Rafael Nadal: 'I made the worst possible start before finding my game'

Tennis - In the second round in Paris, Nadal prevailed in three sets against Feliciano Lopez

by Jovica Ilic
Rafael Nadal: 'I made the worst possible start before finding my game'

Returning to his beloved Paris following the 20th Major crown at Roland Garros, Rafael Nadal prevailed against Feliciano Lopez 4-6, 7-6, 6-4 at Paris Masters. Rafa earned the milestone victory after a grueling battle, becoming the fourth player in the Open era with 1000 ATP wins after Jimmy Connors, Ivan Lendl and Roger Federer, writing history books yet again in the French capital.

It was the tenth victory for the Spaniard over the older compatriot, prevailing in set number two and scoring an early break in the decider that pushed him over the top. Rafa saved three out of four break chances, wasting numerous deciders' opportunities before clinching the win in the tie break.

Nadal kicked off the match with a double fault, suffering an early break and a setback. Lopez confirmed the advantage with a service winner in game two before Nadal got his name on the scoreboard with a hold at 30. The veteran saved a break chance in the fourth game with an ace down the T line, with Nadal firing another ace to remain within one break deficit.

Rafa netted a forehand in game six to hand another game to his rival, holding at 15 to stay 3-4 behind, delivering one good hold after another but finding no way to grab a break. Feliciano moved 5-3 in front with an ace before Rafa closed the ninth game at love, forcing Lopez to serve for the set.

With no sign of nerves, the 39-year-old held at love following a service winner to wrap up the opener 6-4 in 40 minutes. With no room for errors, Nadal 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. Nadal held at 15 with an unreturned serve in the first game, creating two break opportunities at 2-1. Feliciano saved those to stay on the scoreboard's positive side, playing against four more break points at 2-3.

After a slow start, Rafael Nadal beat Feliciano Lopez in Paris for the 1000th win.

Nadal failed to convert those, serving well by the end of the set but not creating more opportunities ahead of the tie break. At 3-3 in the breaker, Rafa landed a volley winner to grab a mini-break, firing two winners to earn three set points.

Lopez saved the opening two on his serve before Nadal seized the third to seal the set and gather a boost ahead of the decider. The younger Spaniard clinched a break at love in the first game of the third set 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, moving into the third round and securing the 1000th ATP win. "Well, it was a tough start, no, against a great player on this surface.

He had a lot of great results, and he also knows me very well. For me, it was the first match on hard court in a long time, especially indoors. I started the encounter in the worst possible way, especially against a big server like Feliciano.

I played under a lot of pressure in the rest of the clash, but I found the way, which is the most important thing. This victory is the one that I am very proud of. Personal satisfaction sometimes is more significant when you win these kinds of matches than if you go on court and score a6-3, 6-3 victory.

Playing without the crowd was nothing new, as we had that in Rome. It makes a big difference if the court is empty, but that's what we have these days. I enjoyed the battle, trying to play with the right attitude when things weren't the best for me," Rafael Nadal said.

Rafael Nadal Feliciano Lopez