PARIS — Rafael Nadal became only the fourth man to reach 1,000 match wins when he beat fellow Spanish veteran Feliciano Lopez 4-6, 7-6 (5), 6-4 in the second round of the Paris Masters on Wednesday.
The 20-time Grand Slam champion joined Jimmy Connors (1,274), Roger Federer (1,242) and Ivan Lendl (1,068) as the only male players to reach the 1,000-win mark since the Open era began in 1968.
Nadal posed at the net with the number 1,000 displayed in large numbers on the court.
“Well, that means that I am old,” Nadal joked, before measuring the achievement. “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 is something that makes me feel happy."
The 34-year-old Nadal achieved another milestone in Paris this year, too, having won the French Open last month to tie Federer on 20 major titles.
But while there were 1,000 fans to cheer him on in the final at Roland Garros, none were at the Bercy Arena because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Of course it’s sad, the level of energy is difficult to compare,” Nadal said. “So the feeling, even if 1,000 or 1,500 or 2,000 is not a lot. The real feeling, the personal feeling is completely different. It makes a big difference that the court is empty.”
After securing the victory, Nadal touched fists with Lopez and put his rackets into his bag as if finishing a training session, rather than celebrating a huge achievement.
“I know it is a very special number, one thousand,” Nadal said. “Even if it’s not the same to celebrate something like this without a crowd.”
The 34-year-old’s first win came in May 2002 at the age of 15, when he beat Paraguayan Ramon Delgado in the first round at Mallorca.
A year later, the 16-year-old Nadal stunned the tennis world by beating French Open champion Albert Costa under floodlights in the second round at the Monte Carlo Masters.
By the age of 24, he had already reached 500 wins, while his career tally also includes 35 Masters titles and 86 tournament victories overall.
The 39-year-old Lopez won their first meeting back in 2003 and had beaten Nadal four times overall. He had 22 aces and troubled a sluggish Nadal, who failed to convert six break points in the second set but broke immediately at the start of the third.
“I started the match the worst way possible, especially against a big server like Feli,” Nadal said. “After that I played under a lot of pressure the rest of the match, but I found a way.”
Nadal, who has never won this tournament, next plays Jordan Thompson of Australia, who upset 15th-seeded Croat Borna Coric 2-6, 6-4, 6-2.
Earlier, Canada's Milos Raonic advanced to the third roundwith a 6-4, 6-4 win over French wild-card Pierre-Hughes Herbert.
The 10th-seed from Thornhill, Ont., saved the only break point he faced and had 11 aces in a match that took just over 91 minutes to complete.
Raonic, a finalist at the indoor hardcourt event in 2014, was accurate on 66 per cent of his first serves, and won 89 per cent of his first-serve points. He won 56 per cent of second-serve points.
Herbert was accurate with 57 per cent of his first serves and won points on just 66 per cent of those that landed. He won 55 per cent of second-serve points and was broken twice in six opportunities.
Raonic improved to 2-0 against Herbert.
The Canadian, ranked 17th in the world, next faces Marcos Giron. The American qualifier advanced with a 7-6 (3), 6-7 (0), 7-5 win over Spain's Albert Ramos-Vinolas. Raonic won his only other meeting with 91st-ranked Giron at last year's Indian Wells tournament.
Alexander Zverev moved on to the third round by beating Miomir Kecmanovic 6-2, 6-2.
The fourth-seeded German did not face a break point against the 42nd-ranked Serb.
Zverev hit eight aces and converted his first match point. Chasing a third title of the year, he next faces Adrian Mannarino of France.
Fifth-seeded Andrey Rublev easily won 6-1, 6-2 against Radu Albot for a tour-leading 40th win of the year, moving one ahead of top-ranked Novak Djokovic. Rublev won the Erste Bank Open in Vienna last Sunday for a tour-leading fifth title of the season and next plays either three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka or unseeded American Tommy Paul.
Meanwhile, No. 3 Russian Daniil Medevev advanced after Kevin Anderson retired when trailing 5-2 in the first-set tiebreaker because of a right leg injury.
No. 6 Diego Schwartzman beat Frenchman Richard Gasquet 7-5, 6-3, keeping the Argentine on course to clinch the final spot for the Nov. 15-22 ATP Finals in London. He can guarantee that by reaching the semifinals in Paris.
No. 16 Alex de Minaur also advanced with a 6-3, 7-5 win over Italian Lorenzo Sonego — the runner-up to Rublev last Sunday.
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Jerome Pugmire, The Associated Press