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Juan Carlos’ Golden Touch

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Ferrero© Copa Telmex / Sergio LlameraA resurgent Juan Carlos Ferrero won 14 straight matches during the Latin American 'Golden Swing'.

Juan Carlos Ferrero has already built a lasting legacy on and off the court, but following his resurgence during this year’s Golden Swing, the 30-year-old Spaniard is intent on a return to the Top 10.

Juan Carlos Ferrero has well-articulated responses for everything, but ask the amiable and unfailingly polite Spaniard what accomplishment he’s most proud of, and for once he’s unable to come up with an answer.

“I don’t know. I have to think this,” he says with a laugh. “Can we pass on this one?”

It’s a fitting reaction from a man who’s accomplished more than one could even imagine achieving in a lifetime, yet continues to dream big.

If there were ever a how-to guide on building a lasting legacy by the age of 30, Juan Carlos Ferrero would be the quintessential player to profile.

“I try to be successful in all things I do,” says Ferrero. “I think it’s very important in life, when you’re working so hard with anything, you want to have something back. I think it’s normal.”

His success on the tennis court may have paved the way for his off-court endeavours, but his academy, hotel and tournament – collaborations with long-time coach Antonio Martinez Cascales – are each thriving in their own right, delivered with the Ferrero signature of class.

“It’s always important the quality that you want to do it in all things”

Today, the Equelite-Juan Carlos Ferrero in Villena is a high profile training base attracting promising young talents and pros alike. “This is a stand alone academy and is probably the nicest one I have been to,” wrote Andy Murray’s mother Judy upon a visit.

Hotel Ferrero, a cottage in nearby Bocairente refurbished into a 12-suite luxury lodging, is poised for Michelin star status and landed on the Condé Nast Traveler’s Hot List upon its grand opening in July 2007.

The Valencia Open, originally a modest clay court tournament held in the spring, has transformed into an elite ATP World Tour 500 hard court tournament held at one of the most stunning venues on the circuit, the Agora in the City of Arts and Sciences.

“I think it’s always important the quality that you want to do it in all things,” Ferrero explains, “not only in tennis or investments.”

FerreroDavid Ferrer, a part-owner of the Valencia Open 500, says: “He pays attention to all the details in his businesses, and with the help of his coach Toni Cascales, they are a great team.”

It seems almost impossible to think that a professional tennis player has time to juggle these ventures in between training and travel, but Ferrero asserts, “It’s not difficult. You have time to manage this, and I have a lot of people that are working on all of this. They have my confidence in all these works. I think a tennis career is very short and you have to do something for the future. I think my investment is going very well, having all these things. We will see what I’m going to do next.”

But for now, Ferrero’s main goal is a return to the top echelon of the tennis ladder.

“He's dedicated to his tennis at the moment,” says Cascales. “We've tried to put him into some other businesses with a view to life after tennis. But at the moment he's totally focused on his tennis, although he does like to help out young players in the academy who want to work, learn and improve.”

A fortune-teller predicted that 2003 would be Ferrero’s year. Manned with that certainty, the player whom the Spanish media had already anointed king went out and seized his opportunities.

In a five-month span, he fulfilled a childhood dream of winning Roland Garros, defeated Andre Agassi in the US Open semi-finals to claim the World No. 1 ranking, and proved that a Spaniard had the ability to excel on hard courts as he reached the US Open final.

FerreroBut with the spectacular highs of 2003 came the challenge in maintaining that same level of success. With a variety of maladies thrown into the mix in the years to follow – including a bout with chicken pox just months after reaching World No. 1 – Ferrero’s self-belief took a hit.

“When you get injured a lot, you go to the court and you go with no confidence because you're injured a lot and you're more worried about the injury you're going to have, but that's tennis,” Ferrero told the press in Canada last year. “It's quite tough to play like this.”

Although Ferrero posted solid results – reaching a final each year, the semi-finals at the 2004 Australian Open and the quarter-finals in 2007 at Wimbledon – he was unable to win a title.

“It was a difficult time for a player who had been No. 1 and won many important tournaments,” says Cascales. “Tennis is an individual sport and if things in your life are not quite right, whether it be physically or mentally, it's hard to perform at 100 percent.”

In the wake of Marat Safin’s announced retirement last season, rumours circulated that Ferrero – who had dropped outside the Top 100 of the South African Airways ATP Rankings for the first time since 1999 – would soon be following in the former World No. 1’s footsteps.

And then relief came in April 2009 at the Grand Prix Hassan II in Casablanca, where Ferrero had reached the semi-finals on his ATP World Tour debut 10 years earlier. After 110 tournaments without lifting a trophy, he finally ended the title-drought.

“That title helped me a lot,” admits Ferrero. “After that I take the confidence with me again. I could play with no stress.”

But Casablanca was just a preface to Ferrero’s long-awaited resurgence. In a near perfect three-week stretch during the 2010 Latin American ‘Golden Swing’, the Spaniard appeared invincible once again. “It’s difficult to feel like this, but of course I felt like I was playing very well and the opponent has to play better than me to beat me,” he says. “In that moment it was difficult to play better than me because I was playing 100 percent.”

“In that moment it was difficult to play better than me because I was playing 100 percent”

Two days after celebrating his 30th birthday, he contested his 30th ATP World Tour final and was in devastating form as he dropped just one game against Poland’s Lukasz Kubot at the Brasil Open in Costa do Sauipe.

He rallied past top-seeded countryman Ferrer the following week at the Copa Telmex in Buenos Aires to win back-to-back titles for the first time since 2001, and afterwards stated: “My goal is to get back to the Top 10. This victory makes me believe in this goal.”

His exceptional clay run continued at the ATP World Tour 500 tournament in Acapulco as the Spaniard won his 14th straight match – the second-longest winning streak of his career. Though he lost to Ferrer in the final, his performance in South America elevated Ferrero to No. 14 in the South African Airways 2010 ATP Rankings.

Ferrero, who thrived on self-belief during his 2003 season, stresses the importance of the results – “The South American tournaments gave me a lot of confidence to get going, keep working pretty hard as I was doing it before” – and pinpoints his mental work as an integral part of his success. “In the past during my career I was very focused on the results of the match,” he says. “Now I’m working on trying to play all points at the same level and it doesn’t matter the score you have in front.”

Mentally, Ferrero may be prepared, but his physical condition will be the biggest question mark heading into Roland Garros. The Spaniard has struggled with a knee injury since the Abierto Mexicano Telcel final, and recorded modest results on the transition to European clay. Though he reached the quarter-finals at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters, posting an upset over World No. 10 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the process, he made early exits at the Barcelona Open BancSabadell, the Internazionali BNL d'Italia in Rome and then withdrew from the Mutua Madrileña Madrid Open.

FerreroBut the silver lining may be that Ferrero’s performance in February showed that the 30 year old still has what it takes be a true contender. “I don't see his game being that different [from 2003] especially when he's playing well, like when he played in Buenos Aires and Acapulco this year,” Cascales says. “He's playing at the same level, but maybe what is sometimes missing is a bit of consistency.

“I hope he can arrive well in Roland Garros physically and playing good tennis. I can see him getting through quite a few rounds at Roland Garros but you have to take it one match at a time.”

Ferrero reached the semi-finals on his first two visits to Roland Garros, the final the following year and hoisted the Coupe des Mousquetaires on his fourth try. Since then he hasn’t managed to advance beyond the third round, but should fitness be in his favour, this may be his chance to reclaim glory.

Ferrer has every faith in his countryman: “He's one of the best players in history on clay… I think he can win Roland Garros again. Nadal and Federer will be there but Juan Carlos will be right there behind them. Why not?”

For a man who has met with success in each of his endeavours, anything is possible.

Ferrero’s tennis career was nearly derailed before it began, devastated at the age of 16 by the loss of his mother to cancer, but he made a decision to honour her memory by continuing on with the sport.

“He’s an even better person than he is a player, which is very difficult”

His choice has given his family, friends and all of Valencia many different reasons to be proud.

“From a tennis point of view, the fact that he's been No. 1 in the world, more than Grand Slam, Davis Cup, Masters [1000] wins,” Cascales says. “It's very difficult to be No. 1 in the world. Many great players haven't achieved that. As a person, I'm proud of his loyalty.”

Ferrer points to the quality of his character. “He’s an even better person than he is a player, which is very difficult. He's very humble, a great friend, and very generous.”

As for Ferrero himself? He concludes, “I’m very proud of all the things I’ve done.”

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