The Number Ones

Juan Carlos Ferrero: The Humble Mosquito

The Spaniard led by example with his work ethic and by always showing respect
September 10, 2020
Juan Carlos Ferrero rose to World No. 1 in the PIF ATP Rankings for the first time after the 2003 US Open, where he was a finalist.
Nick Laham/Getty Images
Juan Carlos Ferrero rose to World No. 1 in the PIF ATP Rankings for the first time after the 2003 US Open, where he was a finalist. By Andrew Eichenholz

As a part of a series highlighting all players to reach World No. 1, looks back on the career of Juan Carlos Ferrero. View Full List

First week at No. 1: 8 September 2003
Total weeks at No. 1: 8

At World No. 1
Ferrero broke into the Top 5 of the PIF ATP Rankings in May 2001, when he was only 21. From that young age, he showed he was ready to compete with the best players in the world.

“Once you find yourself within the Top 10, competing toe-to-toe with the best players in the world, you start thinking about the No. 1 as a goal. When you’re No. 30 or No. 40 that’s a very far target. But being up there, you can’t help it,” Ferrero said. “It just crosses your mind. When you realise you’re fighting for Grand Slam or [ATP] Masters 1000 titles, reaching the No. 1 is a real desire.”

At the time, there were plenty of players battling for the top spot. Gustavo Kuerten had just taken World No. 1 from Marat Safin, and Andre Agassi and Lleyton Hewitt would take their turn at top spot soon thereafter. It took Ferrero more than two years to position himself to take a final leap to the top of tennis’ mountain.

That moment came at the 2003 US Open, where Ferrero reached the final at a hard-court major for the first time. The Spaniard lost to Andy Roddick in the championship match, but he departed New York with World No. 1.

“Being No 1 in the world is something that is very difficult to describe in words. I will say that it is something that once you get to No. 1, you remember how you sacrificed when you were young and how tough it was to practise day by day, hour by hour on the court all the time and going to tournaments when you were young,” Ferrero said. “There [is a lot of] tough work you have to do to be a good professional and after this, once you reach that number, it’s something that you have for the rest of your life. It’s something amazing that I’ll be proud of forever.”

During his eight weeks at World No. 1, Ferrero lifted trophies in Bangkok and Madrid.

Grand Slam Highlights
At 2001 Roland Garros, Ferrero showed the world his ability to perform on the big stage by reaching the semi-finals in Paris on just his third Grand Slam main draw appearance.

The next year, he was the favourite in the final against Albert Costa. But Ferrero only won one game in the first two sets before succumbing to his countryman in four. In 2003, however, Ferrero broke through.

The Spaniard beat long-time rival Fernando Gonzalez and Costa to reach the final in which he dominated Martin Verkerk to lift his lone Grand Slam trophy.

“It was one of the tournaments that from when I was 14, 15, it was my dream to go there to play,’ Ferrero said of Roland Garros. “Winning that tournament at the end, it was one of the greatest things that I ever did in my tennis career.”

Ferrero, whose second major final came just months later in Flushing Meadows, won 99 Grand Slam matches in his career, ranking fifth among Spaniards.


Nitto ATP Finals Highlights
Ferrero competed in the Tennis Masters Cup in three consecutive years, from 2001-03, earning a 5-7 record at the star-studded season finale.

The 6’ right-hander put on his best performance at Shanghai in 2002. Ferrero, then World No. 4, beat Andre Agassi and Jiri Novak in round-robin play to reach the semi-finals, in which he rallied past countryman Carlos Moya 6-7(6), 6-4, 6-4. The final was a classic.

Ferrero battled hard against rival Hewitt, rallying from two sets down to force a fifth set, before ultimately losing against the Australian in a hard-fought encounter 5-7, 5-7, 6-2, 6-2, 4-6.

ATP Masters 1000 Highlights
Ferrero won four of his 16 tour-level titles at Masters 1000 events. His first triumph came at the 2001 Internazionali BNL d’Italia, where he upset World No. 1 Kuerten in a five-set final for the trophy.

The Spaniard twice emerged victorious at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters, in 2002 and 2003. He tallied a 31-8 record at that event.

His fourth Masters 1000 title came at 2003 Madrid, where he won three-setters against Wayne Ferreira, Roger Federer and Nicolas Massu en route to the title, reaffirming his position as World No. 1.

Biggest Rivalries
There was not one player whom Ferrero battled with consistently on the biggest stages throughout his career. He played important matches against several opponents, including many former World No. 1s.

“I had Roger, I had Agassi in that time, I had Safin, I had Hewitt, I had Guga Kuerten. The time that I was No. 1 it was not the only three players who right now are controlling Grand Slams and Masters 1000s,” Ferrero said. “At that time we had some more competitors that could win some of the best tournaments in the world, so I would say that I had two or three, Roddick, Roger and of course Agassi that were the rivals who I played with when I got No. 1. I can’t pick one.”

Ferrero had a tight ATP Head2Head series with his countryman, Moya. ‘The Mosquito’ won eight of their 14 matches, including all three of their finals. The 2001 Barcelona championship match, played in front of their home fans, went five sets, with Ferrero triumphing 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, 3-6, 7-5.

Overall Match Win-Loss Record: 479-262

Overall Titles/Finals Record: 16-18

Ferrero was not the flashiest player, nor was he the loudest on or off the court. But when his game was in rhythm, he was a force to be reckoned with on the ATP Tour.

Boxer Muhammad Ali once said, “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.” In a way, that’s what Ferrero did on the tennis court. ‘The Mosquito’, nicknamed for his speed, danced around the court, often searching for the perfect moment to crack a forehand. When his feet were set and he was able to explode, that shot proved deadly more often than not, stinging opponents. Ferrero was slightly built, but he was able to pack a punch when necessary.

Ferrero and fellow former World No. 1 Carlos Moya paved the way for the golden generation of Spanish tennis, including Rafael Nadal, David Ferrer, Fernando Verdasco and others. Perhaps most importantly, he led by example, respecting his opponents, fans and everyone involved in the sport no matter if he was at his highest high or lowest low.

Ferrero, who retired after 2012 Valencia, continues to impact the current and future generations with his JC Ferrero Equelite Tennis Academy. He currently coaches #NextGenATP star Carlos Alcaraz and has worked with 2017 Nitto ATP Finals champion Alexander Zverev.

Memorable Moment
Fans will point towards Ferrero’s Grand Slam title at 2003 Roland Garros, which certainly qualifies as a memorable moment. But perhaps something more symbolic was the Spaniard’s first ATP Tour title.

Ferrero beat four Spaniards en route to victory at 1999 Mallorca when he was 19, signifying a passing of the Spanish torch. In the final, Ferrero defeated then-World No. 11 Alex Corretja 2-6, 7-5, 6-3. Using the fighting spirit he’d show throughout his career, Ferrero saved a break point at 5-5 in the second set before triumphing in two hours and 44 minutes.

"Spanish tennis should be very happy as we have a new great player among the big ones," Corretja said according to the Associated Press.

ATP Heritage: Milestones. Records. Legends.

Andy Roddick on Ferrero
"I have a huge amount of respect for him and enjoyed being on the tour with him for so long. He always acted with great professionalism and earned the respect of his peers throughout his distinguished career." 

Peter Fleming on Ferrero
”Juan Carlos was a great athlete first and foremost. He got around the court as quickly as anybody. He was a powerful player and when he was on, he was rough.”

Todd Martin on Ferrero
”He changed the mentality of the Spanish player to open the door for guys like Ferrer and obviously Nadal.”

Ferrero on Ferrero
”Of course I want to be remembered as a very respectful player on the court, very humble and a good player. I think people in Spain and around the world have a lot of respect for me because I was quiet on the court and respectful with all the players. People love that and I think it’s nice to be like this.”

Broadcaster/Journalist Graeme Agars
He may not have been flamboyant or someone who played up to the crowd, but he was a popular and highly respected player who maximized his talents and grew from his clay court upbringing to translate his game well to all surfaces. Juan Carlos Ferrero was a tennis players tennis player, happy to do the hard work to improve his game. Known as “the Mosquito” for his amazing speed around the court, Ferrero won with a big forehand, the ability to run down numerous shots and a very professional approach to the game.

He was named the ATP Newcomer of the Year in 1999, the following year helped Spain break a four-decade Davis Cup drought and in 2003 reached the pinnacle of his career with his win at the French Open. That achievement lead to him being awarded Spain’s Sportsman of the Year, his country’s highest sporting achievement award.

Away from tennis he has diverse interests ranging from cars and motorcycles, ownership of a luxury boutique hotel and a co-ownership of the ATP 500 event in Valencia. He is also involved in promoting youth sports and in coaching.

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