Toni Nadal believes that Felix Auger-Aliassime has the potential to become No. 1 in the world

On Saturday afternoon, a young man’s voice, who had barely finished speaking with Radio Canada Sports, started to scream Uncle Tony, Uncle Tony. A little boy about twelve years old quickly approached to exchange some words with the famous coach.

Toni Nadal has played his nephew’s famous game since he was four years old. He was with him in winning 14 of the 22 Grand Slam titles. Their relationship goes beyond their athletic partnership. The Nadal clan is a tightly knit family.

That’s why when Tony Nadal speaks, we listen. After a year and a half of collaborating with the Félix Auger-Aliassime team, the Spaniard has not budged: Quebec can still improve.

I think he has the potential to become world No. 1, I think, Tony Nadal explains, in French, the language he uses with Felix and his coach, Frédéric Fontang. His game has generally evolved over the past year. Before, he made mistakes we didn’t really understand, but now he’s more solid.

I feel more calm in him when it comes to playing the big points, but he still has a lot of room for improvement. Among the young people in the top ten in the world, he has the largest margin. We have to keep the game stable so we can win the big trophies. »

Quote from Tony Nadal

During training, Toni Nadal spoke briefly, but regularly with Frédéric Fontang and Felix Auger-Aliassime. Interventions are short and precise.

Felix Auger-Aliassime has been working with Tony Nadal (his successor, in white, accompanied by Frédéric Fontang) for a year and a half.

Photo: Radio Canada / Antoine Dechais

The guide does not seem to impose his knowledge. We’re more into the registry of the great sage, or Jedi for Star Wars fans.

His message to a young Quebec is no different from the message he would give to anyone, regardless of field. The most important thing is to have accurate and ambitious goals.

The common denominator that is sometimes difficult to balance.

When we called him, I first asked him what world ranking he wanted to achieve, says Nadal. We must work towards this goal. We always have to get better, and that’s the most important thing. This is what I am trying to convey to him and let him know that it is not easy.

On Saturday, Auger-Aliassime threw a practice match against Kasper Ruud, fifth in the world. On Sunday, on the eve of his first-round match, he scored an hour with Russian Aslan Karatsev.

The 38th in the world had also eliminated him in five rounds in Australia, in 2021. Either way, it wasn’t a picnic in a Quebec park.

hard work.

Tony Nadal

Photo: Radio Canada / Jean-Francois Fashion

Learn to win when things go wrong

Bringing Toni Nadal’s track record into the tennis world takes a great deal of effort. He is now the director of the Rafa Nadal Academy in Manacor, but he followed his nephew around the world until 2016.

However, the sexagenarian never finished learning.

Learning never closes, you can’t know everything, Uncle answers. All my life I’ve been open to watching what other people do. On Friday, we trained near Carlos Alcaraz. I told Felix to watch what he was doing, how he was hitting his shots, how he was hitting the ball.

It’s impossible to know everything, so Félix also has to be open and learn from everyone here. He must be willing to do so. If he knows, he’s on the right track for me. »

Quote from Tony Nadal

Of course, the young Quebec still has a lot to learn, especially from his advisor’s nephew. If, physically, at the age of 36, Nadal can no longer outdo the crowd, he will still be a formidable warrior, winner of the first two major tournaments of the season.

And it was just a tear in the abdomen that kept him away from Wimbledon on the eve of the semi-finals.

Toni and Rafael Nadal in training

Toni and Rafael Nadal in training

Photo: Getty Images / Clive Brunskill

Toni Nadal definitely doesn’t know the movie boysBut he praises with conviction the solidity of the mind of his nephew. You have to know how to navigate rough seas.

Rafael, he has an incredible thing, he has a very good mentality and is always there, his uncle explains. The difference, she told Felix, is that Rafael knows how to play when things are bad. Many new generation players only know how to play when things are going well. It’s hard to win a major tournament because things don’t go well every day. You have to be a good player when things are not going well. Rafael does it well.

Today there are many players who can win, it was not like before when it was always the same three or four. Today there are Felix, Alcaraz, Medvedev, Tsitsipas, Beretini and others. Things will never be easy. All my life I have prepared my nephew for difficulties, and when they came I believe he was always well prepared. »

Quote from Tony Nadal

Coach’s faith, Félix does a little better every day. And if the student is still far from surpassing the teacher, Tony Nadal realizes the similar qualities between Rafael and Felix.

I learned the same thing from Felix as I learned from Rafael. You can be a great player and be a normal person. I think he’s had a great education, and for me that’s one of the most important things. He is a calm person, sometimes tense on the court, but outside he is calm.

Calm and focus on the goal to be achieved. Next week will be going further at the US Open than last year.

It will mean final. And potentially against Rafael Nadal, the favorite of his share of the table.

However, there are big parts to get rid of on both sides before we get to that. For example, world number one Daniil Medvedev for Felix in the quarter-finals. And Spanish guardian Carlos Alcaraz instead of Nadal in the semi-finals.

But as Uncle Tony says so well, you have to be prepared to overcome difficulties.

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