Toni Nadal explains how Felix Auger-Aliassime has upped his game to beat the best

Felix Auger-Aliassime celebrates Credit: Alamy
Felix Auger-Aliassime celebrates Credit: Alamy

Felix Auger-Aliassime is enjoying his best-ever season on the ATP Tour and his mentor Toni Nadal believes it is down to the Canadian’s desire to improve.

The 22-year-old started the 2022 campaign with no singles titles to his name as he lost eight finals in row with the first coming in February 2019 and the last in June 2021.

However, he finally broke his duck in February when he beat Stefanos Tsitsipas in the Rotterdam Open final before losing a ninth final at the Open 13 in Marseille.

But he has since enjoyed a magical run as he helped Team World to win their first-ever Laver Cup, defeating Novak Djokovic en route, and followed it up with three consecutive titles – Firenze Open, European Open and Swiss Indoors – in October.

At the Swiss Indoors he beat world No 1 Carlos Alcaraz – his second victory over the Spaniard in the space of a few weeks as he also got the better of him at the Davis Cup Finals playoffs in September – and the other in-form player on the Tour, Holger Rune.

Nadal, the uncle and former coach of 22-time Grand Slam winner Rafael, started working with Auger-Aliassime last year and he has highlighted the reason for the improvement.

“He has gained peace of mind and has more control of the ball,” the Spaniard is quoted as saying on the official ATP Tour website. “Before, he had very good shots, but his tennis was slightly out of control. He was capable of playing well, he hit great shots, but now it’s stabilised.

“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.”

The Canadian currently sits at a career-high No 6 in the ATP Rankings and Nadal believes one of the reasons for his rise is his improved backhand.

“We have a good relationship,” he explained. “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 afterwards 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, [Holger] Rune.”

Auger-Aliassime, of course, still has plenty of room for improvement and Uncle Toni says he can take a leaf out of the books of tennis greats Nadal and Djokovic.

“It’s not a question of dedication — it’s a question of the desire to improve,” he said. “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 the 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 [Jannik] 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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