Nitto ATP Finals

Why Uncle Toni Will Sit In Felix's Box For Rafa Match

The Mallorcan coach gives his take on Tuesday's Turin showdown
November 15, 2022
Felix Auger-Aliassime meets Rafael Nadal for the third time on Tuesday in Turin.
Corinne Dubreuil/ATP Tour
Felix Auger-Aliassime meets Rafael Nadal for the third time on Tuesday in Turin. By ATP Staff

It will be the second time Felix Auger-Aliassime squares off against Rafael Nadal with Toni Nadal as the Canadian’s coach. The first occasion came earlier this season in the Roland Garros fourth round, when the Spaniard came out on top after five intense sets. The second will take place on Tuesday at the Nitto ATP Finals in Turin, with both players seeking their first win after disappointing starts.

Unlike at the clay-court Grand Slam, where he decided to watch the match from the stands in neutral territory, Toni will sit alongside Auger-Aliassime’s team in the Pala Alpitour.

“I’ll be watching from Felix’s box,” acknowledged Nadal’s uncle on Monday in Turin. “It’s different to Roland Garros. There, it was the first time they’d met and... there’s something extra [in Paris]. Here, really, there’s no problem. I won’t celebrate the points and I’m not going to say who I want to win, but it won’t be a tragedy whichever one does.”


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Nadal has a 2-0 lead in his ATP Head2Head series with Auger-Aliassime, but the Canadian has enjoyed a spectacular close to the season, claiming the titles in Florence, Antwerp and Basel.

“He has gained peace of mind and has more control of the ball,” explained the Mallorcan coach. “Before, he had very good shots, but his tennis was slightly out of control. He was capable of playing well, he hit great shots, but now it’s stabilised. Yesterday, for example, he lost, but he didn’t play terribly. This is what all the world’s best players do. His level has increased.”

As well as being a quality player, which has taken him to a career-high of No. 6 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, Felix is also very good at listening to the advice of his team and executing it.

“We have a good relationship,” explained Nadal. “I’m not with him all the time; I’m a consultant and I give my opinion. I like things to be clear cut and I’m used to saying things straight. 

He’s a very good person, very polite. In Barcelona, he played pretty badly and I spoke to him right afterwards and when he’d finished he thanked me. In New York I told him that he can’t hope to be a Top 5 player with that backhand because it failed him too often, and that he had to improve it. Since then, he has had some very good months, beating Alcaraz, Djokovic, Rune.”

Now, according to the coach, it will be the Canadian’s desire to improve that will set him apart on Tour.

"It’s not a question of dedication — it’s a question of the desire to improve,” noted Toni. “The main thing is wanting to change what you’re doing wrong. 

“I spoke to him and asked him: ‘What’s the difference between Nadal and Djokovic [and the rest]?’ They win when they play badly. That’s the big difference. Things don’t always go well,” he continued. 

“You have to be alert when they’re not doing well. Djokovic was losing [by two sets] to Sinner at Wimbledon. I told my children that he wasn’t out yet. You know that he will hang in there until the end if there is the slightest chance. Sometimes, the rest don’t have that.”

Nadal and Auger-Aliassime will play each other on Tuesday in the first singles match of the day in the Green Group, with Ruud and Fritz closing the day’s play in the night session.

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