04:00 PM GMT May 02, 2021
In an excerpt from Eurosport’s Players’ Voice series, Felix Auger-Aliassime discusses working with Toni Nadal, Rafael Nadal’s uncle. The #NextGenATP Canadian reveals how their relationship came together, how much respect he has for “Uncle Toni” and more.
I feel super privileged and lucky to have Toni in my team. Throughout my whole childhood I remember him by the side of his nephew, Rafa. He’s been around for a long time and has won everything the sport has to give as a coach so it’s extremely motivating to have him by my side. I think he’s a person I can learn a lot from, both as a person and as a coach.
Growing up, I remember seeing a lot of him on TV when I was watching Rafa’s matches and he just struck me as this very devoted and passionate coach. Of course he was his uncle, but ultimately he's a coach that was willing to go above and beyond for his player - he seemed to have this vision for Rafa’s career and gave him everything he needed.
The first time we both met was actually at Monte-Carlo two years ago. Each year there’s a players’ party and I was rehearsing for my part, which was a piano performance. He came into the room, saw me and stopped to say that he’d seen me play in Indian Wells and that he liked my attitude and my game.
His words kind of stayed with me and it got me thinking about how great it would be to have somebody like him on my team; somebody who had a different, fresh view to potentially see things that we may be missing.
So at the end of last year when I was back home in Canada, we approached him to see if it could be a possibility. He agreed to talk to us and suggested a trial at the Rafa Nadal Academy in Mallorca, so we headed out there for two weeks and everything just seemed to work really well. After that, I started my season and we kept in touch before announcing the partnership not long after.
From the feedback I’ve had, I think everyone thinks it’s only a good thing; my coach Frederic, the rest of the team, my family, and other coaches and players on the tour. Will it give me an advantage? We will see, but I think in the end, what happens on the court is most important and I still have to do the work - it’s not like having Toni automatically improves my performances or my ranking right away.
It’s very early days, but so far we’ve been talking a lot about where we see my career heading, which is essentially to reach the highest levels and win the biggest tournaments.