Juan Carlos Ferrero is a believer in Rafael Nadal, and is not ruling him out from competing at the highest level when he makes his long-awaited comeback next year.
Nadal has been out of action for nearly a year after injuring his hip during a second-round exit at this year's Australian Open. While he was scheduled to miss about eight weeks from the initial diagnosis, the injury was detrimental and required a complicated operation.
Nadal was forced to abandon his season in May and underwent surgery. Tennis fans have been crossing their fingers and praying for one glorious swansong in 2024 after the Spaniard made his intentions clear - it will be a farewell season.
Although Nadal has retraced his decision, his long-term future in the sport remains questionable at best and it will be interesting to see how his body will respond to the physical toil of the tour. One thing is certain, he will turn 38 next June, which raises significant doubt about his tennis career beyond 2024.
Ferrero, who retired from playing professional tennis after injuries wreaked havoc on his body at the age of 32, is not losing hope when he spoke in an interview with Marca and quoted on Eurosport, stating that Nadal has a "competitive animal" inside him and believes his mentality is unrivaled.
"He will surely return wanting to compete because he has a competitive animal inside him. I see it as logical that he does not see himself competing with Djokovic or against the best right now because he has been out of competition for a long time and it is always difficult to get started again."
"But once he is on the court, his mentality of competing to his maximum will not change. Those who are very, very good always come up with something different from the others and I wouldn't be surprised to see him at the highest level again."
At present, the word is that Nadal has bookmarked next year's Australian Open as his supposed comeback tournament. But tennis fans and Ferrero know that the 37-year-old will be building his season for Roland Garros - a tournament he has won a record 14 times and which has shaped his career.
Ferrero currently coaches Carlos Alcaraz - whom many see as the apparent heir to Nadal. The idea of the present and future of Spanish tennis crossing paths at next year's French Open excites the 43-year-old
"I would like it, I wouldn't like him (Nadal) to get there and not win matches. Rafa deserves a chance to play well again for everything he has been. It would be exciting to see it."