Alcaraz: ‘It Is The Best Way To Finish The Year’

After clinching the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals title on Saturday, Carlos Alcaraz was in a reflective mood as he looked back on his successful 2021 season with a smile on his face.

The 18-year-old overcame Sebastian Korda in the final at the 21-and-under event in Milan to round off a year that has seen him rise from No. 141 in the FedEx ATP Rankings to a current career-high No. 32.

“I feeling amazing,” Alcaraz said after triumphing 4-3(5), 4-2, 4-2 in the championship match. “It feels good to end the year in the best way possible. Playing great matches against great players. It is the best way to finish the year.”

Under the guidance of coach and former World No. 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero, Alcaraz has made headlines in 2021. The Spaniard captured his first tour-level title in Umag in July and enjoyed a run to the quarter-finals at the US Open.

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Alcaraz Soars To Milan Title

While Alcaraz, who was the top seed in Milan, views those moments as high points, he believes other experiences he has had on Tour this season provided the crucial building blocks for his success.

“It has been a really good season for me,” Alcaraz said. “I am really happy about the moments I have experienced. Beating Stefanos [Tsitsipas] at the US Open, reaching the quarter-finals at a Grand Slam and winning my first ATP [Tour title].

“But I think this would not have been possible without the experience I gained in Madrid, playing against Rafa [Nadal]. In Acapulco, playing against [Alexander] Zverev. There are a lot of tournament matches that gave me a lot of experience to make me more mature so soon.”

Alcaraz dropped just one set en route to the title in Milan as he played aggressively in the big points to defeat stiff opposition at the Allianz Cloud. The 18-year-old admitted that it is an area of his game he has been focused on and will look to continue to develop.

“It is something I am working on,” Alcaraz said. “Juan Carlos told me that in the tough moments you have to play aggressively and you have to go for it and that is what I do. I am working on that to be calm in the tough moments, that is the key to winning the tough points. You have to go for it.”

Did You Know?
Alcaraz is the youngest player to earn 32 tour-level victories in a year since Andrei Medvedev, 18, went 32-11 in 1992.

Korda On Alcaraz: 'He's Definitely Better Than His Ranking'

Sebastian Korda was full of praise for Carlos Alcaraz after the 18-year-old Spaniard captured the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals trophy on Saturday.

“Carlos played incredibly well,” said Korda, after losing 4-3(5), 4-2, 4-2 in the 21-and-under final in Milan. “He’s definitely playing a lot better than his [FedEx ATP] Ranking and he won’t be in that spot for long.”

Korda won four straight matches – against Hugo Gaston, Sebastian Baez, Lorenzo Musetti and Brandon Nakashima – en route to the title match, but World No. 32 Alcaraz proved to be too strong in key moments at the Allianz Cloud.

“I had some chances in the first set, [but] didn’t take them, and that’s just kind of how the match went,” said Korda. “He was just playing some really good tennis, clutch on the Deuce points.

“But he was just playing incredibly well in the tight moments, especially in the tie-break. I had a lot of chances, some of the things didn’t go my way, break points in the first [set], an easy volley. But it was still a great match from him and sometimes there’s nothing I could really do.”

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Alcaraz Soars To Milan Title

The 21-year-old American enjoyed a career-best season, including a first ATP Tour title at the Emilia-Romagna Open in Parma (d. Cecchinato) and a breakthrough into the Top 40.

Reflecting on his time in Milan, Korda said, “It was a great experience for me. I’m going to take a lot of things from the matches and just go back to work, improve myself and anything that I can.

“Overall, I’m still very happy. I had a great week, I had a great season and unfortunately it didn’t happen today, but [I will] go back to work and try to improve.”

Alcaraz Soars To Milan Crown

Carlos Alcaraz finished his breakthrough 2021 season in style Saturday at the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals, downing Sebastian Korda 4-3(5), 4-2, 4-2 to win the title in Milan.

The 18-year-old is the first Spaniard to triumph at the 21-and-under event and is the youngest player to earn 32 tour-level victories in a year since Andrei Medvedev, 18, went 32-11 in 1992.

In a high-quality match, Alcaraz hammered his groundstrokes with his usual deadly precision, stepping inside the baseline to target Korda’s backhand as he pinned the American back. He broke twice and fired 15 winners to secure victory after 84 minutes.

“It is amazing,” Alcaraz said in his on-court interview. “To be able to win this tournament means a lot to me. I am so excited right now and emotional. I was very, very nervous at the start. I had to be calm to save the break points. I know Korda is serving very well, so I had to play my best in those moments.”

The top seed was in ruthless form at the Allianz Cloud throughout the tournament, dropping just one set en route to the title as he dispatched Holger Rune, Brandon Nakashima and Juan Manuel Cerundolo in the round-robin stage, before cruising past Argentine Sebastian Baez in the last four.

“It went 0/30 on my serve [when serving for the match],” Alcaraz added. “So I had to be focused in that moment and I had to stay calm. It was really, really tough.”

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Ferrero: The Art Of Building Alcaraz

After beginning the year at No. 141 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, Alcaraz has soared to a current career-high No. 32 under the guidance of coach Juan Carlos Ferrero. In a standout season, the 18-year-old clinched his maiden tour-level title in Umag and upset World No. 3 Stefanos Tsitsipas as he reached the quarter-finals at the US Open.

Alcaraz also advanced to tour-level semi-finals in Marbella, Winston-Salem and Vienna, where he defeated World No. 7 Matteo Berrettini. He showcased the experience he has gained this season against Korda, remaining focused in front of a lively crowd in Italy to become the fourth Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals champion, joining Hyeon Chung, Tsitsipas and Jannik Sinner.

In a tight first set, Korda quickly found his rhythm, striking his flat groundstrokes with great depth. But the American was unable to convert any of the five break points he had as Alcaraz showed his fighting skills to force a tie-break. From 4/5 in the tie-break, Alcaraz won both points on Korda’s serve as he outmanoeuvred the 21-year-old, before sealing the set with a forehand volley winner.

Alcaraz continued to play aggressively in the second set as he closed the net effectively to further impose himself on Korda. The Spaniard did not face a break point in the second set, sealing it with one of the four aces he hit in the match. Fuelled by momentum, Alcaraz put his foot down in the third set, forcing Korda into mistakes with his depth to secure the title. 

Korda, who also earned a perfect 3-0 round-robin record in Milan, captured his first tour-level title in Parma in May and reached the fourth round at Wimbledon in July. The World No. 39 defeated countryman Brandon Nakashima in five sets in the semi-final to become the first American to advance to the championship match at the 21-and-under event.

Next Gen ATP E-Series Reaches Conclusion In Milan

The 2021 NextGenATP E-Series came to a conclusion on Saturday in Milan with the best eight eSports players competing on Tennis World Tour 2.

Organised by Mkers, ATP and FIT, 128 players have competed since June with virtual racquets in six online tournament stages, with the top eight qualifying for the final event at the Allianz Cloud.

On the event, managing director and board member of Mkers, Paolo Cisaria said: “For the first time, representative institutions such as ATP and FIT decide to enter the esports world. This important collaboration gives Mkers a further step towards the internationalisation of the group. The 2021 Next Gen ATP E-Series is another step towards the credibility and importance of esports and the virtual tennis world.”

In an exciting final, second seed Isniper, who was playing with Juan Martin del Portro, overcame fourth seed IdusMartias, who was also controlling Del Portro, 4-3(5), 4-3(6) to triumph.

“It feels great to win,” Lorenzo Cioffi said, who uses the handle Isniper. “Especially after playing online, it was great to play here. I practised two hours a day into the lead up to the event, focusing on a few things that I needed to work on.”

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Alcaraz, Korda Look To Cap Breakout Seasons With Milan Title

Two of the hottest young stars on the ATP Tour will look to cap breakout seasons in the perfect manner when they clash in Saturday’s title match of the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals. Heading into their first ATP Head2Head meeting, other than age, little separates top seed Carlos Alcaraz and second seed Sebastian Korda, who both take unbeaten 4-0 records into the decider.

“The final is going to be really, really tough,” Alcaraz said after defeating Argentine Sebastian Baez in Fridays’ semi-finals. “Sebastian is playing great tennis and I am really excited to play against him for the first time. It would be amazing to win the title, but I am going to be facing a really good opponent, so we will see.”

How To Watch The Final (9pm CET/3pm ET)

Spain’s Alcaraz is looking to become the second consecutive 18-year-old (Jannik Sinner) to capture the 21-and-under event. Like his rival, 21-year-old Korda is chasing his second title of the season. Alcaraz had just one tour-level win coming into 2021; Korda had just three. Today, both players are chasing the 32nd win of their respective breakout seasons.

Win number 32 would match Alcaraz’s current career-high FedEx ATP Ranking of No. 32, which has him as the highest-ranked player by age since former World No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt was No. 31 more than two decades ago in August 1999.

In earning his 30th win of the season in group play against Juan Manuel Cerundolo, Alcaraz became the youngest player to notch 30 wins in a season since an 18-year-old Rafael Nadal went 30-17 in 2004. If he wins the title, Alcaraz will match Andrei Medvedev, 18, with 32 wins in 1992.

But Alcaraz is sure to not be thinking about milestones. His focus will be singular: beating World No. 39 Korda, who is pumped up for the challenge.

Speaking before Alcaraz had taken the court for the late semi-final, former junior World No. 1 Korda said that he hoped to get the chance to end his season with a showdown against the man with whom he could be about to forge a decade-long rivalry.

“I hope it’s Carlos. I’ve never practised with him, I’ve never played him in a match; it will be really exciting,” Korda said. “Hopefully we can have a lot of battles in the next coming years; he’s playing some incredible tennis, really aggressive player and really strong mentally, so, yeah, it will be a new challenge and I’m really looking forward to it if it happens.”

Note: The Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals does not count as an official tour-level title in a player’s record.

Alcaraz Sets Korda Showdown In Milan

Top seed Carlos Alcaraz is the youngest player competing at the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals this week. But the 18-year-old continued to impress Friday as he cruised into the final in Milan.

The Spaniard went 3-0 in the round-robin stage and produced another ruthless performance, soaring past Argentine Sebastian Baez 4-2, 4-1, 4-2 to advance after 62 minutes in their first tour-level meeting.

“It was a really good match from my side,” Alcaraz said in his on-court interview. “I knew I had to play really well and aggressively. He is playing at a great level and had a great week. I always think in the tough moments I have to be aggressive and have no nerves in that moment. If I lose that point in the tough moments it is because I have gone for it.”

Alcaraz imposed his aggressive heavy-hitting game on the World No. 111 from the outset at the Allianz Cloud. The Spaniard demonstrated great footwork, which allowed him to run around and dictate on his forehand, striking with vast amounts of power to outmanoeuvre Baez.

The World No. 32, who has just dropped one set en route to the championship match, will face second seed Sebastian Korda in the final after the American defeated countryman Brandon Nakashima 4-3(3), 2-4, 1-4, 4-2, 4-2. If Alcaraz wins the title, he will become the youngest player since Andrei Medvedev, 18, to record 32 wins in a season, after the Ukrainian went 32-11 in 1992.

“The final is going to be really, really tough,” Alcaraz said. “Sebastian is playing great tennis and I am really excited to play against him for the first time. It would be amazing to win the title, but I am going to be facing a really good opponent, so we will see.”

In a strong serving display against Baez, Alcaraz won 32 of 37 of points behind his first delivery and saved all three break points he faced. The Spaniard hit 16 winners and committed just 11 unforced errors to end Baez’s hopes.

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Ferrero: The Art Of Building Alcaraz

Earlier this year, under the guidance of coach Juan Carlos Ferrero, Alcaraz made headlines when he upset World No. 3 Stefanos Tsitsipas en route to the quarter-finals at the US Open. The Spaniard also captured his maiden tour-level title in Umag and recorded Top 10 wins against Matteo Berrettini and Jannik Sinner in recent weeks.

Baez had never played a tour-level hard-court match before this week. But the 20-year-old, who won five ATP Challenger Tour titles on clay this year, overcame home favourite Lorenzo Musetti and Hugo Gaston to reach the semi-finals at the 21-and-under event.

Korda Downs Nakashima To March Into Milan Final

In a battle between two of America’s brightest prospects, Sebastian Korda came out on top Friday at the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals, overcoming Brandon Nakashima 4-3(3), 4-2, 4-1, 2-4, 4-2 to reach the final in Milan.

The 21-year-old finished the round-robin stage with a perfect 3-0 record and played with such confidence against Nakashima, thundering serves and crushing forehands to advance after one hour and 54 minutes.

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Coach Devoty On Korda: ‘He Is A Big Fighter’

“Brandon was playing some unbelievable tennis but I stayed with him and had some chances in the fourth and five sets and took them and ran,” Korda said in his on-court interview. “I got more aggressive. I tried coming into the net more and placing my serves more, and that opened up the court for me.”

The pressure has been on Korda this week as the second seed at the 21-and-under event. However, under high expectations, he has coped well, adjusting to the first-to-four, best-of-five set format to secure his place in the final, where he will either face World No. 32 Carlos Alcaraz or Argentine Sebastian Baez.

In their first ATPHead2Head meeting, Korda quickly found his rhythm from the baseline and on serve in front of a lively crowd at the Allianz Cloud, hitting five aces in the first set. But Nakashima grew into the match as it went on as he targeted Korda’s backhand to pin the American behind the baseline. The World No. 63 won all nine of his first-serve points in the second set and committed just one unforced error in the third set.

Korda however stormed ahead in the fourth set, winning the first 10 points, striking with great depth to break and force a decider. He then demonstrated his grit in the decider as he played aggressively and bravely, closing the net effectively to secure victory.

In a standout season, Korda defeated then-World No. 9 Diego Schwartzman en route to the quarter-finals in Miami, before he captured his first tour-level title in Parma. The World No. 39 also reached the fourth round at Wimbledon.

With his victory against Nakashima, Korda has now earned 31 tour-level wins this season. He had just three at this level prior to 2021.

Nakashima earned a vital victory against Holger Rune as he went 2-1 in the round-robin stage to qualify for the semi-finals. Earlier this season, the 20-year-old became the youngest American since Andy Roddick in 2001-02 to reach back-to-back tour-level finals when he advanced to championship matches in Los Cabos and Atlanta.

Did You Know?
With 13 Americans inside the Top 100, Korda and Nakashima, aged 21 and 20 respectively are two of the youngest, alongside 21-year-old Jenson Brooksby.

Coach Devoty On Korda: 'He Is A Big Fighter'

Sebastian Korda began the season ranked No. 118 in the FedEx ATP Rankings having earned just three tour-level wins. Now the American – who has captured 30 victories at this level in 2021 – is inside the Top 40 and is set to face countryman Brandon Nakashima on Friday in the semi-finals at the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals.

This year, Korda lifted his maiden tour-level trophy in Parma and clinched his first Top 10 win in Miami when he overcame then-World No. 9 Diego Schwartzman en route to the quarter-finals at the ATP Masters 1000 event. These results helped Korda secure his place in Milan.

While the focus has been on the 21-year-old, the foundations that have been put in place for Korda have been a crucial factor behind his success. Czech coach Theodor Devoty is a prominent member of his team and has known the World No. 39 since he was 11 years old.

Devoty worked closely with the American’s father Petr Korda, who won the Australian Open in 1998, when the pair trained former World No. 8 Radek Stepanek. After joining Korda’s team in 2020, Devoty’s relationship with his charge has continued to flourish.

Ahead of Korda’s semi-final against Nakashima, Devoty spoke to about the 21-and-under event in Milan, Korda’s development, his personality and more.

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Korda Relishing Milan Experience

How have you found the tournament in Milan so far?
This tournament was a big goal for Sebi at the beginning of the season and we are here. It is our last tournament, and we are here all as a team except Petr and Dean [Goldfine]. We are enjoying it a lot as this has been a big goal. We are so proud of him and he deserved it. To make the semi-finals is a bonus for us. We have just taken it step by step this week and we are supporting him.

Korda is the second seed here in Milan, what has been the crucial factors behind his rise this year?
He is a big fighter. He played really good matches this season against the top players and beat them. It was key as it gave him the belief he could beat really good players on the Tour. Here he is the second seed and playing players who are around No. 60, 70 in the World, so he sees it as he has to win, and we are doing well so far. But no match is easy here.

He always seems very focused on court and keeps his emotions in check, is this something that comes naturally to him or have you instilled this in Korda over time?
We have been working on his mentality to stay calm. He used to be crying and screaming, but against Musetti on Thursday, I had never seen him so calm. In front of the Italian crowd also. With [Brandon] Nakashima, there are no emotions. Nothing. He has a poker face like Ivan Lendl used to. Sebi was similar on Thursday. I told him he was looking like Lendl. It helps a lot to have this front on court.

How have you found the courtside coaching rule in Milan?
Sebi is not a huge fan of courtside coaching because the whole season, you are fighting on court alone. He is a very smart player and a great player. We are helping him. I am just trying to give him a few small things during the matches. Little comments, but he does not want to talk too much during the matches. These players are gladiators, and it is good when they battle between them. For the fans it is interesting, though.

This year has been pretty special for Sebastian. What do you think of the whole experience considering you have known him since he was young?
I remember when I met him for the first time when he was 11 or 12 and I was working with Radek [Stepanek] and he was the ball kid for us! Now he is two meters tall and 80 kg, and he is where he is and it is an amazing story. It is the whole family. His parents are doing an amazing job and the children are all great.

Korda won his first tour-level title in Parma in May, how proud were you of him then and how important was that week and experience for you guys as a team?
It was a complicated start to the season. We were in Belgrade, Munich and Madrid and he lost in the first round each time. Then we came to our base in Prague and we talked and did two weeks of practise and went to Parma. First round he played [Andreas] Seppi, a tough match. He won in three sets and then it started. That was the first tournament with his girlfriend and he lifted the trophy. He beat [Lorenzo] Sonego and in the final, he beat [Marco] Cecchinato. It was an amazing week and we enjoyed it a lot and it was great. It helped with his confidence.

Korda also enjoyed a run to the fourth round at Wimbledon, how was that for you?
If you asked Sebi, I don’t think he would say he was in shock, but I think he was. The fourth round at a major is amazing. During the match against Karen Khachanov, I was almost crying. In that fifth set, both players lost their serve about eight times. I don’t think this would have happened in history before. You can’t imagine how he was feeling after this defeat. He was very sad. He needed a few days to relax and reset. There is always next week and a new challenge.

Following such a strong season, they is a lot of expectation around him. How as a team are you dealing with this and how important is it to stay in the moment and not look too far ahead?
We are like a family. The fitness guy Marek [Vseticek] was working with Petr for 10 years, Radek for 13 years and now Sebi. I have known Marek for at least 10 years. I have known Petr and Sebi for more than 10 years. We are all friends and like a family together as a team. We have great respect for each other. You can’t focus even three months ahead. You need to focus and get him ready for the next week. He will lose one week and then he will start a new tournament on Monday, which is a new challenge. The short term has to be the focus.

Looking ahead to preseason, what are your plans?
During preseason we will be based in the United States. He wants to stay in Europe for one or two weeks and have some rest after Milan. Then he will come back and after Christmas, we will go to Australia. When Marek saw Sebi for the first time he didn’t have much muscle or anything. But he knows Sebi doesn’t like to spend much time at the gym. He is not that type of guy. Sebi prefers to be out of the gym, but to be able to fight against these top guys he has to do this work. He just has to work hard.

Next season, are there any main goals you have in mind for Sebastian and how will you go about achieving them?
We will talk as a team and then set some goals. We just have to see how he plays. The most important thing is that he is healthy. We will work hard and support him as always as a team, we will do everything. But it is up to him. I hope and believe he can be Top 10 in the future because he has the potential to be there, but we will see.

Korda Relishing Milan Experience

#NextGenATP American Sebastian Korda is preparing to face countryman Brandon Nakashima in the semi-finals at the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals Friday, having soared out of Group B with a perfect 3-0 record.

The 21-year-old is the second seed in Milan following his standout 2021 season, which saw him capture his maiden tour-level title in Parma and reach the fourth round at Wimbledon.

With expectations on the World No. 39 high, Korda spoke to about the 21-and-under event in Milan.

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Ferrero: The Art Of Building Alcaraz

A lot of the #NextGenATP players have been doing amazing things this year. How much does it motivate you, seeing the other young players doing well? Is there anyone in particular who has really impressed you?
There are a lot of great players here. How Carlos Alcaraz just shot up, at the end of the year how well he was playing was impressive. There are a lot of great players here, which is awesome to see. We all played juniors together, so we all know each other and it is fun to play against each other. It is awesome.

When you were growing up there was Roger, Rafa and Novak, who created great rivalries. As you’re competing with other #NextGenATP players, have you thought about your budding rivalries and playing against them for many years?
It is awesome. Hopefully we can have rivalries like they had. It is incredible. I played Lorenzo [Musetti] earlier this year and it was a fun match to be a part of and hopefully I play a lot of matches against Hugo Gaston. He is a lot of fun to play against. He is an incredible player. I would love the chance to play against Carlos with how well he has been playing. It would be a new experience for me.

Have you watched the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals before and if so what were your thoughts?
I watched it every year. One of my biggest goals was to be here and to achieve it this year, I am really happy and excited. I worked really hard this year, had some great results. I am playing good tennis and having fun here and enjoying myself.

The Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals always has many innovations. Were there any that you particularly enjoyed and look forward to using and if so, why?
All the rules are tough to get used to but by now everyone is used to them. The one-minute warm-up was a little bit tricky because I have never done that before. The deuce points, from playing doubles you get the feel of it. Maybe at the qualifying for the US Open, they had courtside coaching, so I have experienced it a little bit. I don’t use it as much as some of the other players. First to four games is really difficult because you always have to concentrate and have to be ready to go. One break is a really big thing for the set and the momentum for the match.

When you think of Italy, what do you think of?
The food! My mind goes straight to pizza and pasta. Also, all the passion people have here. Be it tennis or football or any kind of sport. They get really behind it, which is awesome to see. We could hear the fans chanting at the Milan derby [on Sunday].

Have you ever done some sight-seeing in Italy and if so what was your favourite place to visit?
I haven’t seen anything yet. But after this tournament, I will probably stay and take the off-season here with my girlfriend and take a little trip around Europe and see some of the sights.

Ferrero: The Art Of Building Alcaraz

Juan Carlos Ferrero is in no rush with Carlos Alcaraz. In the run up to the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals, the innovative tournament in Milan that brings together the Tour’s best 21-and-under players, everything seems to be going in slow motion. The Spaniard is flying through the ranks of professional tennis with a career built on the foundations of the calm instilled in him by his coach, who is determined to build a rock-solid player.

At the players’ hotel, just 500 meters from the Allianz Cloud stadium that is hosting the competition, the former World No. 1 spoke to about one of the most exciting prospects on Tour.

Do you view Milan as the reward for a great season?
Of course. He has his sights set very high and he also had an eye on the other tournament [the Nitto ATP Finals], because he was No. 20 in the [FedEx ATP] Race [To Turin]. Without a doubt, he was very excited to come here and it was one of the goals at the start of the season. We haven’t spoken much about it because you pay more attention to the normal ranking. Since he qualified, he has been looking forward to playing the tournament even though there are no points available. Because of the characteristics of the tournament: the singles court, the eight best players.

Also, the standard here is very high, there are players that are in the Top 30 like him and [Sebastian] Korda, [Holger Vitus Nodskov] Rune, who just won several Challenger events, is here, [Sebastian] Baez, who has also won quite a few tournaments, [Hugo] Gaston is also closing in on the Top 60… The standard is very high here and it’s not a minor tournament by any means. It really is a source of motivation.

Photo Credit: Peter Staples/ATP Tour

Carlos is the highest ranked player, as well as being the youngest, what have you made of his rise?
Carlos’ rise has been very fast this year. I already thought he was precocious at 15 or 16 years old. At that age he beat Albert Ramos-Vinolas in Rio de Janeiro. I told myself that when he turned 18 he could be around the Top 50. 

I think it’s very positive. Of course, we’ve never been in a hurry. We’ve always tried to make him grow and invested a lot in his tennis and paid very little attention to his ranking – always focused on improving his game and as a player, and gaining more experience with how young he is. The ranking came because of the results. We really value it because it’s very difficult to do. Even more so with the situation created by COVID-19, which has meant it was even harder to climb up the rankings.

A few days ago Carlos said: “I’ve exceeded my expectations this year.” Has he exceeded yours?
Ferrero: Yes, one of the expectations we had was to be ranked around No. 50. In terms of that number, he has exceeded expectations. We could also mention that he has played against top players and been able to compete on their level – and even beat them, as was the case with [Stefanos] Tsitsipas and [Matteo] Berrettini, even [Jannik] Sinner, who is another of the most promising young players. It’s true that he has exceeded those expectations and shown that his game peaks at a very high level that we have to try and maintain so that he can play like that continuously.

Carlos will continue to climb. Right now, he’s a bit like Son Goku [from Dragonball Z], when he started to transform and then lost power. It’s a little joke I have with him. But it’s true that those peaks at such a high level are because he’s a very dynamic player who can do a lot of things on court and on any surface. 

Many of his peers call him ‘mature’ for his age. What is maturity?
Ferrero: Recognising what is happening on court, knowing when you are doing things well or badly. Often players obsess over something, and don’t realise what they’re doing wrong. Carlos started to realise increasingly quickly what he was doing wrong, and what he actually has to focus on, above all on a mental level.

Since he was little, he has been an inconsistent player: he would play very well, then he would play very badly. It still happens to him on occasions, but he’s much more stable now. He has placed a lot of importance on working hard on the mental side. It’s something that I’ve always mentioned to him over these three years, that it was very important to progress little by little. He has also upped his work with his psychologist Isabel Balaguer. He knows perfectly well that it is one of the most important things, because in terms of fitness and his tennis, his progress is very fast at the moment. 

I think the most important thing at the moment is to continue growing as a player on a mental level in order to keep getting stronger for situations like those he has been through or the many more he may experience.

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What are you most proud of when you think about Carlos?
He’s very loyal to the people he loves. The people that work with him really recognise that, because of how he is now and not because of who he is becoming. I really value what a great kid he is. From the start I think we connected very well. I really value that it’s a simple relationship and that the daily work between us is easy. Ultimately, so much travel and so much time together requires peaceful relationships. I really value that loyalty and that trust.

Then we get to the question of whether or not he is a hard worker, if he is dedicated or not. I’m a very strict person when it comes to work and he has gradually had to incorporate things that he didn’t have and that I told him were very important. At first, he found it tough but then he understood that in the end it’s a way of life. He gradually learned these things and there is merit in that because that wasn’t the case at the beginning.

What’s the one thing you’ve tried to instill in him the most?
Humility and consistent hard work. I think it’s very important. Then there have been other details. He was a person who, when he was tired, really dropped his level of training and I’ve always been consistent in telling him that you have to work during those times. The importance of intensity on court… There are many small things, but I have highlighted humility and being a hard worker on court. That’s something that he absolutely had to have.

Q: Even well-established players have recognised his progress, how has that influenced Alcaraz?
He absorbs it very well, without added pressure. Since everyone has started saying that he is the new player who could go right to the top, he has tried to stay in a small bubble. Above all, to try and stay on his own path. Carrying the burden of comparisons with a player like Rafa [Nadal] is difficult for such a young boy. 

He is very mentally strong but he still has a lot to learn – we saw it last week [he was in tears against Hugo Gaston in the last 16 of the Rolex Paris Masters]. There are things that he is unable to control. The fact that they compare him with Rafa is difficult but we have always handled it well. Him best of all. He wants to do things his own way and so far, he really is coping very well. We haven’t noticed more or less pressure because of this.

Photo Credit: Peter Staples/ATP Tour

Does it take someone special to maintain that?
 I’d say you have to be very clear about it. We talk about it, not much, but sometimes we’ve talked about it. And we’re very sure of the road he wants to follow. So they compare him with Rafa? Great, that means that people think he has a lot of potential. But he has to be very clear, and other people do too, that he has to stay on his own path. I won’t say that Rafa’s career is unrepeatable, but almost. Carlos has to have his own career and keep looking forward.

You’ve been World No. 1 in the past. Do you remember yourself at his age?

  I think we’re similar in that we are both very emotive on court. That’s positive, because it means you don’t lose your identity or your style of play. If you’re truly good, you’re able to keep your head in difficult moments, tough matches, moments of tension. A player with character will always push forwards. A player who shrinks from those situations will find it difficult to win big tournaments. In that respect, he is very good.

Making comparisons is difficult. Something else about Carlos is he always wants to improve. That’s very important. I’ve spoken to him a lot about wanting to be better every day. You can’t train for the sake of it, that’s a waste of time. You have to do quality training, to know what to train, you have to know what needs improving, where your weaknesses are, which moments you need to improve in, and in which moments you need to read the game. He has been improving in all of those aspects.

At some tournaments we’ve joked around, ‘Now you have to tell me what you’re doing wrong in this match.’ To explain to me exactly what he should have done differently, doing role plays like that. It might not seem like it, but it really helps him a lot.

Is he good at those analyses?
Yes. We tend to talk about what has happened. More than about statistics, or what he should have done. I talk more about mental moments on court than tennis tactics. He is quite open to that and it’s wanting to improve constantly that’s the most important thing.

If we were to speak in one year’s time, what would Juan Carlos Ferrero be happy with?
If Carlos has managed to continue growing naturally and in the way I have in mind, I have a very clear idea of what next year could be. As he progresses, he will turn 19, he’ll be more mature, have more experience on court, and play a lot of quality matches against very good players. If everything continues as I think it may, I think next year will be… interesting.