Rafael Nadal said he was proud of a “great achievement” after securing the 1,000th Tour-level victory of his illustrious career on Wednesday, becoming the fourth man to reach that mark with a comeback win over Feliciano Lopez in the Paris Masters second round.
The 20-time Grand Slam champion, back in the French capital less than a month after winning his 13th Roland Garros title, edged out his fellow Spaniard 4-6, 7-6 (7/5), 6-4.
“I am proud about a lot of things, but I faced some challenges in my career in terms of body injuries,” said Nadal.
“But I always had the passion to keep going and the humility to keep going when things are going in a way you don’t expect. It’s a great achievement for me.”
Nadal, whose first match win on the ATP Tour came in April 2002 when he was just 15, is fourth on the all-time list, with Jimmy Connors leading the way on 1,274 victories, 32 more than second-placed Roger Federer. Ivan Lendl also passed the 1,000-win barrier.
“One negative thing about getting to 1,000 – is that you’re very old as it means you have to have had a very long career,” added Nadal. “But I’m very happy.”
Nadal was given a special presentation to celebrate his achievement after the match in a near-empty Bercy Arena, with the event being played behind closed doors after France entered its second coronavirus lockdown last week.
The 34-year-old Nadal, bidding for a first Paris Masters title, will face Jordan Thompson in the third round after the Australian beat Croatia’s Borna Coric 2-6, 6-4, 6-2.
He struggled to find his rhythm for much of the match as 39-year-old Lopez served excellently, saving the first six break points he faced, but Nadal stepped it up in the second-set tie-break.
The top seed grabbed the crucial break in the first game of the decider and then eased to victory after saving two break points himself in the next game.
“It was a very tough match,” said Nadal. “I started in the worst way possible with a break. Against him, that’s difficult because you’re under pressure for the whole match.”
The world No 2 is playing the tournament for the eighth time in his career, but he pulled out midway through his last two appearances due to injury. His best run yet at Bercy was when he lost in the 2007 final to Argentinian David Nalbandian.
Taking the trophy in Paris this week would see Nadal equal Novak Djokovic’s record of 36 Masters titles.