Rafael Nadal’s uncle supporting rival star ahead of Spaniard’s injury comeback

One of Rafael Nadal’s rivals has confirmed that the Spaniard’s uncle Toni will still be supporting him next season as the 22-time Major champion prepares to make his comeback. Felix Auger-Aliassime has been working with Toni for almost three years and their partnership will continue into 2024 when the Mallorcan coach will travel with the 23-year-old more often. The news comes as Nadal is preparing to return from a year on the sidelines.

Toni Nadal has been in Auger-Aliassime’s corner since 2021, when they linked up ahead of the clay season. But this year has been a turbulent one for the Canadian, whose ranking dropped from No 6 in the world to No 29. Auger-Aliassime battled with a knee injury and struggled to string wins together, leaving many questioning whether he was still working with Nadal’s uncle, who scarcely appeared in his box.

But the five-time title winner has now confirmed that Toni is still part of the team alongside his main coach Frederic Fontang. Auger-Aliassime told Eurosport: “The year 2023 was complicated compared to injuries and uncertainty. In September for example, I was training in Montreal and I wasn’t sure I would finish the season.

“It was difficult to commit to Toni to come to certain tournaments. So he didn’t accompany me for a certain period. But we continue and we will even do again what we did in 2021 and 2022.” The 62-year-old is now set to travel with the world No 29 more frequently, something that could cause trouble for Nadal – who is returning from injury at the Brisbane International.

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Auger-Aliassime added: “The objective is for his presence to be more recurring, for him to come a little more often. With Frederic, everything continues well. At this moment, I love how my team works.” There have already been awkward incidents when the 23-year-old faced Nadal on the match court in the past.

And it could be even worse in 2024, with the Spaniard admitting that it would likely be his final year on the tour. If Nadal runs into the world No 29 on his retirement tour, his uncle could be left to choose between his player and his family. The same happened at the 2022 French Open when Auger-Aliassime faced Nadal in the fourth round.

Ahead of the match, Toni admitted that he wouldn’t be giving the Canadian any specific tips on how to beat his nephew. He refused to sit in either player’s box and was front row in the stands for their showdown instead. However, he left as the match went to a decisive final set.

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Nadal went on to win and his uncle later told French TV: “Felix is Felix, but my nephew is my nephew. I wanted him to win.” The difficult encounter was covered in Netflix’s Break Point documentary, which showed that the former world No 1 had a blunt comment for Toni ahead of the match.

Ahead of his meeting with Auger-Aliassime, the pair cross paths in the locker rooms as Toni asks: “Hey, how are you doing?” But the 22-time Major winner fired back: “Felix is in the other corner. Are you allowed to be on this side?”

When Nadal and Auger-Aliassime met again at the end of 2022 during the ATP Finals group stage, Toni decided to back his player and sat in the Canadian’s box to witness his 6-3 6-4 victory. As the 62-year-old continues his partnership with the world No 29, he will likely be hoping that he doesn’t find himself in a tricky situation where Auger-Aliassime could retire Nadal from the sport altogether.

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