Rafael Nadal's first ATP victory came on his debut on the main circuit at home at Mallorca in April 2002, still at 15! Eighteen and a half years later, Rafa secured the 1000th ATP win at the last year's Paris Masters, beating a compatriot Feliciano Lopez 4-6, 7-6, 6-4 in two and a half hours for a winning start and a massive achievement on his tally.
Nadal became the fourth player in the Open era with 1000 ATP wins after Jimmy Connors, Ivan Lendl and Roger Federer. After the triumph, Rafa felt great about the achievement, joking that he also felt old. It was Nadal's tenth victory over the older compatriot, prevailing in set number two and scoring an early break in the decider that pushed him over the top and towards the record.
Nadal lost serve in the first game after a double fault, and Lopez confirmed the advantage with a service winner in game two. The veteran saved a break chance at 2-1 with an ace down the T line, and Nadal fired another ace to remain within one break deficit.
Rafa delivered one good hold after another but could not find a way to seize a break and prolong the set. With no sign of nerves, the 39-year-old held at love in game ten following a service winner to wrap up the opener in 40 minutes and leave Nadal with a lot of work to be done.
At 34, Rafael Nadal became the fourth player with 1000 ATP victories in Paris 2020.
With no room for errors, Rafa lost four points behind the initial shot in set number two and created five break chances to keep the pressure on the other side.
Lopez saved them and reached a tie break that Rafa won 7-5 to set a decider and remain on the record course. The younger Spaniard clinched a break at love in the third set's first game and defended two break chances in the next one to move 2-0 in front.
That opening game proved crucial after commanding holds on both sides, and Nadal moved over the top with a solid service game at 5-4. "Achieving the 1000th victory is incredible, but it means I'm old. I got there because I have played well for a very long time, which makes me happy.
I want to thank all the people who have helped me be where I'm now. It's a special moment; 1000 is a unique number. It's not the same to celebrate it without the crowd, but the ATP officials, the French Federation president, Guy Forget and others were there with me. I want to thank them for making this moment very special," Rafael Nadal said.