Paris, Nov 4 (efe-epa).- Spain’s Rafael Nadal dug deep on Wednesday in his opening match at the Paris Masters to defeat countryman Feliciano Lopez 4-6, 7-6 (7-5), 6-4 and record his 1,000th career singles victory.
Playing his first event since clinching his 13th French Open title and tying arch-rival Roger Federer’s all-time mark of 20 Grand Slam titles last month, Nadal found himself in trouble against a big-serving opponent who is at home on the indoor hard-court surface used for this ATP Tour Masters 1000 event.
The top-seeded Nadal, who hadn’t played an indoor match in 11 months, lacked rhythm early on in the fast conditions and made an uncharacteristically high number of unforced errors.
Unable to make an impression on Lopez’s service games, Nadal dropped the first set and found himself close to defeat when the second set came down to a tiebreaker.
The world No. 2, however, got a big boost from his first serve and finished the match with a total of 16 aces, two fewer than the record-high total he tallied in Tokyo in 2010.
Nadal was out-of-sorts in the early going in the silent, behind-closed-doors atmosphere of AccorArena, giving Lopez an opening that he seized by breaking his opponent’s serve in the opening game of match.
That was enough of an advantage for the 64th-ranked Lopez, who saved a break point in the fourth game and later clinched the first set by holding serve at love in the 10th game.
Lopez was less effective with his first serve in the second set, and that allowed Nadal to get into more of his opponent’s service games. Even so, the normally opportunistic world No. 2 was unable to capitalize on several break-point chances, including three opportunities in the sixth game.
The situation appeared favorable for Lopez, who had won all four previous tiebreakers against Nadal across their 13 head-to-head encounters. But the world No. 2 finally broke through on Wednesday to force a deciding third set.
In the decider, Nadal was the one who jumped out to an early service-break lead and then held serve the rest of the way for a hard-fought victory.
With the win, the 20-time Grand Slam champion joined an elite club of all-time greats by recording his 1,000th Open Era singles victory.
The only other players to have achieved that feat in the Open Era – the current era of professional tennis that began in 1968 – are Jimmy Connors (1,274 wins), Federer (1,242) and Ivan Lendl (1,068).
“(Winning 1,000 matches) means that I am old. That means that 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 (that) is something that makes me feel happy,” the 34-year-old Nadal was quoted as saying on the ATP Tour’s website.
“I just can say thank you very much to all the people that helped me and all the people that in any moment of my life helped me to be where I am.”
Next up in Thursday’s round of 16 for Nadal, who is seeking his first Paris Masters title, will be 61st-ranked Australian Jordan Thompson.
Thompson defeated Croatia’s Borna Coric 2-6, 6-4, 6-2 on Wednesday.
In other second-round matches on Wednesday, two of the ATP Tour’s most in-form players – fourth-seeded German Alexander Zverev and fifth-seeded Russian Andrey Rublev – both recorded comfortable victories.
Zverev routed Serbia’s Miomir Kecmanovic 6-2, 6-2, while Rublev rolled past Moldovan lucky loser Radu Albot 6-1, 6-2. EFE-EPA