PARIS ( Associated Press) — Rafael Nadal knew this was possible. His uncle Toni Nadal was also aware of this, who guided the star to a good part of his 21 Grand Slam titles, a record.
Another person well aware of this possibility was Felix Auger-Aliassime, the up-and-coming tennis player who hired the man known to many simply as “Uncle Toni” to help with his preparation last year.
Once uncle and nephew ended their professional relationship and Auger-Aliassime asked Toni to collaborate with his full-time trainer Frederic Fontang, it became clear that his path would, at some point and place, cross Rafa’s.
The appointment will be in the fifth round of the French Open: Nadal will collide with Auger-Alliassime. And the duel could also be defined as Nadal vs. Nadal.
Thus, the 13-time monarch tennis player at Roland Garros was asked if he would have any strange sensations. He probably won’t be able to talk to his uncle before Sunday’s matchup with the 21-year-old, ninth-seeded Canadian.
But Nadal shook his head and said he had already talked to Toni, just after beating 26th-seeded Botic van de Zandschulp 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 on Friday.
“It is very simple. He’s my uncle, I don’t think he wants me to lose, but he’s a professional, he’s with another player, I don’t know if he’ll be in the box or not, I don’t care, it’s not a problem”, said Nadal (5th), who has dealt with chronic foot pain and a rib injury this season, though he won the Australian Open in January.
“I know the feelings we have, that he wants the best for me, but that he is with another player,” he added.
Meanwhile, Auger-Aliassime beat Filip Krajinovic 7-6 (3), 7-6 (2), 7-5.
If he beats the Canadian, another well-known face could appear on Nadal’s horizon, that of Novak Djokovic. That if Diego Schwartzman says nothing else.
Argentina’s Schwartzman advanced to the fourth round and a matchup with defending champion Djokovic.
Schwartzman, a Roland Garros semifinalist in 2020, easily beat Grigor Dimitrov 6-3, 6-1, 6-2 on Court Simonne Mathieu. The Bulgarian, seeded 18th, committed 59 unforced errors.
The 15th-seeded Schwartzman next faces Djokovic, who had no trouble beating Slovenian Aljaz Bedene 6-3, 6-3, 6-2 in one hour and 44 minutes — the shortest of his three wins. . Schwartzman is 0-6 against the Serb.
Djokovic, a 20-time Grand Slam champion, has not lost in the third round at Roland Garros since 2009.
In the same part of the draw, Carlos Alcaraz, the 19-year-old Spaniard who leads the tour with four trophies in 2022, beat American Sebastian Korda 6-4, 6-4, 6-2.
Alcaraz (6th) will face Karen Khachanov (21st), who defeated Cameron Norrie (10th) 6-2, 7-5, 5-7, 6-4.
Another Sunday meeting will be that of Alexander Zverev (3rd) against the Spaniard Bernabé Zapata.
Belarusian Aliaksandra Sasnovich eliminated a Grand Slam champion for the second straight match to earn her ticket to the quarterfinals.
Sasnovich, 47th in the world ranking, defeated German three-time major champion Angelique Kerber 6-4, 7-6 (5) on the Simonne Mathieu court.
The 28-year-old Belarusian had defeated reigning US Open champion Emma Raducanu in the second round. She will now face Italy’s Martina Trevisan, whose best Grand Slam result was the quarterfinals at Roland Garros two years ago.
Coco Gauff also earned her place in the fourth round with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Estonia’s Kaia Kanepi, who made 29 unforced errors. The American will clash with Elise Mertens, seeded 31st.
Meanwhile, US Open runner-up Leylah Fernandez advanced to the fourth round of the French Open for the first time.
The 19-year-old Canadian defeated Olympic gold medalist Belinda Bencic 7-5, 3-6, 7-5 on Court Philippe Chatrier.
Fernandez will have a meeting with 20-year-old Amanda Anisimova, who reached the semi-finals at Roland Garros in 2019.
Anisimova advanced when the Czech Karolina Muchova had to leave due to a right ankle injury with the score 6-7 (7), 6-2, 3-0 in favor of the American, who eliminated the four-time Grand Champion in the first round. Slam Naomi Osaka.