Ferrero On Paul Clash: ‘Carlos Will Have To Go Out On Full Alert’
Editor’s note: This story was translated from ATPTour.com/es
Simply seeing Tommy Paul on the other side of the net on Tuesday at the Miami Open presented by Itau will be a reminder to Carlos Alcaraz of the meteoric rise he has enjoyed since his loss to the American last August in Montreal.
After that tournament, where Alcaraz was one of the top seeds for the first time at an ATP Masters 1000 event, the Spaniard admitted that he had never felt pressure like that day on court against Paul. “I have to be ready to deal with that pressure, to have these kinds of moments and learn to handle them,” he said at the time. But Alcaraz has always been a quick learner.
Despite the fact that only seven months have passed since then, this bump in the road seems to be well behind him. His coach Juan Carlos Ferrero can attest to that.
“I don’t think that Carlos being No. 1 or No. 2 influences him too much in terms of how he approaches matches,” the Spanish coach explained before Tuesday’s tie in Miami. If one person has helped him get to that point, it is the former World No. 1 and 16-time ATP Tour champion.
“It’s true that as you get higher, you often feel the pressure around you, of being a favourite, that you have to win almost all your matches. But if Carlos has his mind on that all the time, his tennis won’t flow. That’s why we’ve tried to focus on this aspect of his growth so that everything goes well in terms of flowing on court,” Ferrero added.
His progress in dealing with being one of the favourites is clear. The 19-year-old Spaniard is now in the midst of his second spell as No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Ranking, and he has won his past eight matches without dropping a set. Although he must now mount a successful defence of his Miami title if he is to stay at the top, so far he has played fearless, nerveless tennis in the Hard Rock Stadium.
In fact, he has won a 6-0 set in each of his two victories this fortnight. “I think he has learned his lesson about his approach in Montreal, with the added pressure, especially after what happened at the US Open,” added Ferrero. “Now Carlos is playing much more freely, and concentrating more on his game than things that are going on around him. And I think that will make him play better than he did last time against Paul.”
However, the 25-year-old American Paul has also taken giant strides since his only previous encounter with Alcaraz. Last August he was yet to break into the Top 30, now he has a place in the Top 20 and is enjoying a great season that includes a semi-final at the Australian Open and a final in Acapulco.
“He’s working well and he’s focused, and he looks more mature on court. That’s making him play better. He’s gained quite a lot of confidence in his game,” says Ferrero. “And apart from serving and returning well, for me his mobility is among the best on tour at the moment. That means he covers the court very well and makes him difficult to beat.”
Paul’s current rich vein of form has allowed him to win his past 12 matches against Spaniards, a streak that includes victories over Rafael Nadal, Roberto Bautista Agut, Pablo Carreno Busta and Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, whom he beat on Sunday in the third round in Miami.
“I know he plays at a very high level against Spaniards, but I’m here to try and end that run,” explains Alcaraz. The top seed is well aware of the magnitude of the challenge he is facing. “Paul is doing everything well. He moves well, he’s fast, he hits great shots. He makes it all look easy. I’ve seen many of his matches and I enjoy watching him play. He’s very talented, so it’ll be a very tough match.”
Ferrero agrees with his understudy. “It’s going to be a match in which Carlos will have to go out on full alert and, from there, create a good match and make the most of his speed on the baseline to try and undo Paul.”
The last Spaniard to do that? Rafael Nadal in the quarter-finals in Acapulco in 2022. An inspired Alcaraz will be looking to replicate the feat this Tuesday in the Hard Rock Stadium to earn himself a place in the quarter-finals in Miami.