“I don’t rely on numbers to set up his game” [VIDEO]
One of the characters of the moment is definitely Carlos Alcaraz (we could say Carlitos for his young age, but certainly not for his physique), who graduated last night as champion of the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen Finals in Milan. Two weeks ago, in Vienna, at the end of a training session, we then took advantage of our presence on site to chat with his coach. Juan Carlos “mosquito” Ferrero, former world number 1 in September 2003 (at the dawn of Federer’s reign) and winner of Roland Garros 2003. A praise, among other things, for his availability, which is often directly to his skill on the pitch … To our request to be able to exchange a few words even in the off season, his response was “en la off season quiero desconectar, si quieres hablamos ahora“(In the off season I want to switch off, if you want let’s talk now) … in short, we liked Juan Carlos. Here is our short Q&A.
Ubitenne: Your observed started 2020 around the 500 position, in January 2021 it was around 140, at the beginning of 2022 it will surely be well within the Top 50. What will be the next goal? A beautiful 2022 where will we find it?
Juan Carlos Ferrero: The goal for this year was to finish in the top 50, now we are around 40, with a best ranking of 38 so far. [è poi arrivato fino alla 32, 21 nella Race to Torino, ndr], so the target we set was quite realistic in the end. At the beginning of the year it seemed a long way off, but with the passage of time we realized that it was realistic and that we have actually revised the expectations upwards, so now we are aiming for the Top 30. Obviously there is no rush, and to finish the tournaments of the year we stay playing at a good level of tennis is what we aim for. At this age the results in and of themselves are not so important, it is more important to grow in the game and gain experience. The ranking in the end tells the results, and obviously being in the top 30 would be important to be able to have a seed in Australia.
U: From a technical point of view, what are your goals for growth?
JCF: There are many small things, such as the consistency of the serve, the response, not having mental ups and downs while always keeping concentration high; on a physical level then, even if the boy is already well formed, however there is room for growth to be able to withstand long games better. At the end of the day he is 18, everything needs to be improved a bit.
M: Here in Vienna in general we were struck by Carlos’ aggression in response, can you tell us something about it?
JCF: Yes, it is one of the goals we are setting ourselves, to always be aggressive on the opponent’s second to immediately take the initiative and build from there. When he manages to put in an aggressive response, then, he can already begin to dominate the point with the second ball of the exchange. These are things we have been working on for 2-3 years already, and it is an aspect that is gradually taking shape. But of course I want him to be an aggressive player in response.
M: What is the personality trait of Carlos you like most? And how do you manage the mental part in a young man who is already subjected to the stress of professional sport?
JCF: He is a humble, simple guy who comes from a normal family; in the family there is a tradition of sports, his father was also a tennis player. In general he is a normal boy who despite his young age is mature and has clear ideas. In the things he does, beyond the flaws of his youth and the matches he can lose, he is still a well-trained boy.
M: Finally, one last question, concerns statistics: is it something you use in technical and tactical preparation? Do you have a team of statisticians?
JCF: No at the moment no; It is true that today there is more access to information, but we still haven’t gotten into something so “robotic” to get indications of how, where and how much to play. He uses it a bit to see how his rivals play, also to understand where it can be used most in times of difficulty or which schemes he uses in times of tension. But I keep the idea of how to make Carlos play in my head, more than in numbers.
THE WORDS OF FERRERO AT THE ATP SITE
In the past few days, Ferrero has been back on similar tracks during an interview with the ATP website. On the start of their work together he said: “Carlos has always been precocious, if we think that at 15-16 he had already managed to beat Albert Ramos-Vinolas in Rio; this is why at the time I said to myself, ‘at 18 he could already be in the Top 50. In any case we have never been in a hurry with him, we have tried to grow thinking about his game and not the ranking, also because COVID-19 has made it even more difficult to climb the ranks“.
The dominant theme, however, remains that of the already well-formed personality of the class of 2003: “Maturity is understanding what is happening on the pitch, knowing when you are doing right or wrong. Often players become obsessive about certain aspects and don’t understand what mistakes they are making; Carlos, on the other hand, quickly understood what his mistakes were and what to focus on, especially from a mental point of view. From an early age he had a tendency to be a bit discontinuous: in some places he played very well and then he started to make mistakes. It still happens occasionally, but now it’s much more stable; this is an aspect that I have often mentioned in these three years and that he was able to address through working with Isabel Balaguer, a psychologist“.
On the other hand, it would be difficult to bear certain comparisons without a certain type of character: “He absorbs pressure very well, ever since he started talking about him as a potential number one he has tried to lock himself in a little bubble so he can define his own path. It’s not easy for a guy to compare with Rafa. Mentally he is very strong but he still has to learn a lot, as seen in Bercy vs Gaston, however there are some things that are simply beyond your control, but in general he has not changed even when the pressures and comparisons started.“.
But how are they comparable to player and coach? “He and I are alike because we are both emotional on the pitch, which is a good thing because it means you don’t lose your style of play or your personality during the match. A player of character will not lose his head in difficult moments, while those who run away from these situations will not be able to win in big tournaments. And then Carlos always wants to improve, you have to want to grow every day, training hard to do is useless. […] Sometimes jokingly I say, ‘OK, now tell me what you are doing wrong during this match’; it doesn’t seem like it but it’s something that helps him a lot, we talk a lot more about the moments of the match than about the statistics“.
Finally, Ferrero was asked what the goals of his protégé will be for 2022, but he did not go out of balance: “He will be a year older and therefore even more mature, and will have played even more games against great opponents. I have a very clear idea of where it could go next year, let’s say that if it continues like this it will be… interesting“.