Former world No. 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero is a French Open champion. Of his 16 career titles, 13 came on red clay.
And rising star Alexander Zverev has no particular history with Spain. He has spent his life training either in Germany or Florida.
So Ferrer certainly is an out-of-the-box choice to be an added voice for the North American hard-court season.
But the 37-year-old will be by Zverev’s side beginning in 10 days at the Citi Open in Washington, D.C.
Ferrero already is in Saddlebrook, Florida with Zverev, braving the heat and humidity to prepare for the hard-court swing. That will include Masters 1000 tournaments in Montreal and Cincinnati after the D.C. event, and will culminate at the US Open.
Ferrero thrilled with the challenge
(Random fact: Zverev’s older brother Mischa has a 3-1 record against Ferrero).
“Zverev is a different player. He has the makings of a champion,” Ferrero said in a statement through his academy, Equelite. “It’s a challenge that fills me with enthusiasm and desire to do my best.”
The 20-year-old, currently ranked No. 11, originally had been the second-highest ranked player behind Dominic Thiem at the D.C. tournament. But a trio of last-minute wild cards has changed the landscape.
In addition to those two, Milos Raonic, Kei Nishikori and Grigor Dimitrov will be in the draw.
The five will be ranked No. 7 through No. 11. And Zverev will end up the No. 5 seed in the tournament. For a 500-level tournament, the trophy suddenly got a lot more challenging.
Add him to the super-coach ranks
Ferrero works with players through his academy. But he has not been active out on the coaching circuit since his retirement in 2012.
Despite his resumé, he seems to get overlooked among all the Spanish champions. There could well be internal, political reasons for that. Or perhaps Ferrero just goes about his business quietly, and he’s not willing to play the game.
When Carlos Moyá stepped down as Spanish Davis Cup captain in 2014, Ferrero seemed the front-runner to replace him.
Instead, the Spanish federation made an ill-advised decision to name former player Gala León Garcia. Garcia had few relationships with anyone on the Davis Cup team. And she didn’t even have all that lustrous a resumé as a player on the WTA Tour. But after that experiment went sour, they didn’t choose Ferrero. They nominated Conchita Martinez.
Ferrero was an integral part of Spain’s 2009 Davis Cup squad. He won the fifth and deciding rubber against Germany in the quarterfinals. But when Rafael Nadal returned to play in the final, Ferrero was not even selected to the squad. Even worse, he wasn’t included in the presentation ceremony after Spain won its second consecutive Davis Cup.