PARIS | To become great, you have to face the greatest. And in the history of tennis, no player has been more legendary than the Spaniard Rafael Nadal on the other of Roland-Garros.
By eliminating Serbian Filip Krajinovic (55me) by scores of 7-6 (3), 7-6 (2), and 7-5 on Friday, in this short 14 a little away from the frenzy of the Porte d’Auteuil, Félix Auger-Aliassime got his ticket to the round 16 and what should be one of the most memorable matchups of his career.
Nadal has 13 titles in Paris. A monster of clay, “the ogre of ochre” who, at Roland-Garros, has only lost to two players in 17 years: the surprising Swede Robin Soderling and the number 1 in the world, the Serbian Novak Djokovic.
luck and bad luck
On Sunday, almost certainly at the Philippe-Chatrier, at an undetermined time, Felix will therefore have the luck and the bad luck to face Nadal in his sandbox.
On Friday there were 25 journalists in the press room, three times more than usual, to question Felix about this confrontation.
Because, of course, this duel between Nadal, fifth favorite, and Auger-Aliassime, ninth, is intriguing. Although very lopsided on paper, Felix won his first match in Paris this year, after two unsuccessful attempts.
The two players have already crossed paths once. It was on clay in Madrid, three years ago, and “Rafa” won in two small sets.
Where is the “uncle”?
But there is another intrigue, which goes beyond this face-to-face: where will Toni Nadal be, adviser to the Quebecois for a year, but above all, uncle and former coach of the Spaniard, whom he helped win over Bet 10 times? and
“He will watch the game from a neutral zone,” said the L’Ancienne-Lorette racket.
Visibly a bit tired of answering a barrage of questions about his mentor’s involvement in the process of defeating Nadal, the 21-year-old politely wanted to set the record straight.
“We all know where he excels. I don’t think Toni can tell me anything new about Nadal.”
“We haven’t talked yet. [de stratégie]. We’ll see [aujourd’hui]. It’s up to him, but I don’t expect it from him, Auger-Aliassime added. I don’t think we are going to talk much about the match, even with my coach Frédéric. [Fontang]. There is not much to say. I know Nadal, I have seen him play many times, I know where he excels. »
The man with 21 major titles is also entitled to a plethora of questions about it.
And it was the same story: “I’m not going to talk to Toni. For me, it’s very simple. He’s my uncle, I don’t think he wants me to lose, but he’s a professional. »
Of Félix, “Rafa” said that he was “one of the players in the best shape on the circuit”.
“He’s in the round of 16, I know I’m going to have to play at a very high level to have a chance of going through to the next round,” said the former number 1, who hasn’t seemed to bother his foot too much since then. the start of the tournament.
“What I can do is focus on my strengths,” Felix said. I serve well, I’ll try to use my forehand to get to the net. »
“Anyway, if there was a secret to beating Rafa, I wouldn’t have won 13 times here,” he added, smiling.
live from Paris
Felix chases a spectator.
The crowd in Paris isn’t the sweetest and Felix Auger-Aliassime learned that the hard way on Friday. In the first round of his match against Serbian Filip Krajinovic, the Quebecer was attacked by a spectator who called him ” piece of shit (from “shit”, in other words) and “zero”… Irritated, the ninth seed asked referee Greg Allensworth to intervene if said “linebacker” started again. The reaction was immediate: the man was expelled from the court 14 moments later, after insulting Auger-Aliassime again.
The Roland-Garros site is a happy mix of modernity, as evidenced by the revamped Philippe-Chatrier, history, embodied by Suzanne-Leglen, and nature, as you can see walking towards the court of Simonne – Matthew. The third-largest plot in Paris is isolated from the rest of the site. To get there you have to follow a path flanked by tall trees and plants, which the gardeners were taking care of yesterday morning. It’s gorgeous… and exotic, so exotic that we forget we’re at a tennis tournament.
Nadal wants to see Real Madrid
Moved from Saint Petersburg to Paris due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the UEFA Champions League final between Liverpool and Real Madrid will be played today at the Parc des Princes, just minutes from Roland Garros. And Rafael Nadal should be in the stands to encourage the people of Madrid. From the beginning of the fortnight, the Spaniard said that he had his tickets for this latest match, which he could not attend often because it is played at the same time as the French Open. But tonight (Paris time), he will be there, unless his recurring physical problems force him to rest. And that, although the next day he faces Félix Auger-Aliassime, at a time to be confirmed. “Rafa” who spends an evening in “soccer” the day before a match: will the Quebecois be able to take advantage of the situation? It’s Nadal, at Roland-Garros… it will probably take more than that to destabilize him.
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