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With a few wins under his belt in Barcelona, Felix Auger-Aliassime is feeling a lot better about his game, and his new partnership with Toni Nadal. Well, he’s felt good about that from the start, we imagine, but the Canadian said that after his early loss in Monte-Carlo he had more time to work side by side with the legendary uncle of Rafa on the practice court. Those moments are paying dividends this week.

Tennis Express

"I'm really open to his feedback, and we do constant work,” Auger-Aliassime said after his straight-sets victory over Denis Shapovalov on Thursday in Barcelona. “Let's say, last week I lost early but we were on the court practicing together the rest of the week and it was good to just be playing with other players or to be doing baskets and to have his instant feedback, and I think he can bring me a lot of tools for the high level, confidence as well.”

Auger-Aliassime, who will face Stefanos Tsitsipas in quarter-final action on Friday, says the partnership is a natural fit for him.

“I like the way he looks at the game, in the simple and difficult way sometimes, but in a simple mindset, and in the end I hope he brings me, and I hope actually not that he brings me but I hope that I can get from him, more consistency and more precision in what I do, and just build on that. Of course things need to come from me, I need to put in the work, but it's good to have him by my side. His energy and his personality is great."

Auger-Aliassime says that while there is no written contract about how many events Nadal will attend with him this season, he’ll likely be with the Spaniard at all of the Grand Slams and some of the Masters 1000 events in 2021.

"For all the season, you know we're in constant communication, so that's good, and he does the main tournaments, he'll do the Grand Slams, a few Masters,” Auger-Aliassime said. “You know we'll see if we want to do sometimes more, it's not really written down precisely on paper, to be honest, and I think we'll go as long as everybody is happy, as long as he's happy to be a part of my team, as long as I'm happy to have him, with that energy I think we can work together for a long time but we'll see. He also has his life, his things, as well in Mallorca, so there's no precise thing, there's no deadline, I would say."

The Canadian also expressed his admiration for Rafael Nadal on Thursday, saying how impressed he is with the King of Clay’s mentality and competitive fire.

"I've always looked up at Rafa for the person he is the player he is, his mentality I think, yesterday I think he showed a great example of personality and strength and courage because tough matches like this, he's been more than 15 years now playing, to dig deep and to win the type of matches that are not always easy, and he has all the pressure, it's great to see. I like the mentality of Rafael and his Uncle and I am really happy I can try and learn from that."

Having enlisted the help of the man that guided Nadal to his first 16 major titles has been quite a treat for Auger-Aliassime. He says that frequently Nadal brings in coaching examples, of shots that his nephew would hit, or even things that other players, like Novak Djokovic, would do in certain situations.

"He was the main coach of Rafa for all these years so you can guess that he will try to take his experience from that and examples," he said. "And kind of give me clear examples of what he was doing with him or he'll maybe show me how Rafa hits the ball, let's say on his forehand or backhand, and kind of take that example to show me something, but he'll take examples of other top players as well, like we always do take examples of Novak and other players so, he does mention, of course his past experiences with Rafael from time to time."