It may sound like a satirical headline, but Rafael Nadal’s uncle, Toni Nadal, has decided to join Felix Auger-Aliassime’s team and coach the young Canadian on the professional tennis circuit.
Once the most successful tennis coach in history in terms of won Grand Slam titles (was since surpassed by Marian Vajda), Toni Nadal coached his nephew to 16 Major trophies before deciding to leave his team in late February 2017. The reasons for his departure were a little unclear, but Toni Nadal decided to shift his attention to working in the Rafa Nadal Academy in Manacor and help develop young talents there.
It was announced Thursday that Nadal will be back to coaching on the ATP Tour. Starting from the Masters 1000 event in Monte Carlo, he’ll join Frederic Fontang in the team of current World No. 22 Felix Auger-Aliassime. The Canadian prospect first made headlines for being the first player born in the 2000s to earn ATP points and the youngest player ever to qualify for an ATP Challenger Tour event (Drummondville 2015). He’s been deemed as one of the game’s future greats ever since and despite being just 20, he already reached a total of seven finals on the ATP Tour.
Despite losing all seven, it is still an extremely respectable achievement at this stage of his career. Auger-Aliassime is also yet to make a huge impact on the Grand Slam stage, reaching the fourth round just once (US Open 2020). Nadal and Auger-Aliassime worked with each other at the Rafa Nadal Academy in the off-season but are officially starting their partnership at the Monte Carlo Rolex Masters.
How can Nadal help Auger-Aliassime fulfill his goals as a tennis player? That remains to be seen, but it surely is one of the most surprising coaching decisions made in recent years. Nadal is known for giving his pupils a hard time as that makes them stronger as people and better as competitors. His nephew stated in the past that he would sometimes come home crying from lessons with his uncle or that he used to be terrified of him. This will probably be a really different relationship, as the two are not related and Auger-Aliassime is in a much more advanced stage of development as a tennis player.
Main Photo from Getty.