One of the biggest pieces of news leading into the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters was the partnership between Felix Auger-Aliassime and Toni Nadal, Rafael Nadal’s uncle and former longtime coach, who has joined the Canadian’s team. The question is, how does Rafa feel about it?
“I am happy for him. At the same time, happy [for the] academy [to] have somebody [working] with such a great player like Felix. [That] is a positive thing,” Nadal said. “Toni has a lot of experience. He knows a lot about this sport. He has all the knowledge that somebody needs. I am sure that [is] going to be an important help for Felix.”
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Uncle Toni will not be travelling with Auger-Aliassime full-time. He is still the director of the Rafa Nadal Academy by Movistar. His nephew is entirely supportive of the new collaboration.
“I don’t have any problem. I always said the same: I want the best for Toni,” Nadal said. “He’s my uncle. I am very grateful for all the things that he did for me. I am happy that he’s on the Tour a couple of weeks.
“At the same time I am happy for Felix. It’s going to be a good support, [to] have a great coach like Toni next to him. Happy for me, too. I am happy to see my uncle here, spend time with him here on the Tour again.”
World No. 1 Novak Djokovic believes Uncle Toni was “probably looking for a new challenge”, and the Serbian was not surprised by the move.
“I know Felix has spent quite a bit of time in the past couple years at Rafa’s academy training and getting advice and mentorship from Toni when he was there,” Djokovic said. “Toni probably was excited to explore a new project, a new adventure on the Tour with one of the best young tennis players in the world at the moment.
“Felix is a great guy. He’s someone that has hard-working ethics, which is something that is very important for Toni. I wish them all the best. It’s nice to see Toni on the Tour. Obviously he’s had his mark with Rafa for so many years. I feel like he can only bring positives to Felix’s game and mindset.”
Stefanos Tsitsipas, the 2019 Nitto ATP Finals champion, added that the combo was “really unexpected”. But like his colleagues, the Greek believes it will yield benefits for Auger-Aliassime.
“Didn’t see that coming. It’s pretty cool having a coach that has helped Rafael Nadal win so many important titles and has shaped his career in a way. It’s really good for him,” Tsitsipas said. “I feel like he has an advantage having a coach like this. But he’s not going to do the playing for him. [Toni] might give him a few tips and good advice. It’s all going to go out on the court at the end.”