Ferrero, coach of Zverev, expects more competitive 2018 season

Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer monopolized the four Grand Slam titles in 2017 and finished No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, by a country mile. Juan Carlos Ferrero, for one, does not anticipate a similar story in 2018.

“I think it is going to get really competitive among the big four and the young players in the top 10 who want to settle down in the top of the rankings and remain there for a long time,” Ferrero forecasted. “We are going to see a very competitive season. As I said before, the big four will have to face the newcomers. And let’s not forget players like Stan Wawrinka or Kei Nishikori, who have been injured for some months. It is going to be a tough season for all of them.”

There was nothing tough about 2017 for Nadal and Federer, aside from when the Spaniard was dealing either with a knee injury or with Federer on the other side of the net. They split the four majors, with alternating triumphs at the Australian Open (Federer), French Open (Nadal), Wimbledon (Federer), and U.S. Open (Nadal). The Swiss finished at 9,605 ranking points–1,040 behind Nadal. No other player accrued more than 5,150 (Grigor Dimitrov). Alexander Zverev (4,610) and Dominic Thiem (4,015) were fourth and fifth, respectively.

Zverev, 20, peaked at No. 3 in the world before being passed by Dimitrov at the Nitto ATP Finals–which the Bulgarian won. The German, who started working with Ferrero in 2017, captured two Masters 1000 titles (Rome and Montreal) to help make up for his Grand Slam disappointments (combined 6-4 record).

“Zverev is very competitive and results have arrived sooner than expected,” Ferrero commented. “He is a top world player so far and during the last part of the season he focused on the mental side in order to cope with pressure. We are working a lot on [the mental] side of him; so far Zverev has not had to face this aspect of the game.

“He is No. 4 in the ATP rankings and they now begin to see him as a potential No. 1, because he is able to make it.”

Dimitrov, Thiem, and David Goffin are also trending in the right direction along with Zverev. In addition to his year-end championship title, Dimitrov prevailed at the Cincinnati Masters this summer. Thiem was the second best player in the world on clay this season and reached a second consecutive French Open semifinal before succumbing to Nadal. Goffin, the runner-up to Dimitrov in London, would certainly be ranked better than No. 7 and possibly as high as No. 5 if not for an ankle injury sustained at Roland Garros that kept him out of Wimbledon.

But Zverev and everyone else has a long way to go before catching Nadal and Federer in the rankings. Nadal did not lose in anything less than five sets at any of the four majors in 2017. In addition to his pair of titles, he fell to Federer in five in the Australian Open final and to Gilles Muller in five during fourth-round action at Wimbledon. Federer lost only five total matches this past season–two from match point up, two in which he was less than 100 percent because of a back issue, and just one more to Goffin at the O2 Arena.

“You cannot be surprised with Rafa; he is one of the greatest in tennis history and his fighting capability is simply unbelievable,” Ferrero praised. “This year he [played] more aggressively, his tennis is more straightforward, he is adapting his game-style, and he has been able to enjoy himself again on the court. A tennis player of his level is constantly trying to adapt and improve.”

“Federer knows himself better than anyone; he knows where his limits are and he cherry-picks his calendar based on his knowledge [of] himself. One of the keys for last season’s success might be that Federer focused more on enjoying than on simply winning. He is no longer carrying such a burden on his shoulders.”

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