Rafael Nadal had a breakthrough 2020 season despite the complexities of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Spaniard equaled Roger Federer's record of 20 Grand Slam titles at this year's Roland Garros, achieved the feat of most weeks spent in the top 10 of the ATP rankings, and also racked up 1000 wins on tour.
Nadal's long-standing Davis Cup partner Feliciano Lopez recently spoke about their encounter in the second round of the Paris Masters, which handed the 34-year-old his 1000th win. Lopez also talked about the 2021 edition of the Madrid Masters, where all the big stars - and especially Nadal - are expected to participate.
Speaking to Marca, Lopez claimed that the moment Rafael Nadal won his 1000th match was very special. He also lamented the fact that there wasn't much of a crowd in the French capital to witness the moment.
"I was excited because playing against Rafa for me is always special and even more so now that I am 39 years old and I value this type of game more," said Lopez. "I keep pushing myself every day to play those games. I was able to push him to the limit and I felt competitive against the number two in the world and possibly the best in history. That means a lot to me because it gives me the hope of continuing another year playing tennis."
"And then there's the emotional side of being in your 1,000th win. It was a shame to play in an empty stadium. Going out to play against Rafael Nadal in an empty stadium is harder than against any other player because these matches are lived with great emotion, the stands are full, the atmosphere is brutal...Under the circumstances we had, I enjoyed it the most," Lopez added.
Rafael Nadal overturned a one-set deficit and defeated Lopez 4-6 7-6 6-4 in that second round encounter at the Paris Masters. He was immediately coronated by the ATP and tournament organizers for his achievement following the victory.
Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal all made the 2019 Madrid Masters spectacular: Lopez
Feliciano Lopez happens to be the tournament director of one of the biggest events on the men' tour - the Madrid Masters. When asked if he was expecting Roger Federer at the tournament next year, he did not mince his words.
"What I want is for everyone to be there," Lopez said.
With the event having been cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic, the organizers have big plans for the 2021 edition. The Madrid Masters next year will be a two-week event, with a 96-player draw - not unlike the Indian Wells and Miami Masters held in the US.
Lopez made it a point to mention the success of the 2019 edition of the Madrid Masters, claiming that the presence of the top players made it even more special.
"Last year there were Rafa, Federer and Djokovic and it was spectacular. Having all three of them is a dream for any tournament. Not even the 'Grand Slam' have had them in recent years. We having Rafa every year gives the tournament a special dimension. Let's not forget the player we have. I don't know about Djokovic and Federer's plans," said the 39-year-old.
"I do know Rafa's a bit because for him the clay season is very important. He is giving more importance to it in recent years, perhaps because he is getting older, because he selects the tournaments better. As director of the Mutua Madrid Open, if Rafael Nadal comes I will be happy with life," Lopez added.