Rafa Nadal has a mind unlike any sportsman's I've seen in my life, says David Ferrer

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Spain has witnessed its tennis rise to an unforeseen level.

Carlos Moya, Albert Costa and Juan Carlos Ferrero blazed a trail with their Grand Slam triumphs in the early noughties, before Rafael Nadal went on to dominate with a stunning 19 victories to date.

Of the consistent La Roja stars who failed to secure any Grand Slams but enjoyed prolific careers, David Ferrer was one such force. He finished inside the top-20 for 11-consecutive seasons and clinched 27 ATP titles.

Ferrer may not hold the same bustling trophy cabinet as compatriot Nadal, but he had many great battles with the Manacor man during his formidable 20-year career.

The duo played against each other on 32 occasions, stretching back to the Stuttgart Masters in 2004.

Nadal prevailed on 26 occasions, eight of them in finals, with Ferrer’s last victory coming in the quarter-finals of the 2014 Monte Carlo Masters.

A friendship and deep respect remains today.

“He means a lot to tennis. I learned a lot from him and from his uncle. He has a different mind to any sportsman that I’ve seen in my life. In important moments, he holds the pressure better than other players,” said Ferrer, speaking at the Rafa Nadal Academy in Kuwait recently.

“He impresses me every year. I watch him on TV or play against him and he is always improving his game – his serve, his volley and the passion he plays with at 33. It’s amazing. It’s good for me because I’m close to him and I can learn in my personal life.”

Ferrer insisted after he retired in May that he would stay involved in tennis. He just didn’t know how. He had his academy in Barcelona, run by his brother Javier, but it didn’t take long for him to decide on his next challenge.

With Albert Costa stepping down from his role as Tournament Director at the Barcelona Open in September, the 37-year-old was approached about the vacant position and he duly accepted the challenge.

“I’m really happy with this job. I’m in a different position working with tennis players. It’s good for me to be close with them. I’m very focused with that,” he said.

“I also have my tennis academy with my partners and I am going there, helping young tennis players. It’s nice. They are learning and improving their game and it’s very comfortable for me.”

One of the things Ferrer and Nadal have in common is they never know when they are beaten. There is a real will to win. In contrast, the young players of today lack focus and attitude. Is it a worry?

“I don’t worry. We have to learn about that and take the good things in the evolution of life. The bad things we can thrash. Of course, life is changing every year. Technology is too fast. Sometimes it is difficult to accept that,” he said.

“Everything is in the moment. Before we had to work hard to have a special thing. But if you know that, you can do a lot of things in your life. Sometimes it depends on the values that your close family or parents give you.”

With a wealth of experience in tennis, the Alicante native has plenty to offer both on and off the court even in retirement.

Generally when top players retire it’s not long before they are approached about potential coaching positions.

Although it is not something Ferrer is considering now, he has not ruled out leading the lines on tour in the future.

“I’d have to make some phone calls but I’m not interested now. I’ve only finished seven months [ago]. I want to be with my family and to do different things that I didn’t do before. I’m really enjoying my new life. I have other goals, important goals. I’ve still got motivation to do something with tennis because I love this game,” he said.

A three-time Davis Cup winner, Ferrer welcomes the new changes to men’s premier team competition, which sees the best players in action in a condensed week-long format.

Some countries had often competed without their star players, who prioritised playing other tournaments or used Davis Cup periods as rest time.

Roger Federer, for example, has barely played in the Davis Cup since winning the trophy with Switzerland back in 2014.

The absence of marquee names had made it a dull affair but new changes look to have revived a previously stale competition, making it easier to follow for fans and easier to participate for players.

“I like the format. The problem is the first year is never easy to keep everyone happy. It’s normal. At the end, it’s going to be good for tennis players, because you can see the best players in the world play against each other,” said Ferrer, who was part of Spain’s winning teams in 2008, 2009 and 2011.

“ATP and ITF can work together to improve this type of competition. The Davis Cup is a historic, important trophy for everybody. Every year, it is going to increase and improve the competition.”

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