Juan Carlos Ferrero was unable to hide his emotion, even a few hours after Carlos Alcaraz’s US Open triumph. For the coach to the new No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings it was incredibly tense having to watch from the stands, but he was able to breathe again when he saw his understudy hoist the trophy to the New York sky on Arthur Ashe Stadium
“All the time he spent on court affected his game, but, as he said, there is no time to be tired in a final,” Ferrero said. “I kept telling him to go after the match, not to have the feeling that he wasn’t playing at his level.
“Carlos was born to play tournaments and matches like these. From the first moment, I saw things in him that were different to those of other boys his age and I still see them now. Even if he’s in his first final, he’s a great competitor, we saw it against Cilic, Sinner and Tiafoe.”
At 19 years of age, Alcaraz has become a Grand Slam champion and the youngest World No. 1 in the history of the Pepperstone ATP Rankings (since 1973). Ferrero, though, is not surprised.
“It’s happening very quickly, it’s a surprise to everyone, except to me, because I train with him every day and I know what he can do,” admitted the coach. “I was sure that if it wasn’t this year, it would be the next. Now we want to keep going.”
Specifically, Ferrero has vivid memories of his first encounter with Alcaraz, and of the player that came to the Equelite Sport Academy many years ago.
“I saw him at 12 or 13,” said the Valencian. “He came to the academy, we trained one day, he was very small, but everyone was talking about him. He had everything he has now, but in miniature. Officially, I saw him when he got his first ATP point at 14 years of age, then you could see how he competed.
“When he arrived at the academy at 15, he was a stick, he was fast but didn’t have any muscles,” said Ferrero. “Even so, we saw something very special.”
Now, of course, it is a different Alcaraz. A major champion and World number 1. Just how far can he go?
“I think he’s at 60 per cent of his game, he can improve a lot of things, we know that he has to keep going,” said Ferrero. “Now he’s No. 1 he has to keep winning, we know that and I’ll remind him of it.
“He has to improve his return, and his serve, his backhand in certain situations, consistency, trying to keep his head… They are little details that all players have to improve on up until they retire.”
The mentor to the US Open champion knows that comparisons with Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer are not a good idea.
“It will be difficult to do what they have done in tennis. We’re talking about 22 majors, it’s a long road, but who knows…,” Ferrero said. “He has all the potential to be one of the best, all he can do is try to achieve it.”
The question now is obvious; will Alcaraz change having tasted glory?
“Having played and had significant experiences has helped me be able to manage him pretty directly,” Ferrero said. “There’s no second personality, he is what he seems to be. He’s a very straightforward, humble kid, we have to work to keep him that way. He has an amazing family that helps him keep his feet on the ground.”