Rafael Nadal became only the fourth man to reach 1,000 match wins when he beat fellow Spanish veteran Feliciano Lopez 4-6, 7-6, 6-4 in the second round of the Paris Masters on Wednesday.
The 20-time Grand Slam champion joined Jimmy Connors (1,274), Roger Federer (1,242) and Ivan Lendl (1,068) as the only male players to reach the 1,000-win mark since the Open era began in 1968.
“Well, that means that I am old,” Nadal joked, before measuring the achievement. “I played well for such a very long time, because to achieve that number is because I have been playing well for a lot of years, and is something that makes me feel happy."
The 34-year-old Nadal achieved another milestone in Paris this year, too, having won the French Open last month to tie Federer on 20 major titles.
But while there were 1,000 fans to cheer him on in the final at Roland Garros, none were at the Bercy Arena because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Of course it’s sad, the level of energy is difficult to compare,” Nadal said. “So the feeling, even if 1,000 or 1,500 or 2,000 is not a lot. The real feeling, the personal feeling is completely different. It makes a big difference that the court is empty.”
After securing the victory, Nadal touched fists with Lopez and put his rackets into his bag as if finishing a training session, rather than celebrating a huge achievement.
“I know it is a very special number, 1,000,” Nadal said. “Even if it’s not the same to celebrate something like this without a crowd.”
The 34-year-old’s first win came in May 2002 at the age of 15, when he beat Paraguayan Ramon Delgado in the first round at Mallorca.
A year later, the 16-year-old Nadal stunned the tennis world by beating French Open champion Albert Costa under floodlights in the second round at the Monte Carlo Masters.
By the age of 24, he had already reached 500 wins, while his career tally also includes 35 Masters titles and 86 tournament victories overall.
The 39-year-old Lopez won their first meeting back in 2003 and had beaten Nadal four times overall. He had 22 aces and troubled a sluggish Nadal, who failed to convert six break points in the second set but broke immediately at the start of the third.
“I started the match the worst way possible, especially against a big server like Feli,” Nadal said. “After that I played under a lot of pressure the rest of the match, but I found a way.”
Nadal, who has never won this tournament, next plays Jordan Thompson of Australia, who upset 15th-seeded Croat Borna Coric 2-6, 6-4, 6-2.