Returning to Paris last November after the 20th Major title at Roland Garros, Rafael Nadal beat Feliciano López 4-6, 7-6, 6-4 in the second round of the Paris Masters. After a grueling battle, Rafa scored the historic victory and became the fourth player in the Open era with 1000 ATP victories after Jimmy Connors, Ivan Lendl and Roger Federer.
It was the Spaniard's tenth victory over his older compatriot, prevailing in set number two and scoring an early break in the decider that pushed him to the top. Rafa saved three of four break opportunities and took one of seven break points to emerge on top.
Nadal started the game with a double fault and suffered an early break and a setback. Lopez confirmed the lead with a winning serve in the second game before Nadal put his name on the scoreboard with his serve at 30. In the fourth game, the veteran saved a breakthrough opportunity with an ace on the T line, and Nadal fired another ace to stay within a breaking deficit.
Rafa missed a forehand in the sixth game to deliver another game to his opponent before holding on at 15 to fall 3-4 behind. Feliciano moved 5-3 up front with an ace before Rafa closed the ninth game clean and forced Lopez to serve for the set.
With no signs of nerves, the 39-year-old held zero after a serve winner to close the first set 6-4 in 40 minutes. With no room for mistakes, Nadal lost four points on serve in set number two and created five break opportunities to keep the pressure on the other side.
Nadal held on at 15 with an unreturned serve in the first game and created two break opportunities at 2-1. Feliciano saved them to stay on the bright side of the scoreboard before playing four more break opportunities at 2-3.
Rafael Nadal on his future
In a recent interview, Rafael Nadal admitted that Djokovic is in the best position to end his career with the maximum number of Grand Slams, with uncertainty about his and Federer's future abounding.
"Djokovic is the best positioned to take this title of being the player with the most Grand Slams," Nadal was quoted as saying by Eurosport. "One does not have to be fooled, Federer is where he is and I am where I am.
Djokovic, instead, is competing and having a great time. Reality is what it is and one does not have to ignore it. What may happen in nine months will be seen, but he is the favorite right now," he added. During the interview, Rafael Nadal also weighed in on the progress made by Daniil Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas, and Alexander Zverev and said they can no longer be considered the 'Next Gen.'
"They are no longer the Next Gen, we do not have to make it eternal. Players like Medvedev, Zverev or Tsitsipas have already passed that stage of the Next Gen, they are the current generation, of the present," he said.