Rafael Nadal ‘doesn’t care’ if he plays against uncle Toni in Felix Auger-Aliassime clash
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Rafael Nadal has admitted he “doesn’t care” if his former coach and uncle Toni sits in new charge Felix Auger-Aliassime’s box when the pair face off in the French Open fourth round. It will be a second meeting between the world No 5 and the 21-year-old but the first since Auger-Aliassime started working with Nadal’s uncle.
Nadal and Auger-Aliassime have set up a popcorn round-of-16 clash, which will also be a battle of the Nadal family as nephew takes on uncle, with Nadal’s uncle and former coach now mentoring the Canadian. While the ninth seed has already confirmed his coach will be watching from a “neutral place”, Nadal has admitted he wouldn’t care if he saw Toni in his opponent’s box.
The 13-time French Open had already spoken with his uncle following his and Auger-Aliassime’s respective third round victories on Friday but shut down any idea that the match would be awkward. “No, I already talked with Toni after my match. I know you are going to ask, or you guys, gonna ask the question, but for me it’s very simple. He’s my uncle. I don’t think he will be able to want me to lose, without a doubt, but he’s a professional and he’s with another player,” he said.
While the 35-year-old didn’t know what his uncle Toni was planning to do for the match, he said he “didn’t care” and would compete as normal, continuing: “I don’t know what’s gonna happen, if he’s gonna stay in the box or not, but I don’t care. I have zero problem with that. So it’s not a story at all for me. I know what’s the feelings that we have between each other. I know he wants the best for me. Now he’s helping another player. But honestly, for me, it’s zero problem, and I know he wants the best for me.”
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The 21-time Grand Slam champion was also asked whether he and Toni had a conversation about his new coaching partnership with Auger-Aliassime when the two joined forces 13 months ago. “No, he really don’t need to ask me anything. He’s old enough to make his own decisions,” Nadal smiled.
“For me, I can’t thank enough all the things that he did for me during so many years. I don’t have any problem with any position that he’s making. I want the best for him, and he wants the best for me.
“We are family more than anything else. Not only family, we are a family that we stay together all the time. We are in the same village. We spend time in the academy together. We lived incredible emotions together. So he’s not only an uncle. He’s more than that.”
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And the fifth seed was also complimentary of his uncle’s new protege and his upcoming opponent, calling him “one of the players in better shape on the tour, without a doubt.”
“He’s the fourth in the race, that tops myself, and he’s a top 10 player in the ranking,” Nadal said. “It’s a round of 16. I know I have to play at a very high level to have chances to keep going. Gonna be a good test. In some way, that’s what I need.”
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