THE VALENCIAN STARTS HIS 8TH SEASON AS A PROFESSIONAL
Ferrero: "Everything that has happened to me has made me settle down"
Juan Carlos Ferrero ended 2003 as the great clay dominator. He started off with Roland Garros and reached his dream of being number 1. Only Andy Roddick could snatch the ATP throne off him in the last 2 tournaments. One year later, Ferrero starts his return to the elite on Monday in Auckland (New Zealand) after a past year marred by injuries and illnesses which left him with no titles.
How do you feel physically, ahead of a year that promises to be very hard?
Actually, really good. I took my holidays before the Davis Cup final and so I've been training for over a month to be on form for Australia.
I guess it helped you to end in December so as not to lose your rhythm?
Well, in Seville I don't think I got into any sort of rhythm because I hardly played [good swipe at the G3 Juanqui!!!
You got to the semis in last year's Australian Open. What are your chances of repeating this from 17 January in Melbourne Park?
Right now, I don't want to set goals for myself in the first few tournaments. The best is to go match by match. I want to think that in 2004 I lost in the first round of Sydney and then I got to the semis of the "Aussie" Open.
But do you realise that all the points you're defending are from the first month of competition with the semis in Australia (450) and the final of Rotterdam (210)?
It would be stupid to get obsessed with thinking about what I'm defending now in Australia. Extra pressure doesn't work well with me. Even if I don't get the results, I've got the whole season to gain places in the ranking.
Balancing up your bad last year, is there time to take positive conclusions from such misfortune?
It helps you mature. Everything that's happened, has helped me settle down. Every sports professional has a bad year, and I've just had mine.
What is 2005 asking of Ferrero?
The only thing I want is to feel competitive oncourt again.
You're used to fighting for Grand Slams and Masters Series. Since 2001, you were in 3 consecutive year-ending Masters Cups. What are your objectives nowadays?
Win a Grand Slam again and also to be up there again in the Masters Series. But all that happens by getting back to the level I was at before.
On Monday the first test for Ferrero begins in Auckland
I'm already looking forward to playing matches after a hard pre-season during which I especially worked on my physical aspect both in Villena, and in the last few days in Brazil.
You flew last Thursday from Salvador de Bahia to New Zealand. Spending your last training week in Brazil helped you to adapt to the current climatic conditions in the Antipodes?
For sure. It's the middle of Summer there and the heat and humidity are factors that influence the results, especially in a Grand Slam with best of 5 set matches.
After the "sweet hangover" of the Davis Cup with your second "Salad bowl", the first week of March you're off to Dominik Hrbaty's and Karol Beck's Slovakia.
I think the draw is quite similar to 2004, where we had to beat a tough team like the Czech Republic. The difference is that the first 2 ties will be away from home. The positive side is that, at least for the finalist teams, the competition starts in March instead of February, with more time in between to get fit.
Spanish tennis is immersed in an electoral process that will produce a new president for the Federation on 29 January. Do you follow what's going on between the candidates?
It's not something I keep myself informed about. I hope that, whoever wins the elections, they do the best for national tennis.
Apart from Carlos Moyà (28 years), you're 24 but behind you are Feliciano López at 23, Tommy Robredo at 22, Fernando Verdasco at 21 and Rafael Nadal at 18. Are we looking at the best generation in history?
Definitely, especially with the potential that all of those players have shown. I hope we're all really high up in the rankings very soon.
Speaking of privileged positions on the men's tour, what do you think about what Roger Federer's doing?
I think he's being a surprise to the tennis world. But this season he's playing with the pressure of repeating all his successes and we'll soon see how he copes with it. It won't be easy to win 11 tournaments, 3 of those being Grand Slams...
Ferrero turned professional in 1998, when those at the top were still Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi and Pat Rafter. He also rubbed shoulders with the greats, Carlos Moyà and Alex Corretja. Don't you feel that now there's more competition within the Top 10?
For sure, getting a spot in the Top 10 doesn't come easily. In the last year Safin, Hewitt and Henman are also back fighting to be there.