Rotterdam: a unique visit with Rafael Nadal for Félix Auger-Aliassime

Rotterdam: a unique visit with Rafael Nadal for Félix Auger-Aliassime< /p> UPDATE DAY

ROTTERDAM | Having landed at the Rafael Nadal Academy in early February to fine-tune his preparation for his return to action in Rotterdam, Félix Auger- Aliassime was given a guided tour of the premises by the owner himself.

Back home to treat his injuries and absent from the circuit, Nadal was able to spend time with the Auger-Aliassime team which notably includes his special adviser Toni Nadal, the uncle of the clay-court ogre and his coach for a long time.

“I had already made a complete visit, but there have been several renovations and it is beautiful to see the evolution, said the eighth racket in the ATP ranking, who was also accompanied by a few more relatives. members of his sports team. 

“During the visit to the museum, Rafael told me about the meaning of certain trophies and stories related to certain tournaments. It's always interesting to talk to him. »

Since becoming one of the best players on the planet and the anthology match he delivered last year against Nadal at Roland-Garros by becoming only the third player to push him in five sets in his favorite tournament, Auger-Aliassime feels that his relationship with the Spanish star has evolved.


“Rafa has always been very correct, kind and humble with me, but our relationship has changed a bit since I confirmed my place among the best. He respects the player that I am and that I can become. We have always had good discussions and I appreciate every opportunity to speak with him, as well as with Roger Federer, Andy Murray and Novac Djokovic. I try to learn a bit about some of the experiences they have had and how they view tennis. »

While the social aspect was greatly appreciated, Auger-Aliassime went above all to the island of Mallorca to polish his game under the watchful eye of Toni Nadal. 

< p>“It was the first time I worked with Toni at the Academy,” he said. He usually comes to Monaco or to certain tournaments. We were able to spend some time there, and it was a very good week. I got what I was looking for.

Outside view

The Quebecer immortalized his visit to the famous establishment in the company of the Spaniard.

What were Auger-Aliassime's objectives behind this trip of a few days? “In tournaments, we have little time to practice, and the dynamic is different. At the Academy, we took the time to chat during training. You could spend three to four hours a day in the field. »

Auger-Aliassime likes to take advantage of the occasion of a person outside his daily entourage to evaluate his game.

“It's good to benefit from Toni's experience, but I also like to get an opinion from someone with an outside eye. Frédéric [Fontang] plans and ensures continuity, but he is less aware of the differences in my game because he is used to seeing me every day. »

« As for Toni, he sees me on television and he is present at a few tournaments, but the gap of a few months allows him to see the evolution of my game. we worked last time and adjustments I made. His different speech allows me and Fred to challenge us. »

The coach appreciates

Fontang also appreciated this jump to the Nadal Academy. 

“It had been almost two years since we had been there and the timing was right,” he said. mention. It helps to bet on Toni's outside eye. After the Australian Open, we were able to work on our game and physical appearance. It is always important that there are cuts and Félix found the match phase when we arrived in Rotterdam by facing very good partners in training. »

FAA begins the defense of its championship title with force

Félix Auger-Aliassime in action during his first round match at the Rotterdam tournament against the Italian Lorenzo Sonego.

Félix Auger-Aliassime started his ABN Amro Open title defense on Tuesday on the right foot by easily beating Italy's Lorenzo Sonego 6-2, 6-3.

Unlike last year when he lost the first set of his opening match against Egor Gerasimov, Auger-Aliassime was never worried. He held serve the entire game and only had to save two break points in the first game of the second set as he trailed 15-40.

“ My last victory was a few weeks ago at the Australian Open and it's positive to win my first match in straight sets, said the 8th racket in the world. I'm happy with my game against a player who can be annoying and who is competitive. »

“It's very good to win this way and it starts the week well, to pursue Auger-Aliassime, who topped the ATP Tour last year with 31 indoor wins. 

“I am completely satisfied because a first match can always be dangerous. It's not a pressure to be the defending champion, but more motivation to want to win again. »

Solid on serve and return

Auger-Aliassime wasn't bothered by his opponent's powerful serve, which got rid of his friend Denis Shapovalov in the Davis Cup semi-final last November in Malaga.

“Against Denis, he had scored around twenty aces and I'm glad I didn't experience the same thing. If he had served the same way as in the Davis Cup, it would have been more complicated. He served with power, but he was not precise enough. I dare to imagine that the quality of my feedback made the difference,” he presumed.

Author of 13 aces against only one for the Italian and a success percentage of 67% on his first ball, Auger-Aliassime mixed his services well to annoy his opponent.

“I very well served and I was very precise, he explained. I varied my targets well and I felt that he no longer knew what to expect. It happened on the first shots [service and return] when I left, but I also took the lead in the exchanges afterwards. »

Heavy hitter

While he was unable to worry Auger-Aliassime, Sonego had nabbed two players in the Top 10 in recent years. 

As lucky- loser, he had notably beaten Novak Djokovic in the quarter-finals in Vienna in 2020 while the Serb was in first place and had defeated Hubert Hurkacz in the semi-finals in Metz in 2022 en route to his third career title at the when the Pole found himself in 10th place.

Alongside the greats

By virtue of his title last year, Félix Auger-Aliassime is entitled to his banner in the heights of Rotterdam Ahoy as well as a photo on the number one field .

“It's special to see my banner with those of Roger Federer and Andy Murray, in particular, underlined Auger-Aliassime. It is a tournament with a rich history. »

On Monday after training with FAA on court number 1, Denmark's Holger Rune wrote jokingly on his twitter feed. “Now is not the time to miss a volley when Roger Federer is watching. In the photo accompanying the message, we saw Rune in action with the photo of his idol in the background.

Triumphant return

Absent from Rotterdam for several years, Roger Federer made a comeback in 2018 a few weeks after winning the Australian Open. 

A good performance would allow him to climb to the top of the ATP rankings, a first in five years, which convinced him to return to the Netherlands. He didn't do things by halves in winning the most crowd-pleasing tournament in its history.

“As tournament director, this is my greatest moment,” said Richard Krajicek who took over the reins of the event in 2004.

Former winners

In the history of the Rotterdam tournament, which celebrates its 50th anniversary, several big names in tennis got their hands on the title. Roger Federer is one of them. The Swiss won in 2005, 2012 and 2018. He is the only one to claim three titles.

Jimmy Connors (1978 and 1981), Arthur Ashe (1975 and 1976), Gaël Monfils (2019 and 2020) as well as event general manager Richard Krajicek (1995 and 1997) have all taken top honors on two occasions.

Other best-known winners include we find Andy Murray in 2009 and Bjorn Borg in 1979.