As Rafael Nadal said after coming back to win his opener at the Paris Masters against friend and countryman Feliciano Lopez, it mostly means that he’s … old.
He’s not; he’s 34.
But with the 4-6, 7-6 (5), 6-4 victory Nadal joins just three others in the history of men’s tennis to reach 1,000 victories.
He did it with the second-most aces – 16 – that he has ever hit in a best-of-three match. That’s 10 years after his record of 18, all the way back in 2010 against Viktor Troicki in Tokyo.
Nadal is now in a club with Jimmy Connors (1,274), Roger Federer (1,242) and Ivan Lendl (1,068).
Novak Djokovic, the only other active player in the top 10, sits at 932.
The 2021 season is going to be interesting in that race, if you can call it that. If Federer comes back healthy, he could become the all-time singles match winner. You’d expect Nadal could catch Lendl if he plays another couple of seasons.
For Djokovic to get in the top three would require significant longevity – because on many levels, that’s the kind of record this is.
Hungry, humble through challenges
“One of these victories that I am very proud. The personal satisfaction sometimes is bigger when you go on court and win this kind of match,” Nadal said, pointing to it being the first match of the tournament, and his first match on a hard court in a long time.
“It means that I am old. It 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 it’s something that makes me happy,” he said.
“Even if it’s not the same to celebrate something like this without the crowd, I enjoy it with the ATP, the president of the FFT, Guy Forget, the supervisor and the ballboys, so I enjoyed it.”
“I faced issues in terms of injuries in different parts of my career, but I always hold the passion and the love to keep doing what I do, which is playing tennis,” Nadal said. “In some of those moments I was able to keep hungry to keep going, be humble enough to accept the challenges, accept in some moments the things were not going the way I expected.”
Looking for first Paris Masters win
Nadal is now 20-5 at the Paris Masters; it’s a small part of the 10 per cent of his career singles wins that have come in Paris. And that’s partly because he hasn’t played it that often.
And he has never won it.
Nadal’s body is typically pretty beat up by this point in the season. And in most cases he tries to manage it and save whatever’s left for the ATP Tour Finals.
He played it three straight years from 2007-09, and then not again until 2013.
He then played it in 2015, 2017 and last year.
Nadal has made the final just once – and that was the first time, in 2007. He lost 6-4, 6-0 to David Nalbandian, who in his day was often the kind of the late-season indoor circuit.
On Thursday he faces Aussie Jordan Thompson, who upset No. 15 seed Borna Coric Wednesday.
Nadal’s 1,000 by the numbers
Here are a few breakdowns of where those 1,000 victories came.