'Should be ashamed': Toni Nadal at centre of French Open controversy

Toni Nadal, pictured here watching on as Rafa beat Felix Auger Aliassime at the French Open.
Toni Nadal watched on as Rafa beat Felix Auger Aliassime at the French Open. Image: Eurosport/Getty

Rafa Nadal's uncle Toni was at the centre of controversy at the French Open on Sunday over his appearance at his nephew's match against Felix Auger Aliassime and subsequent comments.

Toni has been Rafa's coach throughout the majority of his nephew's storied career, but the pair decided to part ways in recent years.

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Toni is now one of Auger Aliassime's coaches, creating an awkward scenario as Rafa was forced to play the young Canadian in the fourth round at Roland Garros on Sunday.

Toni was clearly unsure about whether or not to sit in Auger Aliassime's box, and instead decided to sit mid-court next to French tennis boss Gilles Moretton.

Speaking before the match, he also said "ethics" didn't allow him to share any tips with Auger Aliassime about how to beat his nephew.

He reportedly made it clear when he started working with Auger Aliassime that he would avoid any of the build-up to matches he played against Rafa.

After the match on Sunday, in which Nadal won 3-6 6-3 6-2 3-6 6-3 in a five-set epic, Toni reportedly told French TV he wanted Rafa to win.

“Felix is Felix, but my nephew is my nephew. I wanted him to win," he said.

"For us this tournament will always be special.”

Toni and Rafa Nadal, pictured here celebrating victory at the French Open in 2017.
Toni and Rafa Nadal celebrate victory at the French Open in 2017. (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images) (Tim Clayton - Corbis via Getty Images)

Those comments have gone down like a lead balloon in the tennis world, with fans and commentators confused about how a coach could be rooting against his own player.

Tennis writer Jose Morgado tweeted Toni “shouldn’t accept to be interviewed about this match” because “it’s just a bad look”.

Tennis journalist Gasper Ribeiro Lanca wrote: “Pretty sure it wasn’t easy for FAA to go to bed yesterday with this being the headline. And then to leave the match and have this as one of the headlines.

“Toni was always going to want Rafa to win, that’s obvious. But it should have been kept as a low profile thing from him.”

Nadal and Djokovic to clash in French Open quarters

Nadal overcame a sluggish start and a stiff challenge from the ninth seed in an enthralling battle at Roland Garros.

It was only the third time in his 112 matches at the French Open that Nadal has been taken to a fifth set.

However he managed to keep his unblemished record intact, wrapping up the win in four hours and 21 minutes to wild applause from the crowd.

The 21-time grand slam champion, who will turn 36 on Friday, has won the French Open a record 13 times but was beaten in the semi-finals last year by Djokovic.

"Of course, we know each other well. We have a lot of history together," Nadal said.

"I am going to be focused, I will try my best. I don't know what will happen but I will fight until the end."

Rafa Nadal, pictured here speaking to the media after his win over Felix Auger-Aliassime at the French Open.
Rafa Nadal speaks to the media after his win over Felix Auger-Aliassime at the French Open. (Photo by Andy Cheung/Getty Images) (Andy Cheung via Getty Images)

Earlier, Djokovic had shown glimpses of his brilliant best to demolish Diego Schwartzman 6-1 6-3 6-3 and secure a record 16th quarter-final appearance at Roland Garros.

Schwartzman managed to take a 3-0 lead in the second set, but it was one-way traffic from there.

Djokovic won 12 of the remaining 15 games on a chilly Court Suzanne Lenglen against his Argentine opponent - a semi-finalist at Roland Garros in 2020.

"I have a lot of respect for him," the World No.1 said.

"He's a good guy on and off the court and he's a clay-court specialist so it's not easy, especially in slow conditions today with a ball that was not bouncing high."

Djokovic has now reached the last eight in Paris for the 13th year in a row and has yet to drop a set.

with AAP

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