(Reuters) – Top seed Rafa Nadal was handed an opening night fright by his good friend Feliciano Lopez at the Paris Masters on Wednesday, but rallied to beat his fellow Spaniard 4-6 7-6(5) 6-4 and claim his 1,000th ATP Tour win.
Nadal becomes just the fourth man to achieve 1,000 singles victories in the Open Era, behind Jimmy Connors (1,274), Roger Federer (1,242) and Ivan Lendl (1,068).
“One negative thing about 1,000 wins is you are very old because to win 1,000 matches you need to have a very long career, but I am super happy,” Nadal said in courtside. “It means I’ve done a lot of things right.
“I’m proud of a lot of things, but I faced some challenges in my career in terms of injuries … It’s a big achievement to be playing at the age of 34.”
Nadal, who was handed a bye in the first round, got off to a terrible start, losing his opening service game and never really coming to terms with Lopez’s blistering serve.
Lopez, 39, won a scarcely believable 93% of his first serve points and also sent down eight aces as he wrapped up the opening set in style.
“It was a very tough match, and I started the worst way possible with the break against him because you are under a lot of pressure for the whole match,” Nadal added.
With both players evenly matched, the second set stayed on serve before Nadal edged a tiebreak to send the contest to a decider.
Nadal broke Lopez in his first service game of the third set and then showed his usual levels of laser-like focus to close out the match.
Next up for the 20-times Grand Slam champion is a meeting with Australia’s Jordan Thompson in the last 16.
Elsewhere, fourth seed Alexander Zverev beat Serbia’s Miomir Kecmanovic 6-2 6-2 to set up a meeting with France’s Adrian Mannarino for a place in the quarter-finals.
(Writing by Manasi Pathak in Bengaluru, editing by Simon Jennings and Pritha Sarkar)