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Ferrero On Alcaraz: 'The Pressure Will Always Be There'
On 8 June 2003, Juan Carlos Ferrero beat Martin Verkerk to lift the Coupe des Mousquetaires at Roland Garros, in what was one of the highlights of his career. Twenty years later, the former World No. 1 is back at the season’s second major on the bench of one of the favourites for the title in Paris.
On Monday, Carlos Alcaraz will play his first-round match against Flavio Cobolli of Italy with the peace of mind knowing that his coach has already been there and done that in Paris.
“During the pandemic he watched a bit of the final,” said Ferrero of Alcaraz and his Roland Garros championship match. “Kids today are much more about highlights than entire matches. We joke a lot, and he tells me that I didn’t used to hit the ball very hard. At the end of the day, I try to get him to see the body language, the mannerisms and the way to handle moments in that kind of match.”
Alcaraz arrives at Roland Garros as the first seed, and with something of a target on his back as the man to beat on clay. Novak Djokovic and Casper Ruud, for example, were quick to name the Spaniard as the man most likely to get his hands on the trophy come the competition’s closing Sunday.
“Carlos has played better than anyone during the clay season, but you have to do that every day at every tournament, as I tell him,” revealed Ferrero. “We saw that in Rome; you have an average day, your opponent plays well and you lose. Everything points to Carlos as the favourite, we’ve heard it many times and we know that.”
Ferrero explained that the team has tried to prepare for Roland Garros as well as possible and that there are positive ways to look at his early Rome loss to Fabian Marozsan.
“The rest after losing in Rome was good for him to reset on a mental level by being at home for a while,” Ferrero said. “We hope everything goes well. If there are no mishaps, I think he’s one of the favourites for the title. Will it happen? We don’t know.”
World No. 1 Alcaraz is playing in his first Grand Slam since winning last season’s US Open (he missed the 2023 Australian Open due to injury). Having already walked that path should help him, according to his coach.
“He’s a better player this year,” Ferrero said. “The experience of winning the US Open and going through what came after it has matured him more. The injuries have also made him think that it’s not all a bed of roses, that bad things can happen.
“In any case, he’s more mature as a person. He’s 20 and, also, when you’re in a team where people are older, I think you grow up a little quicker than you would with people who are your age.
“The whole team is very experienced, each in their own field. Carlos has an advantage in that respect: we’ve been with him for a while and we’ve worked hard to get him organised and on the right path.”
Ferrero added that the team is trying to help Alcaraz improve technically, like on his return and serve, as well as on his focus. “He is on a steep upward curve,” he said.
However, having won a major last year in New York does not guarantee anything, and there is history to prove it.
“You have to learn how to win a tournament like that one,” warned Ferrero. “I think a Grand Slam is always much more difficult than the others because you have to play seven matches and they’re best-of-five. It is more within reach for us Spanish players because we watch Roland Garros from a very young age. We have the examples of [Sergi] Bruguera, [Álex] Corretja, [Carlos] Moyà, myself… That makes you believe you can do it.”
Thus, the Spaniard will set out on his campaign ready for anything the tournament can throw at him. Ferrero knows it, and so does Alcaraz. From this moment on, the lion’s share of the spotlight, and everything that comes with it, will be on the 20-year-old.
“The pressure will always be there,” accepted Ferrero. “I think people expect a lot from many players, so we try to stay on our path and believe in ourselves. Of course, he won a Grand Slam at 19 and that will help him believe he can do it again.
“We’re ready to have a great tournament. Anyone can lose in the first round, but we’re having a great season on clay. We’ll give our all to have the best tournament possible.”
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