Former world no. 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero – winner at the 2003 French Open – has cautioned critics quick to apply pressure on Spanish teenager Carlos Alcaraz as Rafael Nadal’s successor long-term – instead saying more gradual progression is important for him to have a fruitful career.
despite promise and expectations, Alcaraz has plenty to learn
Nadal needed just shy of 80 minutes to beat Alcaraz in their R2 Madrid Open matchup today, but Ferrero has warned against fans and critics who are quick to draw comparisons between the pair: especially with ambitions the latter will one day succeed the 20-time Grand Slam winner.
“Well, it’s amazing to spend my birthday playing against Rafa, learning from him, playing here in Madrid. It could be better if I won, but I really enjoy and learn from him. This match made me grow up as a player.” – Alcaraz post-match
Rafa, who turns 35 on June 4, still has a few years left at the top of his game and is set to defend his Roland Garros crown in Paris at the year’s second Grand Slam tournament come late May.
Alcaraz, who celebrated his 18th birthday this week, sits just outside the top 100 (new career-high #114) and leads the pack of talented ATP teenage players not named Jannik Sinner (#17) or Lorenzo Musetti (#82), an Italian duo both more than twelve months older than him.
What did Alcaraz’s coach Ferrero say on nadal comparisons?
After being given a wildcard for this week’s event, he beat France’s Adrian Mannarino (world no. 35) in round one before earning just three games (6-1, 6-2) against Nadal. Although that all-Spanish affair was billed as present vs future, Ferrero feels the comparisons are a hindrance.
During an interview with ATPTour.com, the 41-year-old was quoted as saying:
“Rafa is very much alive, he’s playing at a very high standard, fighting for Grand Slams. I wouldn’t dare talk about a succession.
It’s true that Carlos is the guy coming up the rear, not to replace anyone, but to try and do great things, play great matches. I don’t think any talk of Carlos succeeding Rafa is good for him – it’s added pressure and of little use.
I like to think that we have another very promising player. With his game, the way he handles things from match to match, his head-to-head with players, gives me confidence he will be very good. But we have to take it step by step.”
Alcaraz, who was struggling with a rib issue, will have learned plenty from that loss and has invaluable company in his team to stay focused and humble, despite heightened expectations.
Up next for Nadal, he faces Australian qualifier Alexei Popyrin on Thursday – whose straight sets wins over Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff and Sinner helped secure a R3 berth. Popyrin defeated David Goffin in Melbourne earlier this year, and won his first ATP title the following month.
Picture source: Getty Images