Can Toni Nadal win with a player other than Rafa?

A Roland Garros,

That’s the question that plagues tournament followers and beyond. Where will Toni Nadal watch the round of 16 between Rafael Nadal and Félix Auger-Aliassime? We explain. Rafa’s uncle, his historic coach until 2018, returned to service after a three-year break with the (very) great Canadian hope. Obviously, “Uncle Toni” warned. Impossible to sit in Félix’s cabin, we don’t do that with the family.

Looking like a good man as usual, the tanned specimen from the 16th arrondissement joked with journalists after practice in a crowded No. 13 court on Saturday morning. Crowded and curious to know if Toni, part-time FAA coach, would give him any advice during the session. Nothing, promised, swore, spat, replied Toni Nadal, followed as his shadow by Amazon and Netflix, which is preparing a documentary about the tennis season as it does with F1. On the other hand, he guarantees without laughing that he is looking for a place for Sunday. “Otherwise, it will be in front of the television.” Yeah, we don’t care too much about this ticket business.

You can imagine that Rafa and Felix didn’t escape a flurry of raises on the elephant in the middle of the room. The owner of the place, a little grumpy for a week, told the guy to look tired. “I wouldn’t have a problem with Toni going to his box. I know the feelings we have for each other, I know he wants the best for me and I can’t imagine he wants me to lose. The Canadian extended a little more, but it was mainly to water our fantasies: “I’m not going to ask Toni anything, I mean, we’re talking about Nadal, we already know him very well. If there was a secret to beating him, he wouldn’t have won 13 times here.”

However, Auger-Aliassime gave more depth to his thinking in English: “You also have to remember, because I know this question often comes, for me, Rafa’s career, what he did with Toni, is much bigger than tomorrow’s game. Everything he’s done before transcends tomorrow’s game. His career, everything else, my God, goes way beyond this game.

It’s just that basically, Toni Nadal’s trait is hard to define. We must remember only the most successful genius coach in history (16 Grand Slams), the one who drew the quintessence of a champion who started training at the age of three, or the guy with the good-natured look with rudimentary advice, who sometimes Do you wonder if you just had a stroke of luck when you fell on one of the greatest champions in the history of the sport without doing it on purpose?

Perhaps, in addition, we should see a reason for the return of “Uncle Toni” in the arena. Prove that he wasn’t the stowaway in the Nadals’ common destiny, this grumpy little grandpa who too easily falls into the eternal “was-better-before” trap in his newspaper columns. The countryas the last to honor Jo-Wilfried Tsonga: “His career ending, with others, makes me say that we will no longer see a certain style of tennis that is less accurate, less, perfect and less complete than the current style, but that managed to move more fans of this sport”

At the JDDBefore the tournament, Mallorca’s tournament director, who rarely says no to a corporate conference on the secrets of winning training, complained under his breath that no player on the tour dared approach him for advice. Except FAA, who came to spend a week at Rafa Nadal Academy last spring. Rafa’s academy, or his life’s work. Toni applies there with the great champions of tomorrow the method that made his nephew the legend of Roland and much more.

“We apply training systems that go in that direction, combining them with the attitudes that have made Rafa so successful throughout his professional career, such as: mobility, winning character, training and game intensity, competitive mindset and focus,” he said. . website explains. In any case, the first results are flirtatious: Casper Ruud, whose father, ex-top 15, was “seduced by the prospect of working with Toni’s vision”, reached the 8th place in the world at 23, after 3 years to make their stops in Mallorca. Jaume Munar is a little further away (87th), but anyone who saw him push Schwartzman to the limit earlier in the week knows the worm’s fighting qualities.

As for Toni Nadal’s specific role in its progression, joker. In the series Amazon dedicated to him last year, the academy’s director seemed to spend a lot of time on the field with the teens in training, giving them common-sense advice, most of the time. “Toni has a very pragmatic technical and tactical view, his thing is to simplify and clarify, his friend and former player Jordi Arrese whispered in the Spanish press in 2018. Tennis is a complicated sport and it makes it look easy. Perhaps it brings less technical solutions than others, but in the psychological field it is a phenomenon”.

However, when he joined the Auger-Aliassime team, it was first the Canadian’s poor footwork that he highlighted: “We worked a lot on my movements on the ground, on the intensity of my footwork, on my movement on the court… I need it in my playing, with all the work done. I have powerful punches naturally, but the challenge to overcome, from a young age, is to control that power, to channel it. With Toni, we managed to work on my support and make my game more precise, more robust”.

Quite imperceptible to the naked eye, but surprisingly conclusive on paper. Since the arrival of the Iberian magician to his team, the FAA has gone from the minimum to the quarter-finals of the Grand Slam. It would still be a feat to continue the series at Roland, with Toni tucked away in a corner so as not to witness the drama.

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