The presence of Toni Nadal in the coaching team of Felix Auger-Aliassime will not be a distraction in the French Open fourth round clash with 13-time champion Rafael Nadal on Sunday, the players said.
Toni Nadal masterminded nephew Rafa’s incredible career from well before he broke into the big time by winning the French Open as a teenager in 2005, steering him towards a record 21 Grand Slam victories.
The 61-year-old stepped down as Rafa’s coach in 2017 and concentrated on running the Rafa Nadal Academy in Mallorca before agreeing to work with world number nine Auger-Aliassime last year.
“From the first time we started working together we knew it was a possibility that eventually I would play Rafa when I’m working with Toni,” Canadian Auger-Aliassime said on Friday evening following the third round victory that confirmed he would play Nadal.
But fans will not be seeing Toni in Auger-Aliassime’s box during the match, with the Canadian saying he thought his coach would watch from a “neutral place and enjoy the match”.
“I don’t know how Toni feels…But I think also you have to remember…for me Rafa’s career and what he did with Toni is much bigger than the match tomorrow.”
For 13-time French Open champion Nadal the presence of his uncle at the side of another player is not a matter of concern.
“I don’t think he will be able to want me to lose but he’s a professional and he’s with another player,” Nadal said.
Nadal has cruised through the first three rounds of the tournament without dropping a single set and is the favourite to come out on top in the match.
“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,” Nadal said.
“We are family more than anything else…We are a family that stays together all the time. So he’s not only an uncle. He’s more than that.”