Day 6 Diary: Nadal keeps the faith in family loyalties

Check out some storylines you may have missed from an eventful Friday in Paris

Rafael Nadal / Troisième tour Roland-Garros 2022©Cédric Lecocq / FFT
 - Alex Sharp and Chris Oddo

Day 6 was glittering with star appeal at Roland-Garros.

Around the grounds it was an absorbing mixture of all-time greats, double trouble and mesmerising matches. Here are some storylines you may have missed.

Family matters

We’ve already had Novak Djokovic facing a former coach in an opponent’s corner this week.

Now there will be a similar dynamic for Rafael Nadal when he takes on the Toni Nadal-coached Felix Auger-Aliassime in the fourth round on Sunday.

Thirteen-time Roland-Garros champion Nadal was clinical once again on Friday, surrendering just nine games to Dutchman Botic van de Zandschulp to soar into the second week. 

The 21-time Grand Slam winner will next meet ninth seed Auger-Aliassime for a place in the quarter-finals and in an intriguing plot twist, the Canadian has Nadal's uncle and long-time mentor on his coaching team. 

“I don't know if I need insight on how Rafa plays, to be honest. I think we all know what he does well,” smirked Auger-Aliassime on Friday, following his victory over Filip Krajinovic.

Félix Auger-Aliassime, 3e tour, Roland-Garros 2022©Julien Crosnier / FFT

“We had the discussion, it was black and white from the first time we started working together we knew it was a possibility that eventually I would play Rafa when I'm working with Toni.

“But I think Toni will watch from a neutral place and enjoy the match.”

Over to Rafa for his thoughts.

“I already talked with Toni after my match. For me it's very simple. He's my uncle. I don't think he will be able to want me to lose, without a doubt, but he's a professional and he's with another player… But for me, it's zero problem, and I know he wants the best for me," said Nadal of his uncle.

Doubling up for fun

Earlier this season the amiable Thanasi Kokkinakis lifted the men’s doubles title at the Australian Open alongside his close friend and compatriot Nick Kyrgios.

Over to Paris and the Adelaide native has teamed up with another gregarious talent, Alexander Bublik.

The dynamic duo have progressed to the men’s doubles third round courtesy of a 6-4, 6-3 triumph over Marton Fucsovics and Frances Tiafoe on Friday.

Two explosive talents, two of the most unpredictable; so how does Kokkinakis compare the mavericks Bublik and Kyrgios?

“Two different people, but they’ve got similar skill sets,” stated the 26-year-old. “Get on with both really well, I’m pretty relaxed so I’m happy to sit back and play how I play, let them play their game, which is what makes them so good – cannon serves, they can light it up on return, both got good hands at net. They’re both a mixed bag." 

Thanasi Kokkinakis, Alexander Bublik, Roland Garros 2022 doubles second round© Andre Ferreira/FFT

Bublik was chuckling mentioning the opening set point in their first round.

“He said I’m going to go ‘normal, wide’, and the ball has rolled past my head,” recalled Kokkinakis. “He’s gone underarm, side spin, he hit the best underarm serve I’ve ever seen. The radar said 30kmph, you don’t get that from the majority of the tour.”

“I said ‘normal, you stay,’” revealed Bublik. “Then I came to the point and changed my mind. Before I had a 235 kmph second serve ace at deuce. There’s nothing normal about that.”

In a crucial debate, Kokkinakis also admitted Bublik had the better underarm serve than his countryman Kyrgios.

Bublik and Kokkinakis are also due to play together on grass at Eastbourne and Queen’s in the UK, before the Aussie reunites with Kyrgios at Wimbledon.

“Maybe I just play with Nick and that settles it.” Bublik quipped.

Thanasi Kokkinakis, Alexander Bublik, Roland Garros 2022 doubles first round© Cédric Lecocq/FFT

A-list appeal for ‘Big Three’ duo

The stars turned up in full force at Roland-Garros on Friday.

Actors Woody Harrelson and Owen Wilson joined the party on Court Suzanne-Lenglen to witness Nadal’s clay-court artistry. Football legends Zinedine Zidane and Clarence Seedorf also took in the action from close quarters. 

Make sure you watch our exclusive interview with ‘Zizou’ below, with Nadal and Carlos Alcaraz in the conversation.

The football theme continued over at Djokovic’s match, with legendary manager Arsene Wenger front row to witness an invincible-looking straight-sets win for the defending champion against Aljaz Bedene.

Teichmann cracks a milestone

Saturday saw the first women’s match stretch over three hours, as 23rd-seeded Jil Teichmann rallied past Victoria Azarenka, the No.15 seed, 4-6, 7-5, 7-6[10-5] in three hours and 18 minutes on Court Simonne-Mathieu.

The victory marks the Swiss’ first trip to the second week at a Slam - she had never been past the second round in her previous 10 Grand Slam main draw appearances.

Furthermore, Teichmann had never won a main draw match at Roland-Garros prior to this season.

Teichmann, who improves to 10-3 on the clay in 2022, will face 2018 runner-up Sloane Stephens in the round of 16.

Djokovic’s on-court French lesson

Mats Wilander, Alex Corretja, Marion Bartoli, and Mary Patrux have added new flavour to the post-match on-court interviews at Roland-Garros, introducing a more familiar tone that allows the players to share their personalities with the French crowds. It has resulted in some laugh-out-loud moments.

When Wilander told Stefanos Tsitsipas he looked tired after his four-hour and six-minute battle with Zdenek Kolar on Thursday night, the Greek was quick to reply: “As long as I can look like you in 30 years, that’s great.”

“Thank you for the compliment,” Wilander snapped back with a smile.

On Friday, Corretja asked Djokovic, in French, if he believed that Court Phillippe-Chatrier is the most demanding court in the world.

Djokovic, the ever studious polyglot, was pleased to learn the French word for demanding – ‘exigent’. He paused and thanked Corretja for the lesson.

“Thanks for the new word,” he said in French. “Très bien.”

Leylah has a backup plan

If Canada’s Leylah Fernandez ever runs into any issues with her golden left arm, she has an ace up her right sleeve.

After her 7-5, 3-6, 7-5 third-round victory over Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic, the teenager told reporters that she would be fine going righty if the situation called for it.

“I was born ambidextrous,” the 19-year-old Fernandez said. “Playing tennis, I was more comfortable with my left hand than my right hand. However, I do know that, like I always told my dad, that if I injure my left arm I was going to play with my right arm, no problem.

“I'm able to do some things with my right hand or my right foot better than my left.”

Fernandez says that she originally chose to play lefty because she wanted to carry on a family tradition.

“It was my call,” added the Canadian. “And then my dad says, ‘You know, it's actually a good idea’.

"It wasn't because he thought of it as an advantage. It was more that his grandfather was left-handed. I think my mom's mom was left-handed, and they just wanted to keep that tradition going, just for fun.”

Press moment of the day

This glistening exchange took place following the third-round night-session win of Carlos Alcaraz - or 'Charly' as he prefers to be called - over Sebastian Korda.

Q. There's a TV, there is a book and a film called Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, where Charlie gets a golden ticket and all his dreams come true. What would be the golden ticket for you? What is your big dream and what would you like to achieve?

Carlos Alcaraz: "Well, if I win this tournament I would say I would take the golden ticket or as if, being No.1 in the world I would say is my golden ticket."