Rafael Nadal knew it was bound to happen. So did his uncle, Tony Nadal, who won most of Raphael’s nephew’s male-record 21 Grand Slam titles.
Also well aware that this moment will come, of course, is Felix Agar-Aliassim, the promising player who last year brought to the ship a man known simply as Uncle Tony to some for some extra help.
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Once Tony and Raphael had ended their professional partnership, and once Agar-Aliasime hired Tony to work with full-time coach Frederick Fontang, they all thought that somewhere, they would cross paths. Now it will happen in the fourth round at Roland-Garros: Nadal vs. Agar-Aliasime. Which is also the matchup of Nadal vs Nadal in some way.
So, the 13-time champion of Roland Garros was asked, could there be some awkwardness? You probably won’t chat with your uncle before Sunday’s meeting against 21-year-old ninth-seeded Agar-Aliasim of Canada, right?
Nadal nodded and said he had already spoken to Tony after beating 6th-seeded boutique Van de Jundsculop 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 on Friday.
“For me, it’s very simple. He’s my uncle. I don’t think he’ll want to lose me, no doubt, but he’s a professional and he’s with another player,” said fifth-seeded Nadal, who has been suffering from chronic leg pain and ribs this season. He has struggled with injuries but has also won the Australian Open in January.
“It simply came to our notice then. I know what feelings we have in each other. I know she wants the best for me. Now he’s helping another player, “he said.” But honestly, that’s a problem for me.
Auger-Aliassime, meanwhile, has solved some of the conspiracy, saying he expected Uncle Tony to sit in a neutral position on the stand instead of forcing him to choose between a player’s guest box or another.
What kind of insights can Tony give to his current player about his former player, Agar-Aliasim smiled. Not much is known about Raphael at the moment, not at the age of 35, not even after so many years on tour.
“I know him. I’ve seen him play. I know what he does well. We all know,” said Auger-Aliassime, a 2021 US Open semifinalist who beat Philip Krajinovic 7-6 (3), 7-6 (2) on Friday. Defeated 7-5 and went ahead.
“But no one – Tony, Fred or me – has the answer,” he said.
There is a possibility on the horizon that if Nadal wins, he could find another familiar face in the stadium for the quarter-finals: defending champion Novak Djokovic.
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The top two picks are Djokovic, who defeated Aljaz Bedene 6-3, 6-3, 6-2 on Friday and are now battling 15th seed Diego Schwartzman, and Nadal has won nine sets on red soil. Paris so far. And both have dropped a total of 23 games.
They have already played 58 times with each other, more than any other two men in the Open era, and could come in at No. 59 next week. When asked about “pretty good lefties in the draw quarters” at the start of the tournament, Djokovic played dumb and joked: “I don’t know who you’re talking about.”
Also in their half-brackets: No. 6 Carlos Alcaraz, a 19-year-old who led the tour with four titles in 2022 and the only player in history at the Madrid Open this month to beat both Djokovic and Nadal on the same clay-court event.
After Djokovic in 2006, Alcaraz is now the youngest man to reach the fourth round of the French Open, beating the 21-year-old American 6-4, 6-4, 6-2, with skillful drop shots and other slick strokes. Sebastian Corda under the light of Court Philippe Chatterjee. Alcaraz will now face No. 21 Karen Khachanov, who became the first of the top 12 men to send No. 10 Cameron Nori home with a 6-2, 7-5, 5-7, 6-4 victory. Another match on Sunday will be No. 3 Alexander Zaverev vs. Bernabe Zapata Mirales, a qualifier who lost to No. 23 John Isner of the United States by five sets.
Three American women advanced to the fourth round: 18-year-old Coco Goff, 20-year-old Amanda Anisimova and 2017 US Open champion Sloane Stephens.
Goff, the youngest player to leave the field, won 6-3, 6-4 against the oldest Estonian Kaya Kanepi, who is twice his age at 36 years old. Canepy won the junior French Open title in 2001 – three years before Goff was born.
Seed Goof playing No. 18 next to No. 31 Alice Mertens; Other matches in the fourth round are 27th Amanda Anisimova against 2020 US Open finalist Lelah Fernandez, Stephens against 23rd Jill Teichman and Martina Travisan against Alexandra Sasnovich.
Stephens arrives in Paris on a five-match losing streak. But this trip he is 3-0.
“I don’t think you ever know when it’s going to happen or when it’s going to click ৷ but I’m honestly trying to make the most of it,” said Stephens, Roland Garros’ 2018 runner-up. “Now I’m happy to put the wins together. I haven’t done it in any other tournament, so God bless.”
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