Three and a half weeks ago, Rafael Nadal captured his record-tying 20th Grand Slam title at Roland Garros. On Wednesday, he was back in the French capital hitting another milestone, overcoming Feliciano Lopez, 4-6, 7-6 (5), 6-4, in his opening match at the Rolex Paris Masters for his 1,000th tour-level win.
“That's one very negative thing about getting to 1,000. You are very old,” Nadal joked in a post-match interview. “But I’m super happy. Of course to arrive to that number means that I did a lot of things well, and during a long time, so I’m very happy.”
Lopez broke serve in the first game of the match and rode that break to the opening set, but the top-seeded Nadal hung tough from there, sneaking out the second set in a tie-break after missing five break point opportunities. Nadal broke in the first game of the third set, eventually closing Lopez out after exactly two and a half hours on court.
“It was a very tough match. I started the worst way possible with a break, and against him, it’s difficult because then you are under a lot of pressure for the whole match,” Nadal explained. “I’m happy to finally find a way to win, because you don’t want to be in a tie-break to lose the match against a big server like Feli, who’s also a very good player from the baseline, especially on this surface.”
Lopez had won the pair’s last two meetings, both at Masters 1000 events, at Shanghai in 2014 and Cincinnati in 2015—but with Wednesday’s victory, Nadal improved to 10-4 in their head-to-head series.
Nadal is the fourth man in the Open Era to reach 1,000 tour-level wins in his career:
1,274: Jimmy Connors (1,274-283)
1,242: Roger Federer (1,242-271)
1,068: Ivan Lendl (1,068-242)
1,000: Rafael Nadal (1,000-201)
Of the four, Nadal has the best winning percentage with .833 (Federer is next at .821).
Novak Djokovic (932-190) will likely be the fifth player to cross the 1,000 mark in the next year or two.
And only two women in the Open Era have recorded 1,000 or more career wins: Martina Navratilova, who ended her career with a 1,442-219 career record; and Chris Evert, who finished at 1,309-146.
Though Nadal has never won the ATP Masters 1000 event in Paris, he’s always been a factor. He’s reached the quarterfinals or better in all seven of his previous appearances at the event. His best result came in 2007, finishing runner-up to David Nalbandian. He’s now 20-5 in his career here.
“That’s part of the game—in some places you have more success, in others a little bit less,” he said in his pre-tournament press conference. “It’s true, of course, that at the end of the year in the past I arrived sometimes very tired physically, and sometimes mentally too, and at the same time on indoor courts I need to be fresh—it’s probably the surface I need to be playing better to try to have success.
“But here I’ve had a lot of times issues. I’ve had to retire from the tournament a couple of times.”
The Spaniard has withdrawn mid-tournament the last two times he’s played here, pulling out before his quarterfinal match against Filip Krajinovic in 2017 (due to a knee injury) and before his semifinal match against Denis Shapovalov last year (due to an abdominal injury).
Nadal will play unseeded Jordan Thompson in his third-round match on Thursday. The Australian rallied past No. 15 seed Borna Coric in his second-round match on Wednesday, 2-6, 6-4, 6-2.