"There's not one negative thing about getting to the 1,000. Arriving to that number means I did a lot of things well," Rafael Nadal said jokingly after he captured his 1,000 career win. It was at the same time he'd struggled to win his Rolex Paris opener over Feliciano Lopez in three sets 4-6, 7-6, 6-4.
The Spaniard didn't have it easy at the start of the season even before the Pandemic hit.
The ATP Cup he lost in the semifinal to Alex de Minaur in three sets.
Next, he was at odds with Novak Djokovic who he'd suffer another loss, this time the final in straight sets.
The Australian Open went great until the meet up with Dominic Thiem. The quarterfinals Nadal bowed in 4 sets. He re-grouped and found his game at the Mexican Open in Acapulco. He plowed past the former NextGen Taylor Fritz to capture his third Mexican crown and his 85th singles' title.
The 2nd ranked ATP Nadal though his season would start being victorious but a month later the coronavirus pandemic hit. Tournaments were either postponed or cancelled and no one played competitively until nearly 7 months. He had issues of dealing with the idea of getting match time but the barriers of the world health crisis, the long hiatus and having no fans in the arena had put a burden on him physically and mentally.
Drills and practicing, Nadal used his time well in Spain and worked on his game for the Italian Open in September. He'd ran into Diego Schwartzman as an opponent and was stung by the Argentine in the quarterfinal with straight sets.
Nadal's main objective was to sort out his game. He did just that in time for the last slam of the year, the French Open. The Spaniard stayed focused, becoming mentally tugh again to come up against one of his rival's Novak Djokovic.
He defeated him in three suspenseful sets capturing his 13th French Open. The time for resurgence is now and on getting a title he's never won before: The Rolex Paris Masters 1000. Nadal had a major challenge in winning against Feliciano Lopez in the first round.
"I started the match the worst way possible...against a big server like Feli...I played under a lot of pressure...I found a way," Nadal said nervously. He was comfortable again and got the 2nd round win over Australia's Jordan Thompson.
The game was pushed to a second set tiebreak with Nadal as the atmosphere due to the Pandemic had changed. The Spaniard would have to zero in on his game because the huge arena once held sold out crowds are gone. It feels lonely to Nadal and he says honestly: "The real feeling, the personal feeling is completely different. It makes a big difference that hte court is empty."