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10sBalls shares Ricky’s picks including Nadal vs. Auger-Aliassime at the French Open Tennis

Rafael Nadal faces Felix Auger-Aliassime at Roland Garros on May 23rd 2022 in Paris, France. (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)

By Ricky Dimon

Rafael Nadal eased through the first three rounds at the French Open, but things could get more difficult now that we are into the second week.

They are certainly getting more interesting, as Nadal’s fourth-round matchup is a blockbuster. One, Felix Auger-Aliassime is one of the rising stars in the game and a potential future Grand Slam champion. Two, Auger-Aliassime is coached by Toni Nadal.

Toni probably won’t be around to see it–at least not in person–but Sunday’s showdown could be a good one. Both players have been in impressive form this fortnight. Nadal did not drop a set during the first week, ousting Jordan Thompson, Corentin Moutet, and Botic van de Zandschulp. Auger-Aliassime has also won nine sets in a row, although he actually lost his first two of the tournament to Juan Pablo Varillas. After overcoming Varillas in five, the world No. 9 defeated Camilo Ugo Carabelli and Filip Krajinovic in straights.

Auger-Aliassime’s reward is a second meeting with the 21-time major winner. They previously faced each other three years ago in Madrid, long before Toni started working with the Canadian. Nadal had no trouble giving his opponent a clay-court lesson, cruising 6-3, 6-3.

Can the 21-year-old make this one more competitive now that he has a lot more experience under his belt? It’s possible. Auger-Aliassime has become extremely consistent at slams, as his three most recent results are quarterfinals (2021 Wimbledon), semifinals (2021 U.S. Open), and quarterfinals (2021 Australian Open).

Felix Auger-Aliassime is coached by Toni Nadal, Rafa Nadal’s uncle and original coach. EPA-EFE/ETTORE FERRARI

Of course, the bad news for the underdog is that Nadal is looking like his normal French Open self. The 13-time champ’s preparation was derailed by rib and foot problems, but those concerns have been put to rest–at least for now–by his first three matches. Nadal had no trouble improving to 108-3 lifetime on the terre battue of Paris.

Auger-Aliassime can throw a lot more at Nadal than Thompson, Moutet, and van de Zandschulp, so this could be the Spaniard’s first test of the fortnight. But it’s one he should pass without too much of a scare.

Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.