Nadal Addresses The 'Uncle Toni' Question
Spaniard to face Auger-Aliassime on Sunday
Will this weekend pose any awkward family dinners in Paris for Rafael Nadal?
By defeating Botic van de Zandschulp on Friday at Roland Garros, Nadal locked in a fourth-round showdown with Felix Auger-Aliassime. The Canadian is coached by Nadal’s uncle, Toni Nadal, in addition to Frederic Fontang. "Uncle Toni" coached his nephew Nadal from childhood and was a part of his team until stepping away in 2017.
This raised the inevitable questions of whether Toni will sit in Auger-Aliassime’s box during the match and how much tactical advice he’ll give the Canadian to aid in defeating his nephew. But for the 13-time Roland Garros champion, he sees a situation that some might construe to be personal as strictly business and said it won’t impact anything.
"I already talked with Toni after my match,” said Nadal. "For me, it's very simple. He's my uncle. I don't think he will be able to want me to lose, without a doubt, but he's a professional and he's with another player. I don't know what's going to happen, if he's going to stay in the box or not, but I don't care. I have zero problem with that. It's not a story at all for me.
"I know the feelings that we have between each other. I know he wants the best for me. Now he's helping another player. But honestly, for me, it's zero problem, and I know he wants the best for me.”
Toni began working with Auger-Aliassime last year in Monte Carlo and the Canadian has gone on to reach new heights in his career. The 21-year-old sits at a career-high Pepperstone ATP Ranking of No. 9 after results including his maiden ATP Tour title this February in Rotterdam (d. Zverev) and a semi-final finish last year at the US Open.
”He's one of the players in better shape on Tour, without a doubt. He’s a Top 10 player,” said Nadal. It's a Round of 16 [match]. I know I have to play at a very high level to have chances to keep going. It’s going to be a good test. In some ways, that's what I need."
Nadal has yet to be sternly tested this fortnight, cruising into the second week without dropping a set. He raised his level considerably against Van de Zandschulp, cracking 25 winners to 13 errors and breaking the Dutchman six times. It’s a level he seeks to maintain as he could only face Top 10 players if he continues advancing through the draw, including a possible quarter-final showdown with top seed and defending champion Novak Djokovic.
”I was able to play my best match of the tournament so far, without any doubt,” said Nadal. “That's very good news for me going on court tomorrow [for] my practice session, knowing that today I was able to raise my level a lot. Tomorrow is the moment to confirm that in practice and keep working on specific things.”