In many ways, the 2020 tennis season seems to have dragged on even though the action contained within it has been limited following an unexpected pause of about five months thanks to the pandemic. Feliciano Lopez, like his colleagues, had also had to wait for the season to resume while having to re-aligning his personal goals for the rest of the year.
TennisWorld USA caught up with the Spaniard after the successful opening of his campaign at the European Open in Antwerp, Belgium. Asked how it felt to pick up the season from where it had abruptly – and circumstantially – tapered off, Lopez said, “The goals are changing in this year all the time because when we started to play again after 5 or 6 months, at home, it was such a weird situation for us”.
Then, introspecting on his road back following the tour’s restart, Lopez added, “I didn’t know what to expect because it’s a very unique situation and it’s plenty of surprises nowadays”.
For Lopez, these surprises stem from the choices the season has thrust upon players, further separating the older generation – particularly, the Big Three – and the younger lot. “You see the tournaments; you see the young players are playing great.
Some of the old players are not playing,” explained the 39-year-old. “For example, Roger (Federer) is not playing, Rafa (Nadal) just won the French Open. We don’t if he’s still going to play this year [Nadal has since confirmed he will be playing the Paris Masters], Novak (Djokovic) will play in Vienna but he’s just announced that he’s not going to play in Paris”.
When enquired what the rest of his season looked like, Lopez listed, “We are going to play as many matches as I can. Now, I will play here. Then, I have to play qualies in Vienna and (Paris) Bercy… I am just going to play this week and then I will decide what we are going to do after this tournament”.
Although Lopez’s 2020 season will conclude after the Paris Masters, the Spaniard is looking forward to the end of the year, on the personal front.
Feliciano Lopez: The soon-to-be father's future career goals
Lopez and his wife are expecting their first child who, according to him, is due either by the end of this year or at the start of 2021.
Casually as he put out the information, Lopez has, however, started mentally preparing himself for not just the imminent birth of his child but also about potentially playing the Australian swing. For the Toledo native, the Australian quarantine rules – a mandatory 14-day period upon entering the country – stand to make his participation in the events Down Under doubtful.
If he were to play, it would be his 74th consecutive appearance at a Major and although extending this record is not a pressing priority for the southpaw given the momentousness of the occasion, he is keen on starting the season in Australia.
“I don’t think I will be able to quarantine in Australia this year. So, we will see when the boy arrives in the world,” said Lopez, adding he was hopeful the quarantine rules will be amended by then. “I will try to play the (Australian) Open if I have time enough to travel there and do the quarantine.
Maybe the rules will be a little bit different, maybe they will go from 14 days to seven days. We will see. The first thing now is my boy. We will see”. Likewise, regardless of whether he has to modify his 2021 schedule, Lopez is sure of one thing.
That he wants to play for at least two more years on the tour, following the birth of his child. “I think I am physically OK to compete for another two years so we will see. But this is the idea, now,” he explained.
Lopez’s wanting to continue playing so his child could see him as an active pro is a long-term motivation. In the short term, in these arduous moments, Lopez admitted it had gotten overwhelming for him, at times. “It’s tough especially now where everything became difficult after the pandemic,” he shared.
“I, personally, started to feel a little bit tired of this situation… like everybody in the world”. Nonetheless, for the 23-year veteran on the tour, there is no alternative but to persevere and keep pushing on.
Citing the example of how complicated his most recent itinerary had been, in which he needed almost an entire day to reach Antwerp from St. Petersburg because of limited flights, Lopez said this was the new normal and one had no choice but to get used to it.
“This is the only way that can play tennis at this stage after the pandemic that the world is suffering,” he observed. “So, everyone is hoping that this is going to get better but there is still a lot of uncertainty in the world around this pandemic”.
And yet, for the world no. 62, this incertitude doesn’t take anything away from the slivers of positivity that have been scattered across the tennis calendar this year. Neither does it diminish the hope he has that the tennis world – as much as the rest of the world – will turn a corner soon.
Thus, signing off on this note of optimism, Feliciano Lopez noted, “So, we have to be thankful for that because we still have the chance to play almost every week in the ATP Tour and just hope for the best in 2021.
Just hope for this situation to get better and to be back everybody, to the normal life that we had before. And we have to be very strong now and we (have to) stick together and we (have to) try to survive. This is going to pass.
I don’t know when but it is going to be over one day and everything is going to be back to normal”. Photo Courtesy: European Open