The player who dominated the time on tiptoes and won the Davis Cup against Argentina in Mar del Plata retires

Those devotees of elegant tennis and technically rich movements within the court, found in the Spanish Feliciano Lopez to a home-made specimen that is hardly available anymore. Left-handed, with a surgical slice backhand and, practically, the last exponent of the serve and net, the man from Toledo developed an outstanding career for more than two decades. Of course, everything has an end and, with the start of a new season, the 41-year-old announced that the time for the end has come. This year he will play a handful of tournaments (he hasn’t specified which ones yet) and then will hang the racket.

The Spanish Feliciano López showed a game that was perfectly adapted on the grass

“Dear friends. The time has come to share with you something that most athletes think will never come. After more than twenty years competing on the circuit, I have decided to put an end to what one day began as an illusion. and it ended up becoming the most beautiful and exciting job in the world”, announced Feliciano himself on his social networks, with a video that recalls some of his most valuable moments. “The dream of any tennis player is to be able to say goodbye on a tennis court and that is why I am going to play some tournaments to end my career. The idea is to be able to play some of the tournaments that for different reasons have meant something important during the last twenty years”, López expanded and, immediately, messages from his colleagues began to rain on him (David Ferrer, Pablo Carreño Busta and Pablo Cuevas, just some of them).

López was, in 2008, one of the most valuable cards that the Spanish Davis Cup team, led by Emilio Sánchez Vicario, presented in Mar del Plata, in the controversial final for the national team led by Luli Mancini. In the 3-1 conquest of the Europeans over the Argentines, López won the singles point against Juan Martín del Potro and, along with Fernando Verdasco, the doubles point against Agustín Calleri and David Nalbandian.

The euphoric celebration of Feliciano López at the 2021 Australian OpenWilliam West / AFP

In July 2019, during a report with THE NATION At Wimbledon, Feliciano recalled: “It was an unforgettable experience, one of the most incredible I could live in my career, because what happened that weekend… We weren’t used to playing in environments like this and being able to experience it firsthand was incredible. Obviously everything went well, it was won, but it was something extremely emotional because of the way the sport is lived in countries like Argentina, beyond the fact that I was able to beat Juan, that we won the Cup, everything that happened, and so on”.

He added: “The atmosphere was incredible. We were careful, because Nalbandian and Del Potro were two very good players, we had a very good team with David (Ferrer), Fernando (Verdasco), but we lost Nadal and Argentina was the favourite. The court was very conducive to my game. I was able to get the best of myself, I played the best of my career. I remember it as the best of my career, without a doubt”. That was not Feliciano’s only Davis Cup title: he had been champion in 2004 and repeated the joy in 2009, 2011 -also against Argentina, but in Seville- and 2019.

Feliciano López posing with the Eastbourne trophy
Feliciano López posing with the Eastbourne trophyAFP

Felician experienced the transition between wooden and modern snowshoes. “The first racket I had was a wooden Dunlop, which my father gave me for Three Kings. It was the first of all, but it didn’t last long. Then I had the Adidas Ivan Lendl, which was also a fairly old racket, perhaps it was the evolution between the wooden ones and those that came later, ”he told THE NATION. Designed for grass-court play, he posted 62.5% shooting (85 wins, 51 losses) on that treacherous surface for most players. He excelled in both singles and doubles: he was ranked 12th in the singles world in 2015 and 9th in doubles in 2016.

Feliciano’s announcement

In May 2018, the Torero (as he is nicknamed) believed that the end of his career was approaching since he had been left out of the Top 100 for the first time since June 2002 and that condition in the ranking would not allow him to play the big tournaments. He took over as director of the Madrid tournament in 2019 and, in a certain way, diverted attention. But, far from moving away from the circuit, he clung on. He won the prestigious Queen’s ATP 500 in June 2019 (in singles and doubles, with British Andy Murray), moved up 60 positions and his career entered a completely different and revitalized stage. In the eventful 2020, with the five-month suspension due to the pandemic, López played eleven individual tournaments (including Australia, the US Open and Roland Garros, in that order) and five in doubles (with Spain, partnered with Pablo Carreño Busta, reached the ATP final, won by Serbia). 2021 found him in a different state: he was a father and, now little by little, his focus began to change.

Feliciano won 7 ATP titles in singles (Vienna 2004, Johannesburg 2010, Eastbourne 2013 and 2014, Gstaad 2016, Queen’s 2017 and 2019) and 6 in doubles (Stockholm 2004, Doha and Roland Garros 2016, Barcelona 2018, Queen’s 2019 and Acapulco 2022). . Until today he has 503 singles wins and 486 losses. And he pocketed, for tournament prizes, US$15,356,573.

Big fan of racing Roger Federer and Rafael Nadalat the time, before THE NATION, López had a worried look about the day the Swiss and the Spaniard no longer compete (in fact, Roger no longer does, since he retired in 2022): “What will tennis be like without Roger or Rafa? Complicated, complicated. I am one of those who think that there will be a big void when Federer and Nadal leave tennis. There will not be a time in tennis like the one we have lived through in this years. With Rafa, Roger, Novak (Djokovic) and Andy (Murray). They also said the same thing with Sampras and Agassi, or with Borg and McEnroe, and then these beasts came. If you ask me, I don’t think it will live again and tennis, at the fan level, will suffer a bit. Let’s hope that the tennis industry doesn’t suffer so much, everyone has to be prepared because all the money that this generation of beasts has managed to attract over the years is thanks to them. Tennis has to be prepared to face the moment when they are not there”.

López, a professional since 1997, became a tennis player with most appearances in Grand Slam tournaments in history, tied with Federer with 81 appearances. In turn, 79 of these participations were consecutive (since Roland Garros 2002), which places it as the player with the most chained Grand Slam appearances in history. At the last Wimbledon (he lost in the first round to the Dutchman Botic Van de Zandschulp), he became the first player in history to compete on -at least- 20 occasions in each of the four majors. López, without a doubt, was an example of longevity.

A lover of red wine, he could well compare his career with that drink: the older it was, the better.

Great points from Feliciano López

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The article is in Spanish

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