HI Ferrero's fan!
I came across this artical on the internet. I don't know whether it had post before.
There are two things you can say about Juan Carlos Ferrero without hesitation. First, he is the greatest clay court player of his generation and arguably the best since Bjorn Borg a quarter-century ago. Second, almost nobody on this side of the Atlantic seems to care.
Not since Czechoslovakian chainsaw Ivan Lendl mowed down opponents with metronomic precision has a player been so successful — and so unappreciated.
"He doesn’t seem to inspire excitement," says TV commentator Cliff Drysdale, "and I’m not sure it’s just the American public."
Call it the Spanish Paradox — of which Ferrero is the current incarnation. Somehow Latin flair doesn’t translate well inside the 27-by-78 dimensions of a tennis court. To be sure, the U.S. public has always been slow to embrace outsiders. Stefan Edberg, Boris Becker and Steffi Graf were not instant stars in America. But Spaniards, for whatever reason, have been particularly hardpressed to gain major star status stateside. Even if Marat Safin, Lleyton Hewitt and Roger Federer are not yet household names on these shores, these under-24 foreign stars with credentials similar to Ferrero — at least one major and a No. 1 ranking — would almost certainly score higher Q ratings than their Spanish contemporary.
That’s why, in some minds, as Ferrero takes aim at Paris this month, he will be seeking to defend not only his Roland Garros crown, but also his reputation. For a player who has established such a lofty standard of winning in his young career (.699 through Tennis Masters Series Monte-Carlo), the 24-year-old’s image has, curiously, lagged behind.
Nowhere has that disconnect been more apparent than on the bright red terre battue of Roland Garros, where Ferrero has surpassed even the record of six-time champion Borg. In four trips, the blond-tinged Spaniard has never finished worse than the semifinals, including his dissection of Dutchman Martin Verkerk in straight sets for the title last year — a feat of consistency unmatched in the Modern Era. Borg, who won twice in his first four trips to Paris, also lost in the fourth round and quarterfinals.
"I always felt very good there," says Ferrero in grand understatement, "and I hope I can perform as well as I did in the past this year."
Ferrero was pegged for greatness at an early age, capturing the world under-13 title and then following up a few years later with an appearance in the junior French Open final in 1998. Despite his promise, it was unclear whether the wiry “Mosquito” — who is listed at 6 feet, 160 pounds — had the muscle to compete on the ATP tour. But after leaping 301 places in 1999 to No. 43, the fleet-footed baseline basher had proven himself to be quite obviously the real deal.
Five years later, the soft-spoken Ferrero, who trains in his native Villena, far from the center of Spanish tennis power in Barcelona, is on trajectory to become Spain’s greatest player of all time. He has already accomplished what no Spaniard has done before: finish in the Top 5 for three consecutive years.
It’s why every conversation about hoisting the Coupe des Mousquetaires necessarily begins with him and why once again he heads into Roland Garros as the odds-on favorite.
"Obviously the three guys that probably stand out are Ferrero, (Guillermo) Coria and (Carlos) Moya," says Hewitt, ticking off the usual list of suspects, in the usual order.
"I am sure that it will be a special feeling when I get there before the tournament starts," says Ferrero, who responded to questions by e-mail through ATP officials, having missed the spring U.S. hard court season because of chicken pox.
Too bad that special feeling won’t last long. A hoard of rivals, both old and new, will be gunning for Ferrero’s hardware. Argentina’s Coria, a semifinalist at Roland Garros last year and undefeated on clay since, with five titles and a 55-4 record in sets through TMS Monte-Carlo, is now almost mentioned in the same breath on dirt as Ferrero. A resurgent Moya, the 1998 French Open champ, has won two titles and reached the finals of two others in 2004. And lest we forget, No. 1 Roger Federer has won big titles on dirt, including TMS Hamburg two years ago, and is capable of excelling on any surface.
"Roland Garros is probably the most open tournament of the four Grand Slams," admits Ferrero. "Every rival is dangerous, but we all know that especially the Spanish players and now the Argentine players, led by Coria, are very dangerous and candidates to win the tournament. It is going to be tough to beat any of these."
Ferrero’s caution is well deserved. For the first time since reaching No. 1 last September, he has shown chinks in his armor. Despite reaching the semis at the Australian Open and the final in Rotterdam (both on hard courts), he has been upended by the unlikeliest of opponents — even on clay. Last year, Ferrero was the only player among the Top 10 not to lose an opening round match. But just four months into ’04, he has dropped three — to unheralded players Chris Guccione in Sydney and Gregory Carraz in Marseille, and to Alex Corretja in TMS Monte-Carlo, where Ferrero was two-time defending champ.
He also failed to defend his title on his virtual home court in Valencia, falling to countryman Fernando Verdasco in the semis; missed both Indian Wells and Key Biscayne in March when he came down with chicken pox; and has yet to win a tournament all year.
"He hasn’t had a good season, starting in Houston (at the Masters Cup) last year," says Drysdale. "That affects your confidence. He has a lot of time to go before the French. But I’d be worried if I were him."
Worrying, however, is not something the quiet but supremely confident Ferrero seems to do much of — especially come springtime in Paris. The Mosquito has a knack for sucking the blood out of opponents once he sets foot in the Porte d’Auteuil section of the city.
Consider that in 2002, he lost in the second round in Rome and the first round in Hamburg before storming to the French Open final, where he froze up to compatriot Albert Costa.
Common wisdom says it’s harder to remain on top of the mountain than it is to climb there. Repeating is never easy, especially when you’re a marked man. Most players agree it’s more difficult than breaking through for a first major championship. But Open Era history is littered with back-to-back Grand Slam winners, and the French is no exception. Roland Garros repeaters include Jan Kodes (’70-’71), Borg (’74-’75 and ’78-’81), Lendl (’86-’87) Jim Courier (’91-’92), Sergi Bruguera (’93-’94) and, most recently, Gustavo Kuerten (’00-’01). In other words, there is ample precedent.
Ferrero says he will not focus on one particular aspect entering the French, except to show up with a clear mind and fresh legs.
"I don’t know the key to win it," he says, "but for sure one of the things is to arrive well and strong."
U.S. Davis Cup captain Patrick McEnroe agrees that if Ferrero finds the right balance of match play and rest, he will be hard to knock off.
"Last year he was smart," says McEnroe. "He took time off before the French. In previous years, he ran out of gas and got mentally tight. …If he’s healthy, only a couple of guys can beat him on clay."
It will be interesting to monitor whether Ferrero’s success on faster surfaces is affecting his clay court prowess. Past dirtball experts — think Mats Wilander and Lendl — who have adapted their games for more hard court success seem to lose the ability to go back to a clay court mentality. It’s as if, once incorporating a bigger serve and a penchant for taking more risk, they can’t re-summon the patience to win on clay. Will Ferrero, runner-up at last summer’s U.S. Open, follow that path?
The path to popularity is more perplexing. Why don’t Americans fawn over Ferrero? What makes his fan appeal so tepid? Or is it just a matter of time before he joins the pantheon of crossover stars like Becker and Edberg?
For some reason, Spanish players have never struck a chord with U.S. audiences. Manuel Santana, Andres Gimeno, Manuel Orantes, Bruguera — go down the list. None of these champions has ever really captured U.S. imaginations.
It takes a particular blend of success and charisma to catch on here, but this is nothing Spaniards inherently lack. Ferrero himself admits he has not won enough to deserve the fame of a Becker or Edberg, two Europeans who managed to attract major followings in the States.
"We are big names in Spain and in other parts of the world," says Ferrero. "It is more logical for U.S. guys to be big in that country. Becker won several Wimbledons and the U.S. Open. When I win those you can ask me this question (about not being popular) again."
Some of it is stylistic. The core of Ferrero’s game is consistency, foot speed and aggression. Unlike most Spanish players, Ferrero is not a defensive counterpuncher content to merely out rally opponents, though he will revert to that style when necessary. While he camps out at the baseline, he has the ability to transition from defense to offense in an instant, stepping up to crush short balls off either wing, and his serve is underrated.
But in the end, there is nothing that jumps out in his game, no signature shot, no defining characteristic.
"He’s bashes the ball with precision," says McEnroe. "It’s hard to warm up to that."
Likewise, his mechanic and businesslike on-court demeanor belies a fierce fighting spirit below the surface — a self-protective trait developed perhaps after the tough loss of his mother, Rosario, to cancer when he was 17.
His reserved aura and hard-to-categorize game do not lend themselves to connection. His shotmaking is not artistic, like Federer. He doesn’t move with panache, like Coria. He is not prone to emotive outbursts, like Safin or Hewitt, and he doesn’t possess the innate charisma of a Becker. He’s intense, but machine-like. He just wins.
Too bad, argues Ferrero, who refuses to change his style or pander for popularity.
"I don’t really worry much about it," he says. "I have an aggressive game, hitting winners from anywhere on a court. I have a quiet personality, and I like to speak Spanish since my English is not as good. This is the way I am. Take it or leave it, but come to watch me play and you will always see me trying to win."
His countrymen are quick to rush to his defense, uniformly blaming the media and the xenophobic American mind set for Ferrero’s lackluster celebrity.
"I love very much the way he plays," says veteran Costa. "He looks like he’s playing with no passion. But inside of him he’s doing 100 percent."
Tommy Robredo singles out the American attitude that favors showmanship over substance.
"American people want an idol, making spectacular shots on the court, making a show and making great things to say, ‘Oh, look at that! ’" says Robredo. "He is not this type of guy. He’s really quiet, he goes his own way and he’s not going to do (anything) spectacular. But he’s always gonna win. It’s not the type of idol for U.S. people, but he’s a great idol in Spain for sure."
Spanish No. 2 Moya, the 1998 French Open titlist, argues that it has less to do with Ferrero than with the crowded sports landscape in the U.S. Moya recalled how he attended a Miami Heat game during the NASDAQ-100 Open this year when Americans Andy Roddick and Mardy Fish were also in attendance. As they often do, the stadium flashed various celebrities on the overhead scoreboard to loud applause. But when they showed Fish’s mug, "nobody said anything," said Moya. And even reigning U.S. Open champ Roddick drew scant recognition.
"I think tennis players are not very popular in the States, (it’s) not only the Spanish," Moya says.
But is there something deeper?
Contrary to the flair of flamenco and the bravado of bull fighting, Spaniards have a counterbalancing conservative streak evident not only in their reactive style of play in tennis, but also in their politics, religion and culture. This is a deeply Catholic country that was a home of Fascism not too long ago.
Safin, who trained in Valencia from 1994 to 2001 and knows the Spaniards well, takes nothing away from the great success they have had over the last decade. But he concedes there is something monotonous and uninviting about their play.
"Everybody has different character," he explains, trying to put his finger on it. "But this kind of character that the Spanish people have, maybe they’re not — the people from the States don’t like it; they want to see something else. They want to see like maybe a John McEnroe, they want to see Boris Becker or they want to see big names, more interesting game. They want to see little bit serve-and-volley and some nice shots. You cannot see that from the Spanish players. Somehow it’s not that attractive for the people."
Of course, winning consistently on the big stage can expunge anyone’s anonymity issues, as even Lendl discovered. That’s a view shared by another great Spanish champion, Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario, whose bubbly personality overcame a similarly methodical style to earn her many fans outside of Europe.
"He’s still young," says Sanchez-Vicario of Ferrero. "You keep winning, you win more Grand Slams, they will know you."
But some, like Drysdale, think Ferrero is destined to be overshadowed by players who possess more natural pizzazz.
"I don’t ever see him being in the class of a Becker or an Edberg, no matter how many Slams he wins," says Drysdale. "It doesn’t make him a bad guy, it’s just the way it is."