Paris in this case. And in Paris, the association surprises. For good reason: the spectators at the Porte d’Auteuil saw Toni guide his nephew in 10 of his 13 titles on the ocher of Roland-Garros.
It makes Paris talk
This is also one of the questions that former tennis player Fabrice Santoro asked Félix on the court on Sunday, after his victory in the first round: “Can you tell us about having Toni here with you, who knows this tournament very well? »
Relaunched on this subject by The newspaperthe Quebecer struggled to put his finger on what precisely brings him Mr. Nadal, who also teaches at the tennis academy of “Rafa”, in Mallorca.
“He gave me a certain confidence, made me understand that I can reach the top of tennis, that I have the possibility of doing it if I improve on certain points, if I become a more complete player” , finally noted Auger-Aliassime.
Félix also praised the veteran’s ability to give him immediate feedback. As he did on the training ground on Friday.
“As soon as we met the first time, he said, we said to ourselves that the objective, of course, was to win tournaments, to climb the rankings, but first to progress from year to year. »
In 2021, “FAA” has already reached ninth place in the world, won a first ATP title in Rotterdam, and fought hard against the two best players in the world, Serbian Novak Djokovic and Russian Daniil Medvedev.
He brought her everything
So we can say that the plan is working. This does not surprise the nephew Nadal, now coached by Carlos Moya.
“Toni brought me everything, pointed out the fifth favorite in France. If I am a professional player, it is thanks to him above all. »
“I’m sure Toni is helping him in a positive way,” Rafael said. He has a lot of experience. He is passionate about this sport and he is intelligent. He can bring him a lot. »
Moreover, if they both go that far, Felix and “Rafa” could face each other in the round of 16 on Sunday.
That day, don’t look for Uncle Toni in a box at Philippe-Chatrier. He has already confirmed to colleagues from the Journal du dimanche that he will not be there. Toni Nadal does not mix family and work.
Félix Auger-Aliassime will play his second round match Wednesday morning, around 5 a.m. Quebec time. Leylah Fernandez and Bianca Andreescu will do the same between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m.