Abu Dhabi-bound Feliciano Lopez savouring best years of his career

Delectable Spaniard hopes to remain 'Deliciano' after getting married, writes Ahmed Rizvi
Feliciano Lopez of Spain serves against Ivan Dodig of Croatia during their men's singles first-round match in the US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on August 27, 2014, in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. Elsa / AFP
Feliciano Lopez of Spain serves against Ivan Dodig of Croatia during their men's singles first-round match in the US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on August 27, 2014, in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. Elsa / AFP

In the summer of 2011, as Feliciano Lopez knocked out Andy Roddick on his way to the last eight at Wimbledon, the Spaniard’s pin-up looks earned him a delectable nickname from an unexpected admirer.

Judy Murray, mother of Lopez’s quarter-final opponent, Andy, took to Twitter to announce her crush, calling the Spaniard “Deliciano”.

“He is kind of Roman god-like,” she later said on Sky Sports News. “We were in Rome a few weeks ago and they had the god statues there, and I’m sure he was there.”

Lopez, 33, laughs when reminded of that episode, but it is a nickname he likes and said he hopes he will still be considered Deliciano even after his wedding to model Alba Carillo in July next year.

“This [Deliciano] is something funny and I hope we can continue with that,” he said.

A few months back, when the news of the wedding first broke, Judy Murray joked about being “devastated”. There will be a few other broken hearts as well, but Lopez thinks otherwise.

“I don’t think I am going to break any hearts,” he laughed. “I am getting really old right now.

“Personal life has always been important for me, and it’s a great moment coming up. I am going to get married in July and, yeah, I am looking forward to that moment. It’s the time to do it and I think it’s going to be a great day.”

The wedding will be the biggest highlight of 2015 for Lopez, but he has plenty more to look forward to.

In one his best years on the tour, he climbed to his highest ranking at No 14, beat four top 10 players, reached the last four of two Masters 1000 tournaments and defended his Eastbourne title.

Now, the southpaw is looking forward to next year.

“I have plenty of confidence right now with my game in general,” Lopez said ahead of his first appearance at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi.

“I was able to avoid injuries [in 2014], and now I am feeling ready and fresh for the new ­season. The last season was a great one for me and hopefully we can do it again. This is what we will be trying.”

With the world’s top tennis players – including four grand slam tournament champions – at the event, which runs from Thursday until Saturday, Lopez said he could not have asked for a better chance to kick-start his 2015 campaign.

“I think it is a great opportunity for me to play in this great tournament,” he said. “I will be playing against the best players in the world like Andy [Murray] and Rafa [Rafael Nadal], and for me it is a great chance to get ready.

“So I look at this as an opportunity for me to challenge them and to see where we are at the beginning of the season.”

Lopez will start his campaign against world No 6 Murray on Thursday, with the reward if he wins a date with Nadal, the 14-time grand slam title winner.

Both Murray (27) and Nadal (28) are younger, but the Spanish veteran said modern science is helping older professionals such as him, Roger Federer and Serena Williams stretch their careers and be competitive against the younger crop.

“Right now there are so many things we can do in order to prevent injuries, in order to get ready, to be healthy,” he said.

“If we look at 10 or 20 years back, the players did not have so many things. Technology and everything is getting better.

“Also, me personally, I am taking more care about little things like food, fitness workouts and everything. Otherwise, it would be impossible to challenge the young guys coming up.”

With his confidence soaring, Lopez hopes he can still end his career as a Masters or grand slam title winner. But he is not a man to set targets and is pleased with what he has achieved during the past 12 years on tour.

The highlight was bringing Englishman Tim Henman’s Wimbledon farewell to an early end in 2007, winning the fifth set 6-1 after the Briton had bounced back from two sets down in their second-round clash.

“That is a great memory,” Lopez said.

“It was Henman’s last Wimbledon, so it was a pretty emotional moment.

“For me to beat him was a little bit sad because it is always tough when you see how much love people give to someone.

“He couldn’t win the match in the end, but I was so proud. The crowd was very excited, but at the same time they were very respectful. So I was very pleased that I was part of this match.”

arizvi@thenational.ae

Follow us on Twitter at @SprtNationalUAE

Published: December 28, 2014 04:00 AM

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