Do not give up, come what may: Juan Carlos Ferrero's mantra
What a tennis player should do if he becomes world number one and then finds himself in a situation where he struggles to win a single ATP title for more than 100 tournaments?
New Delhi: What a tennis player should do if he becomes world number one and then finds himself in a situation where he struggles to win a single ATP title for more than 100 tournaments?
Ask Juan Carlos Ferrero, who endured a 110-tournament title drought between 2003 and 2009 before finally managing to come trumps, and the former world number throws an ace.
"I kept practising. It's important that you don't give up," Ferrero, who is in the capital for the Champions Tennis League (CTL) and representing Delhi Dreams team, told PTI in an interview.
Ferrero, 34, nicknamed 'mosquito' by one of his friends for his unbelievable agility on the court, touched the pinnacle when he won the 2003 French Open after beating his idol the great Andre Agassi in the US Open semifinals to become world number one.
But soon injury and loss of form brought before him a torrid period.
"It was difficult. I was used to win tournaments. Then I had some injury. I did not have the confidence I had before. I could pass through and start wining the tournament," he said recalling the tough days.
What exactly he did, how he kept himself motivated?
"You play tournaments and tournaments, every year. People give up a little bit (early). It was important being professional in practicing. This again gave me the confidence."
The dogged determination paid off and Ferrero ended the drought with win at Casablanca in 2009 and went on to win four more singles titles, all on clay.
But he could not win another Grand Slam. Ferrero said that he is quite content with what he has achieved in life.
"If I win two then, there would be question, I did not win three. So I am happy with what I have done. Of course, I wanted to win more but I could not do it.
"I never imagined when I was young that I could achieve what I have got. There have been very important moments in my career, I won Davis Cup (the first one for Spain), then won at Grand Slam. For any player to win Grand Slam, I think it is the most you can achieve as a tennis player. Then I became world number one. I am very happy all my career," he said.
He came close to winning his second Grand Slam when he reached the 2003 US Open final after beating Agassi but was undone was young American Andy Roddick.
"I wanted to win that tournament as well. But Roddick played very well in that match. I got the number one when I beat Aggasi in the semis in the same tournament and I was in a position to win that final. Anyway I am happy with the result."
A crushing forehand and an unmatchable agility in his arsenal, Ferrero dominated the show on red dirt. He asserted his supremacy over Gustavo Kuerten, Alex Corretja, Albert Costa and Carlos Moya in that era.
But who was the player, he enjoyed playing the most?
"Agassi was the player. The adrenaline I had while playing with him was different from others. I liked Aggasi very much."
"When I was young, I tried to play like him from the baseline, hitting the ball hard and trying to be aggressive all the time. I used to watch all his matches and then I had the opportunity to play against him and that was an big honour to play with him," he said.
"I also enjoyed playing Ferrer because he is one the most talented players."
Tell him that he is still quick on the court even as he is playing the legends match for the Delhi team, co-owned by Sanjeev Kassal and Bollywood actor Ajay Devgan, and he starts laughing.
The way he routed Briton Greg Rusedski in the CTL opener on Monday, it looks his agility, which earned him the nickname 'mosquito' was intact.
"I am still in good shape, I play with the kids in the academy. I like to do other sports like football. I am still fit and hope to keep like this for long time."
But the Spaniard says it's time people call him by his original name and not by 'mosquito'.
"Not now, it's long time. I am okay with my (original) name. It's time to stick to my normal name," he insists.
So who gave him that name? "It was a friend. He saw me playing when I was pretty young. I was small and skinny and quick, like a mosquito who is very fast. And he gave me that name. It was a friendly name."
While he was still playing, Ferrero had future in mind. He engaged himself in a number of activities that would ensure him a good living after his tennis career.
He bought a cottage and developed it into a 12-suite hotel, named Hotel Ferrero in Bocairente in July 2007. He opened a tennis academy and also became co-owner of the Valencia Open, an ATP 500 event.
"I had seen players who had finished their careers and they had noting to do, so I thought that it was important to do something at the same time when I am playing on the tour. I had around me people I trusted. They kept telling me that I have to do something else for future. Then we started doing it, thinking about future and I am happy about that."
Ferrero said his life is "more simple" after retirement.
"I was travelling and competing a lot before and there was a lot of stress. Now I have academy, where I live. I try to be with kids, share my experience with them. I am also working on one tournament in Spain. I have opened two more academies, one in China and one in Poland. I am more relaxed but keep on moving," he said.