After staging an impressive victory over Filip Krajinovic, Feliciano Lopez will take on Rafael Nadal in the second round of the Paris Masters. This will be the 14th meeting between the two, and the first since 2015.
Lopez trails Rafael Nadal 4-9 in the head-to-head, but has defeated the Mallorcan in both of their previous encounters. Should Nadal beat Lopez, it will be the 1000th victory of his career on the ATP tour.
However, this is the first time the two compatriots and friends will be facing each other without any spectators, owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaking ahead of the match, Lopez rued the absence of fans but added that it was still a ‘gift’ to lock horns against a player of Rafael Nadal’s caliber.
“For me, it is a gift to play against Rafa right now,” Lopez said. “It's a shame it's in an empty stadium because, at this point in my career, it would have been a great prize to finish the last week of the season playing against the World No. 2, and possibly the best in history."
While it could be the last week of the season for Feliciano Lopez, that won’t be the case for Rafael Nadal. The younger Spaniard is expected to take part in the year-ending ATP Finals in London later this month.
Rafael Nadal is always the favorite when he jumps on the court against me and 99.9% of the players: Feliciano Lopez
Lopez spoke glowingly about the 13-time French Open champion who is out to win his first ever Paris Masters title. Despite the overall difficulty of competing against Rafael Nadal, Lopez believes that it is a special match-up because of the unique challenges it presents.
"I think that playing against Rafa is always a challenge because playing against him is special because of the intensity with which the matches against him are lived, because of how demanding it is to play against him,” Lopez explained.
The World No. 64 reiterated that facing his friend at this stage of his career, and that too at a prestigious tournament like the Paris Masters, was like a ‘prize’.
"To face him, in a tournament like this, at this moment in my life, I think it is a prize,” Lopez added.
Feliciano Lopez continued to wax lyrical about the World No. 2 by labeling him a ‘great champion’. He further noted that Rafael Nadal is currently in an ideal situation, having just won his 13th French Open title.
"Rafa is a great champion, he's in an incredible moment after winning Roland Garros,” Lopez said.
The 39-year-old concluded by calling Nadal the favorite in this encounter and explained that this was the situation for practically every opponent the Mallorcan faces.
“And obviously Rafa is always the favorite when he jumps on the court against me and 99.9% of the players,” Lopez added.