At the last year's Paris Masters, Rafael Nadal became the fourth player in the Open era with 1000 ATP victories. The Spaniard joined Jimmy Connors, Ivan Lendl and Roger Federer on the exclusive list following a hard-fought 4-6, 7-6, 6-4 victory over Feliciano Lopez in two and a half hours.
It was Nadal's tenth victory over the older compatriot, prevailing in set number two and scoring an early break in the decider to find himself over the top. Rafa saved three out of four break chances and delivered one break from seven opportunities to forge a slight advantage in the shortest and most extended exchanges and cross the finish line first.
Speaking about the match, Lopez said he enjoyed the battle, feeling good about pushing world no. 2 to the limits at 39. Nadal kicked off the clash with a double fault and suffered a break in the first game for an early setback.
Lopez confirmed the advantage with a service winner in game two and saved a break chance with an ace down the T line in the fourth game. Rafa netted a forehand in game six to hand another game to his rival, holding at 15 a few minutes later to remain within one break deficit.
Feliciano moved 5-3 in front with an ace and held at love following a service winner in game ten to wrap up the opener in 40 minutes. Nadal lost four points behind the initial shot in set number two and created five break chances.
Rafa held at 15 with an unreturned serve in the first game and earned two break opportunities at 2-1. Remaining calm, Feliciano saved those to stay on the scoreboard's positive side and played against three more break points at 2-3.
Nadal failed to convert those, serving well by the end of the set but not creating more opportunities ahead of the tie break.
At the Paris Masters, Feliciano Lopez played on a high level against Rafael Nadal.
At 3-3, Rafa landed a volley winner to grab a mini-break and fired two winners to earn three set points.
Lopez saved the opening two before Nadal seized the third to gather a boost ahead of the final set. In the first game, the younger Spaniard clinched a break at love and saved two break chances in the next one to move 2-0 in front.
Both players served well in the remaining games, and Rafa sealed the deal with a hold in game ten to secure the 1000th ATP win. "Playing against Rafa is always special for me, especially at my age. At 39, I value those big matches more, and they propel me to play and practice every day.
I was able to push Rafa to the limits, feeling competitive against world no. 2 and one of the best players in history. That means a lot to me, making me feel like going for another year before retiring. There was also the emotional side of being involved in his 1000th ATP victory, and it was not easy to compete in front of an empty stadium, which is extra tough against Rafa.
Under the circumstances we had, I enjoyed it the most. I played very well, although, unfortunately, I could not win. Still, it was a match that gives me the strength to continue," Feliciano Lopez said.