Tennis – ATP Masters 1000 – Italian Open – Foro Italico, Rome, Italy – May 13, 2021 Canada’s Felix Auger Aliassime in action during his third round match against Argentina’s Federico Delbonis REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane
June 2, 2021
PARIS (Reuters) – Toni Nadal moulded his nephew Rafael into the greatest claycourt player the world has ever seen but the magic is yet to rub off on his new charge, Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime.
With the wily Nadal sitting at courtside on Tuesday, the 20-year-old Auger-Aliassime was fancied to claim a first main draw victory at Roland Garros when he took on Italian veteran Andreas Seppi on Court 13.
But it was not to be as a rock-solid Seppi, ranked 98th in the world, claimed a 6-3 7-6(8) 4-6 6-4 win.
The 20th seeded Auger-Aliassime, who added Nadal to his coaching set-up in April, fell two sets down before his powerful game finally began to make some inroads.
Nadal stood down as Rafa’s coach in 2017 with his nephew having pocketed 16 Grand Slam titles and was tempted away from his main job of running the Nadal Academy in Mallorca to lend his experience to Auger-Aliassime.
With his expression hidden behind sunglasses and a mask, Nadal would have been impressed at how the Canadian came back from the brink of defeat in the third set to extend the match — having been a point away from trailing 5-2.
But the 37-year-old Seppi, playing his 16th French Open, was relentless. A backhand winner earned him a break to lead 3-2 in the fourth set and that proved decisive as he moved on to claim a well-deserved victory — his first on the main Tour this year.
Since adding Nadal to his team, in time for the claycourt season, Auger-Aliassime has suffered a disappointing time, losing in the first round in Monte Carlo, Madrid, Lyon and now at Roland Garros.
The only consolation for the 60-year-old Nadal is that he can now watch Rafa attempt to claim a record-extending 14th French Open title over the next fortnight.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Christian Radnedge)