On Wednesday, Feliciano Lopez came quite close to denying Rafael Nadal his 1000th win on tour. He was on top of proceedings for the entire first set and looked set to deal further damage in the next one courtesy of his massive first serve. But nerves and emotions soon came to the fore as Lopez started making unforced errors towards the end of the second set, allowing Nadal some room to breathe.
The 39-year-old ended up losing in three tightly contested sets, and later he spoke to El Transistor about the match and his relationship with Nadal. Lopez put special emphasis on the second set tiebreak, which arguably decided the outcome of the match.
"When we reached the tiebreak I thought I could put pressure on him,” Lopez said. “But Nadal played that tiebreak very well; at the worst moment, Rafa had his best version and served very well.”
At one point during that tiebreak Feliciano Lopez seemed more than capable of running away with the match, given the way his serve was operating. He needed just one mini-break to put immense pressure on Nadal, but the the 13-time French Open champion refused to waver.
In fact, Nadal upped his game by several notches during that crucial passage of play. He out-served Lopez to win the breaker 7-5 and take the match to a decider, from where he never looked back.
What I like the most about playing against Rafael Nadal is that there is a great sense of respect and friendship: Feliciano Lopez
For Feliciano Lopez, the respect and friendship between him and Rafael Nadal make every match against the 34-year-old truly special. However, the 39-year-old maintained that his focus levels never dipped despite his relationship with Nadal.
"What I like the most about playing against Rafa, the best of all is that there is a great sense of respect and friendship. But at the same time you are just as focused as another day when you play against another opponent,” Lopez said.
Lopez also stressed that the mutual respect between him and Rafael Nadal meant that neither of them ever found the need to dispute a line call with the chair umpire.
“Respect is very nice and sometimes leads us not to lower the chair-umpire (from his seat),” Lopez explained.
No matter what the outcome of any match between Lopez and Nadal, the friendship between the two remains the same when they meet off the court. The Director of the Madrid Open cited a recent example where he discussed the Real Madrid Champions League match with Rafael Nadal,
“For example, we meet at the hotel before, the truth is that the usual relationship does not change anything, today, for example, we talked about the Madrid game yesterday,” Lopez added.Published 05 Nov 2020, 16:42 IST