The Spaniards are always in vogue in the tennis world. If not individual tournament winners, then collectively as a group that manages to put on a successful show; Spanish tennis players are really astounding in their performance.
But while names like Nadal and Ferrer keep resonating over and over again, there are a few Spaniards who do make a special appearance here and there like perpetual participants in a metaphorical hide-and-seek game. Feliciano Lopez is one amongst these Spaniards, possessing chiselled looks, a good enough game – if not the best – and a court movement that can put anyone to shame on a good day.
To be honest, conceiving an article about Feliciano Lopez seems to be an uphill task. For it is the definite lack of tour level titles and grand slam majors that strike out first about the Spaniard than his excellent first serve and the equally lethal forehand. But it is only as one takes the pain to sift through the lack of trophies that one realises that Feliciano Lopez is not without a presence.
Statistically, the Spaniard possesses the record for playing the most number of five-set matches at the international level. At the 2009 Australian Open, prior to Rafael Nadal and Fernando Verdasco battling it out for more than five hours in the second semi-final, it was Feliciano Lopez who played the longest match in a tough five-setter against Luxembourg’s Gilles Muller. The score might have ultimately swerved the Luxembourgian’s way, but Feliciano Lopez did stand tall in the end with his temerity to push the game to his opponent’s limit.
Throughout the course of his 15-year career, Feliciano Lopez has seen his share of ups and downs. Downs after coming from really great ups and similarly ups from really bad lows. A weak backhand with a single-dimensional game makes it difficult for him to improve upon his performance, which more often than not gets him into trouble when playing against top-ranked players.
The most interesting aspect about the 30-year old however is perhaps his distinctive ability to play in any court surface unlike many of his peers – both countrymen and otherwise – who find themselves ill-suited to certain court surfaces. Unlike many of his Spanish contemporaries who have enjoyed immense successes on clay, Feliciano remains one of the only few Spanish players who have thrived on grass. A three-time Wimbledon quarter-finalist, Feliciano Lopez became the only second Spanish left-hander after Manuel Orantes to reach the last eight at the Championships, back in 2005, after a gap of more than 30 years.
Indistinctive yet uniquely remarkable is the story of Feliciano Lopez, obscured at times by peers’ greatness while at times falling prey to controversies. He might not be the best and may never win a masters or a major, but he still remains the one who hasn’t given it up, battling each tournament as it comes, attaining career high rankings and most importantly, wowing his fans across the globe in spades.