Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic were used by Toni Nadal to turn Felix Auger-Aliassime into a winning machine. After an unsatisfying early exit at the US Open, the Canadian won three titles in three weeks last month. And Toni has revealed the strategy he used to aid Auger-Aliassime in changing his season-ending fortunes.
After qualifying at the most recent Paris Masters, Auger-Aliassime will play in his first ATP Finals match this week. Having won 16 consecutive games, including championships in Florence, before his winning streak was finally over in the Paris semifinal, he also won in Antwerp and Basel.
The 22-year-old is one of the most in-form athletes at the year-end championships, despite losing to Casper Ruud in his Turin debut match. And his training with Toni Nadal looks to have given him a fresh outlook on victory. Auger-Aliassime teamed up with his uncle, the former trainer of the No. 2 player in the world, last year.
And has since witnessed the Canadian make his top 10 debuts, winning four titles, With help of a talk the two had regarding Djokovic and Nadal, Toni has now provided the key to world No. 6’s great season’s end.
He lost, but he didn’t play terribly – Toni
“He has gained peace of mind and has more control of the ball,” According to the 61-year-old, ATP. “Before, he had very good shots, but his tennis was slightly out of control. He was capable of playing well, and he hit great shots, but now it’s stabilized. Sunday, for example, he lost, but he didn’t play terribly. This is what all the world’s best players do. His level has increased.”
Toni had given up coaching following his final season with Nadal in 2017 but returned to the tour to work with Auger-Aliassime last year and opened up on their relationship as he explained the difference in the 22-year-old since his second-round US Open loss to Jack Draper. “We have a good relationship,”
“I’m not with him all the time; I’m a consultant and I give my opinion. I like things to be clear cut and I’m used to saying things straight. He’s a very good person, very polite. In Barcelona, he played pretty badly and I spoke to him right afterward and when he’d finished he thanked me.
“In New York, I told him that he can’t hope to be a Top 5 player with that backhand because it failed him too often and that he had to improve it. Since then, he has had some very good months, beating Alcaraz, Djokovic, and Rune.”
And Toni has been looking to his own nephew as well as Nadal’s biggest rival Djokovic when mentoring the four-time title winner, adding:
“It’s not a question of dedication — it’s a question of the desire to improve. The main thing is wanting to change what you’re doing wrong. “I spoke to him and asked him: ‘What’s the difference between Nadal and Djokovic [and the rest]?’ They win when they play badly. That’s a big difference. Things don’t always go well.
“You have to be alert when they’re not doing well. Djokovic was losing [by two sets] to Sinner at Wimbledon. I told my children that he wasn’t out yet. You know that he will hang in there until the end if there is the slightest chance. Sometimes, the rest don’t have that.”
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