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Thursday, April 22, 2021

New “ challenge ” from Toni Nadal: Coaching Felix Auger-Aliassime

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Toni Nadal is back on the UKTN with Felix Auger-Aliassime. No.22 in the FedEx ATP rankings, his trainer Frédéric Fontang and Toni himself made the announcement during a Zoom conversation on Thursday with journalists. “We are calling you to tell you that I will work with Toni Nadal, from this tournament [Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters]», Revealed the Canadian before answering a few questions.

“We had the chance to work with him and Fred as well, and the rest of my team in Mallorca in December. But officially, we are starting our relationship and our partnership. So far, things are going very well, ”added Auger-Aliassime, who will play his first clay match of the year in Monte-Carlo.

UKTN.com met with Nadal and Auger-Aliassime ahead of Monte-Carlo to discuss their new partnership and expectations – as well as what would happen if the Canadian takes on Rafael Nadal.

Why did you decide to add Toni Nadal to your team?
Felix Auger-Aliassime: At the end of last year I sat down with Fred, the rest of my team, my parents… I thought it would be nice to go to someone who has been at the top of our sport. . Someone who’s been where I want to go one day. We approached Toni with the option of coming to Mallorca to meet him, train and chat, so we did.

And what convinced you to take on the challenge of coaching Felix?
Toni Nadal: I had already spoken to him quite a while ago and he left a good impression on me. Also through my nephew, everyone has always had great things to say about him. When the idea of ​​working together came to me, I told him to come to the Academy in 10 days so that we could get to know each other and see if what I had to say would be useful.

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And you have decided to try it …
Nadal: I’m still the director of Rafa Nadal Academy by Movistar, and of course I worked with my nephew – I’m his uncle and I hadn’t considered being with another player. Knowing that I have the chance as director of the Academy to work with a player with enormous potential is a challenge for me and, in particular, it gives me satisfaction. It’s a challenge for everyone.

How were the first days of coaching?
Auger-Aliassime: From the first practice, the work was great. The first thing is respect, honesty and trust. For me, [those] are very important values ​​that Toni tries to put on the table. It matches and works with which I believe. For me, these are simple things, but simple things that are not always easy to do. But are very important.

The consistency of my work, the precision of my work, the intensity that I will put in and if I can repeat this at a very high level, I believe that good things can happen. Big words that Toni has said to me since the first time we were with him and with Fred and I think that brings me big things. I really love him as a person so that’s a good thing.

What was the most notable thing for you?
Nadal: I couldn’t work with someone who was not respectful, who had no value, because I had the chance to work all my life with a boy who was always respectful and who was deserved a good reputation. I aspire to this. I was delighted when they came up with the idea. Let’s not beat around the bush, he’s a kid who should theoretically be among the best in the world for years to come. It’s always nice to work with someone like that.

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How are you going to work together?
Auger-Aliassime: Toni will be at major tournaments, Grand Slams and a few other big tournaments on the calendar. He gives advice, experience, but just works day by day to become a better player. It’s not like there’s some secret tool or one-size-fits-all recipe where you click your fingers and things work. But we’re at the start of working together and building something solid and neat to be a better player overall. I think that’s what I want to do to reach the highest levels in tennis.

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Do you remember the first time you saw Felix play?
Nadal: When I saw him play for the first time, we said to Rafael “this kid is going to be very good”. And I think he should aspire to it. He left me with the feeling that he was a great player. I saw him in a Challenger event against Jaume Munar, a player from our Academy, and I was like, “What a player! He was 16, but you could already tell he would be one of the best in the world. Now he has to work to confirm it and become it.

The competition is tough.
Nadal: Right now we are in an era of tennis with very good players. Felix will have to compete in the years to come with players like [Daniil] Medvedev, [Alexander] Zverev, [Dominic] Thiem, [Stefanos] Tsitsipas and other players who arrive as [Jannik] Sinner and I guess [Carlos] Alcaraz too. The competition will be tough, but I believe he will be there.

The situation you describe is similar to what Rafael experienced at the beginning.
Yes, it was a difficult panorama with a lot of young quality players such as [Roger] Federer, [Andy] Roddick, [Lleyton] Hewitt, [Guillermo] Coria, [David] Nalbandian, [Juan Carlos] Ferrero, [Marat] Safin… They were all young and it seemed like it would be very difficult to be at the top. We knew we had to prepare to compete with players like that. I think Felix should do the same.

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Having won practically everything as Rafael’s coach, why did you decide to come back to the Tour?
Nadal: I have always loved tennis. I am motivated by the process of trying to improve at what you love, and I am motivated knowing that I am working with a great person, with a player with great potential. Here is the challenge. I am personally and professionally delighted to be able to work with a person like him and with a team as large as his.

What will happen when Felix faces Rafael?
Nadal: I am Rafael Nadal’s uncle and director of his academy. But, above all, I have a special affection for my nephew. If he has to lose to someone, let it be Felix. Forgetting that I am his uncle, I have been linked to him for many years and the day they do end up playing I will not be in either box out of respect for both of them.

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I am very interested in Felix doing the best he can and I hope that in the future he can be world No.1. I do not doubt. At the moment he needs to improve and I am still Rafael’s uncle.

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