Juan Carlos Ferrero is expecting 2018 to be ‘tough’ for the ‘Big Four’, with a string of players returning to full fitness and the rise of the Next Gen stars looking to prove themselves at the very top.
The former world No. 1 and 2003 French Open champion works alongside 20-year-old Alexander Zverev – who has already climbed as high as No. 3 in the rankings – as well as Pablo Carreno Busta, and he’s expecting the established elite in the men’s game to have to battle harder than ever next season.
Top-five stars in 2016 Milos Raonic, Stan Wawrinka and Kei Nishikori also ended their years early, which allowed the likes of Zverev, Dominic Thiem and Grigor Dimitrov to climb into the world’s top-five for the first time.
With those players looking to cling on to their high rankings and the returning players keen to climb back to the top, Ferrero predicts an incredibly ‘competitive’ season and expects the old guard to be pushed hard.
‘We are going to see a very competitive season,’ he told the IB Times.
‘As I said before, the ‘Big Four’ will have to face the newcomers, the young players who are currently in the top-10 who want to remain there for a long time.
‘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.’
Ferrero paid a special tribute to his compatriot Nadal, who ended 2017 at the top of the ATP rankings.
And he played down the significance of the 31-year-old’s uncle Toni Nodal not travelling with him on the tour.
‘You cannot be surprised with Rafa,’ Ferrero added. ‘He is one of the greatest in tennis history and his fighting capability is simply unbelievable.
‘This year he has been playing more aggressively, his tennis is more straight forward, 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.
‘As for his uncle [Toni Nadal], even though he is not going to travel with him, he will remain a big foundation for Rafa. I don’t think this will make a difference.
‘Let’s not forget that Carlos Moya, one of the greatest players of his decade, has begun to work with the current Roland Garros and US Open champion and things have improved.’
Ferrero is expecting big things from Zverev – who won two Masters 1000 titles in Rome and Montreal this year – and is sure other players view him as a future world No. 1.
‘Zverev is very competitive and results have arrived sooner than expected,’ he continued.
‘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.
‘He is number four in the ATP rankings and they now begin to see him as a potential number one. Because he is able to make it.’