By Richard Pagliaro
Felix Auger-Aliassime begins his alliance with Toni Nadal with a clear 2021 end game.
The 20-year-old Canadian says he’s aiming to earn a spot among the elite eight for the season-ending ATP Finals, which will debut in Turin, Italy in November.
Toni Nadal joins Frederic Fontang on Auger-Aliassime’s coaching team. Uncle Toni won’t travel full-time as he retains his role as director of the Rafa Nadal Academy in his native Mallorca, but that hasn’t stopped Auger-Aliassime from setting an ambitious goal for the partnership.
“I want to keep going, making progress,” Auger-Aliassime told the media in Monte-Carlo. “I’m top 20. I’ve been that for a bit more than a year, because of the COVID. I’m at a good level. Sometimes I feel like I’m playing well. Sometimes I don’t play that well. But I want to keep improving. I want results.
“It’s one thing to feel I’m playing good, but the other thing is to have results, improve my ranking, be part of the Masters at the end of the year. This is the breakthrough I want to make. We’ll see if I’m able to do it.”
In his first match with Toni Nadal in his coaching corner today, Auger-Aliassime squandered a 5-2 lead and four set points—two at 5-2 and a pair at 6-5—bowing to 16th-seeded Cristian Garin 7-6(3), 6-1.
The match showed spurts of the world No. 21’s tremendous all-court ability and clear areas where Toni Nadal can help craft improvement.
Auger-Aliassime’s forehand backswing can get a bit too elaborate—he scattered more than 20 forehand errors in the opening se today, including a few on set points—he’ll need to improve both his shot selection and shot tolerance on slower surfaces and of course learn to elevate his game against the elite. Auger-Aliassime is just 2-14 lifetime vs. Top 10 opponents and he’s a career .500 player on clay sporting a 16-16 record.
Remember though he’s only 20 years old, has a reputation as a hard worker and hopes more repetition on red clay at the Rafa Nadal Academy with Toni Nadal will help unleash his upside. The prospect of the partnership initially surfaced last December.
“In the last month of last year I was starting to think that there might be a possibility for me in the future to work with someone with a lot of experience at the highest level,” Auger-Aliassime said. “We were lucky to be able to make contact with Toni.
“I’m very lucky to be able to learn from him and benefit from his experience and work with him. Of course, there’s a lot of work to do, but it’s a good association and I’m very happy.”
Photo credit: Felix Auger-Aliassime Instagram