© Peter Staples / Citi Open

Juan Carlos Ferrero and Alexander Zverev work together for the first time at the Citi Open.

Zverev Surprises, Impresses New Coach Ferrero

German will kick off his hard-court season this week in Washington

Juan Carlos Ferrero and #NextGenATP German Alexander Zverev will work together in person for the first time this week at the Citi Open in Washington, DC. But the former World No. 1 has already helped Zverev have success on the ATP World Tour this season.

Ferrero and Zverev have been talking almost daily since the 20 year old personally approached Ferrero at the Mutua Madrid Open about joining his team.

“He told me that maybe he wants to work a little bit with me because I have the experience to be there on the top and I have the experience to win Grand Slams,” Ferrero exclusively told ATPWorldTour.com on Sunday in Washington.

Since that first discussion, Zverev has continued his banner 2017 season, which has seen him win three ATP World Tour titles. On 21 May, he became the only player not named Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal to win an ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title this season, beating Novak Djokovic for the Internazionali BNL d'Italia crown in Rome.

Ferrero, who won four Masters 1000 titles and 2003 Roland Garros, hadn't been thinking about joining the team of a top ATP World Tour player. The 37-year-old Spaniard runs his own academy, JC Ferrero Equelite Sport Academy, in Alicante, Spain, and is married with two young children, 3-year-old Vega and 5-month-old Juan Carlos. But working with Zverev was too good of a match.

“Once he came to me and showed me the whole team – I know Hugo [Gravil], his physio, I know Jez [Green], his physical trainer, from a long time ago. So I know everybody on the team,” said Ferrero, who is also working with Zverev's regular coach, his father, Alexander Zverev Sr. “It was a great opportunity for me to be a part of his team.”

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Ferrero spent the past week with the group in Tampa, Florida, where Zverev trains for part of the year. Zverev, the fifth seed in Washington and No. 11 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, has surprised and impressed Ferrero during their three-month partnership, which will last through the remainder of the season.

Ferrero had seen the 6'6” Zverev on TV and wondered how much strength the lanky right-hander possessed. But his power – and his work ethic – have squelched any questions.

“He surprised me with how strong he is. When you see him on the court, he is very thin. But then I saw him practise, work in the gym. He likes to practice a lot on the court, like four hours today, and then work in the gym,” Ferrero said. “I think he's ready to grow up a little bit and try to improve the things that he has to improve. It's a good start.”

Ferrero played the typical coach role during Zverev's practice set against Grigor Dimitrov on Sunday afternoon. The Spaniard stood nearby the fence, mostly staying quiet but occasionally offering bits of encouragement. “Be aggressive, man. Let's go!” Ferrero said.

After the set, Ferrero became much more active, grabbing his racquet and hitting with Zverev for about 10 minutes.

The Spaniard wouldn't share any top-secret intelligence about Zverev's game – “I cannot say secrets. I cannot say secrets,” he said.

But he hinted at what he will be working on with Zverev, who leads the Emirates ATP Race To Milan and is in sixth place in the Emirates ATP Race To London.

“His attitude on the court sometimes is up and down. [He needs to] stay more on the regular line. He's young and he has to grow up, and he has to control his emotions on the court, but day by day,” Ferrero said.

The Spaniard plans to attend at least one of the upcoming Masters 1000 tournaments and the US Open during the North American hard-court swing. He will travel with the team from there as well, joining them for the Asian swing and the European indoor circuit before possibly concluding the year at the inaugural Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan and the Nitto ATP Finals in London.

The Zverevs obviously approve of the partnership, but, perhaps more importantly, so does Ferrero's wife, Eva Alonso, who's at home with the two children under 3. She's not angry with Ferrero... yet.

“Not for the moment,” Ferrero said in between laughs. “No, she's ok with it. She knows I love this world and it was a great, special location for me to come back on the tour. So, yeah, she's happy.”