Long-time tennis rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are targeting no less than the top of the ATP world ranking this year, according to veteran Juan Carlos Ferrero when discussing the career revival of men’s tennis and its most celebrated stars.

Ferrero, a former no.1 ranked player himself, believes both Federer and Nadal are eager to be back on top of the ladder after putting up strong results in the first quarter of the season. The Spaniard admitted that Federer’s current run was the more surprising of the two. He knew his former rival would have one or two good season left in him, but he never expected the Swiss Maestro to be playing at such a high level.

"Being honest, a year ago I thought that Roger Federer could play at a good level one additional season, maybe two," Ferrero said in an interview via International Business Times. "But I was not expecting what he has achieved this season. It is simply stunning, is simply unbelievable.

Federer’s secret recipe

Ferrero pointed out that the Swiss’ mindset and a newly-enhanced backhand as the game-changers in his recent upswing. Federer’s approach of playing every game with joy and less expectation certainly makes a difference in big-time matches. Moreover, the six-month injury layoff gave the Swiss some time to retool his backhand shot, which is by far the most dangerous weapon in the ATP Tour circuit right now.

After an injury-marred 2016 campaign, Federer busted out of the gate on fire as he racked up an impressive 19-1 start. The Swiss also captured his first Grand Slam title in five years and 18th overall by winning the Australian Open last January. He encountered a bit of an early round hiccup in Dubai when he lost to unheralded Evgeny Donskoy in the round-of-16.

However, the former world’s no.1 bounced back very well in the following tournaments as he went on to complete for his third Sunshine Double with victories at Indian Wells and Miami.

High time for Nadal

Things are looking up for Nadal heading into the clay court season despite losing to Federer three consecutive times, two of which came in the final of the Australian and Miami Open.

With the Swiss taking some time off the court until the French Open, Nadal has all the opportunity in the world to regain his dominant old self. The King of Clay is scheduled to kick-off the "red-dirt season" at the Monte Carlo Masters a week from now. He will then compete in three more tournaments (Barcelona Open, Madrid Masters and Rome Masters) before he begins his quest for a 10th crown at Roland Garros.