Ferrero: Alcaraz is better than last year

 - Simon Cambers

2003 Roland-Garros champion sharing experience with his top-ranked charge

Carlos Alcaraz, practice, Roland-Garros 2023© Nicolas Gouhier/FFT

Juan Carlos Ferrero knows a thing or two about trying to cope with pressure at Roland-Garros.

Ferrero was still chasing his first Grand Slam title when he lost to another Spaniard, Albert Costa, in the 2002 final, having gone into the match as the strong favourite.

He learned his lesson and triumphed at Roland-Garros the following summer and on the 20th anniversary of his victory, he is back in Paris as the coach of world No.1 Carlos Alcaraz.

With 14-time champion Rafael Nadal missing through injury, Alcaraz is the favourite here on the terre battue, which brings its own pressure, at least from the outside.

For Ferrero, the fact that Alcaraz has already won a Grand Slam, at last year’s US Open, can only be an advantage.


Carlos Alcaraz, Juan Carlos Ferrero, practice, Roland-Garros 2023© Nicolas Gouhier/FFT

“Pressure is going to be there, always,” Ferrero told reporters at Roland-Garros on Sunday. “I think people expect a lot of things from a lot of players, so I think we try to go our way, believe in ourselves.

“I think of course [the fact that he] won a Grand Slam already, 19 years old, now 20, is going to help him to believe that he can make it again. I think it's all help, not more pressure. That's what we believe, and I think we are prepared to make a great tournament.

“Of course everybody can lose in [the] first round, you don't have a clue. But I think we played a very good clay season at the moment, and this is the last one, so we are going to try to give our best to make the best tournament possible, for sure, with no pressure.”

One year on

Having missed the Australian Open through injury, Alcaraz has been making up for lost time, winning titles in Indian Wells, Buenos Aires, Barcelona and Madrid.

This time last year, the then-teenage Alcaraz saw a 14-match winning streak end at the hands of Alexander Zverev in the quarter-finals. Twelve months on, with a Grand Slam title under his belt, he has improved in many ways.

“As a person, I would say he's more mature,” Ferrero said. “He's 20 now, and of course also when you are on a team that people are older, I think you grow up a little bit faster than maybe with other people that are the same age as you.

Juan Carlos Ferrero, Carlos Alcaraz, Roland-Garros 2023© Julien Crosnier/FFT

“As a player, I think he grows up super-fast on the court. He can, let's say, read the matches a little bit better. Even before the match, like talking about the match, you can see that he's more mature in all kinds of areas on the court.

“So, yeah, I would say he's better than last year. I think he has more experience. The experience that he's won US Open and, you know, live the experience on the court that he did I think makes him grow faster than maybe other people, so definitely he's a better player.”

Passing it on

And Ferrero said his own experiences at Roland-Garros can also be a positive factor for Alcaraz.

“I think it's not only important about here, I think playing the tour, knowing the players, knowing the experience that maybe he's going to have, it's going to help a lot to, let's say, advise him with what's going to happen, how you're going to feel it in that moment or how you're going to play.

“Definitely it helps a lot, coaching like this, and I think we are taking maybe [advantage] of that, maybe [compared] to other coaches.”

Alcaraz begins his Roland-Garros title bid against Flavio Cobolli of Italy on Monday on Court Suzanne-Lenglen.