Feliciano Lopez has officially consolidated his status as an ATP Tour great. His classic style of tennis and a penchant for serve-and-volleying have allowed him to enjoy a long career that now includes 500 Tour-level match wins. The Spaniard added to his legacy by becoming the 10th active player to hit the match wins milestone after defeating Karen Khachanov 4-6, 6-2, 6-4 at the Mallorca Championships on Tuesday.
“More than the 500 wins, the important thing to me is the chance to keep playing in these kinds of tournaments and to keep being competitive,” the Spaniard told ATPTour.com. “I didn’t expect to be able to play at the level I am on the ATP Tour at 40 years of age, which I will be in September.”
Like a fine wine, Lopez has gradually matured his game and his physique to prolong his professional career, which began in 1997, further than he could have dreamed. “Recent years have been very good to me. Playing until this age was unexpected, being able to keep winning matches on Tour and, above all, to be enjoying the moment. But it is true that winning 500 matches is something not so many players have done.”
Active Players With Over 500 Match Wins*
*Figures current as of Tuesday 22 June 2021.
In recent seasons, the Toledo native has been building another impressive record; he is the player with the most consecutive Grand Slam appearances with 76. “To me, the most important thing is to keep enjoying tournaments like Wimbledon and the US Open, which are coming up. What makes me happy is just being able to play in them.”
Despite the passing of the years, Lopez has continued to add trophies to his haul, above all on his favourite surface, grass, where he has enjoyed a 64.8 winning percentage. His past two ATP Tour singles titles came at the cinch Championships in London (2017 and 2019).
Of all the victories that adorn his brilliant career, the two finals on the lawns of The Queen’s Club hold a particular place in his heart. “The first final at Queen’s [in 2017] against [Marin] Cilic was very special, saving match point,” he admitted. “I’ve played it back a few times and watched the highlights.”
No less special was his last crown in the English capital, the seventh of his career. “It came a few years later and I wasn’t expecting it as much,” he explained. “It was a very emotional match and also at a very special tournament with so much history and tradition.”
Lopez’s list of memorable matches does not end there, his love affair with grass has produced many more. “I remember a match at Wimbledon to reach the quarter-finals against [Marcos] Baghdatis, when I was match point down and I risked a second-serve ace and pulled it off. Also a match with [John] Isner at Wimbledon and another with [Lukasz] Kubot saving two match points to reach the quarters… there have been many.”
Feliciano Lopez fires a signature one-handed backhand against Karen Khachanov en route to his 500th match win. Photo Credit: Manuel Queimadelos/Mallorca Championships
Away from his favoured surface, another career highlight was the match that brought him his first ATP Tour trophy at the Erste Bank Open in Vienna in 2004, when he defeated Guillermo Canas in a 6-4, 1-6, 7-5, 3-6, 7-5 marathon. “I’ll also always remember my first final in Vienna against Willy Cañas, which ended 7-5 in the fifth.”
However, he set out on the road to 500 wins much earlier, his very first tour-level victory coming in Viña del Mar in 2001. Twenty years ago, not only did he claim his first win on Tour against Adrian García, 6-3, 6-3, he also reached the quarter-finals. “My first win? Well… maybe Viña del Mar?” Lopez recalled. “My first tournament was in Barcelona, I came through qualifying as a kid. But I won my first match in Chile.”
Although he is uncertain in his response, his memory serves him well. “At the time, it was impossible to think of everything that would come later. I was a boy, a young man with potential like so many others around the world. It’s true that ever since I was little I’d stood out in different age categories, I was among the best in the world, but it’s very difficult to go from that to having such a long career.”
Feliciano Lopez made his ATP Tour main draw debut in 1998 as a qualifier in Barcelona (pictured here in 2002). Photo Credit: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Lopez started out like all boys of his generation did, with the hope of someday winning a professional match. “At the time, I didn’t think about it much. It was exciting to be able to be among so many good players, I didn’t give it any more thought than that, but it was a dream.”
Not only did the Spaniard achieve his dream, he repeated it 500 times over.
Did You Know?
Lopez is now the seventh player from Spain to cross the 500 wins milestone in the Open Era, following in the footsteps of Rafael Nadal (1,027), David Ferrer (734), Manuel Orantes (722), Carlos Moya (575), Fernando Verdasco (554) and Tommy Robredo (533).