Rome: With the French Open looming in his horizon, Fernando Verdasco is tapping into Andre Agassi`s wealth of knowledge as he tries to join the grand slam winners` club.
The ninth-ranked Spaniard, in good form until losing to compatriot David Ferrer in Saturday`s Rome Masters semi-final, is taking advice from former Roland Garros champion Agassi on how to dodge some of the pitfalls the retired great ran into during his colourful career.
"He was my idol, so it`s great to have your idol telling you all the things he thinks you should do and shouldn`t do, giving you some advice from all the things he did and maybe he did wrong," Verdasco told reporters.
"He`s helping me be a better player. Having someone like Agassi, who was my idol when I was a kid, telling you things is so special."
Verdasco has been taking the American`s counsel since he started working with the eight-times grand slam winner`s former coach Darren Cahill and fitness trainer Gil Reyes last year.
"Sometimes when I`m in Las Vegas (to see Cahill and Reyes) he comes to say hi and we speak, but he`s not in my team. He`s just helping me and giving me advice."
"He`s doing his part, like Darren, like Gil Reyes, like my dad and my fitness trainer in Madrid. He`s a person with all the experience of his long career."
Since the start of the clay season Verdasco has reached the final of the Monte Carlo Masters, where he was thumped by fit-again compatriot Rafael Nadal, and won the Barcelona Open.
He looked completely drained when falling to Ferrer in Rome but remains one of the top candidates to challenge holder Roger Federer and four-times champion Nadal at the French Open, which starts later this month.
World number two Novak Djokovic, who was beaten by Verdasco in Monte Carlo and Rome, has certainly noticed the improvement.
"He`s making less mistakes and he`s improved a lot since last year," the Serb told a news conference in Rome.
"I think he`s being more aggressive and his backhand is not a big disadvantage in his game, so he`s improved there. His serve has always been a weapon."
But Verdasco, who said after winning in Barcelona that the only person he fears on clay is Nadal, believes his high confidence levels are more important than any technical improvements.
As a result, the 26-year-old is not setting any limits on his aspirations for this year.
"I want to be better than last year, which can be from number one to number eight because I finished ninth last year," he said.
"I`d like to finish in the top five, although I know it`s a difficult goal. There are many players who will make it difficult for me."