Rafael Nadal’s uncle and former coach, Toni Nadal, will return as a coach to the ATP Tour after more than three years. This time, the senior Nadal will take over the coaching duties for World No. 22 Felix Auger-Aliassime.
Toni Nadal spoke with Marca about his new stint, revealing that would continue as the director of Rafael Nadal's academy in Manacor. Toni also claimed that if Auger-Aliassime ever faces his nephew on tour, he would not be present in either player’s box out of respect for both parties.
"If we have to play with Rafa, I will not be on either of the two benches out of respect for both players," Toni Nadal said. "And because I am still the director of the Academy, I continue to work for him and I am Rafael's uncle."
Rafael Nadal and Felix Auger-Aliassime could theoretically cross paths as early as the upcoming Monte Carlo Masters, where they are both entered in the draw.
Despite taking over as the coach of one of Rafael Nadal's competitors, Toni Nadal still holds a 'special affection' towards his nephew. The 60-year-old also claimed that the 20-year-old Auger-Aliassime has it in him to become World No. 1 some day.
"I have a special affection as normal for my nephew," Toni Nadal continued. "I am still Rafael's uncle, I have been linked with him for many years. I hope that in the future Felix will be number one in the world. For now, he has to improve."
Uncle Toni served as Rafael Nadal’s head coach from 1990 to 2017, guiding the 34-year-old to 75 singles titles - including 16 Majors.
Toni Nadal parted ways with Rafael Nadal after the 2017 season came to an end. Back then, Toni had attributed the split to the fact that he was no longer involved in the 34-year-old’s decision-making.
Since then, Toni Nadal has spent his time nurturing young players at his nephew’s academy in Spain. And Felix Auger-Aliassime has visited the Rafa Nadal Academy very often in recent months, training under the watchful eyes of Toni.
It has now come to light that Toni was monitoring Auger-Aliassime's game and personality before making a decision on the coaching role offered to him by the 20-year-old.
"When I received the offer from him, I told him to come to the Academy for 10 days to see if what I could serve him or not," Rafael Nadal’s uncle said. "I did not consider the possibility of training another player. Know that, as director of the Academy, I can collaborate with a player who has the highest aspirations is a challenge that particularly satisfies me."
Felix is a boy who theoretically has what it takes to be among the best in the world: Rafael Nadal’s uncle Toni
Toni Nadal stressed that he would never take up a coaching role if the player didn't display positive traits and values, like Rafael Nadal had during all his years. Toni believes that Felix Auger-Aliassime does have similar qualities, and could therefore go very far in his career.
"I could not work with a person who was not respectful and had values," Toni Nadal said. "I have been fortunate to work my whole life with a boy who has been respectful and has given a good image and aspired to the same thing. Felix is a boy who theoretically he has to be among the best in the world in the coming years."