If Feliciano Lopez’s fans are wondering how much more great tennis he has left in him, the Spaniard isn’t offended by the thought.
“I’ve been thinking it might be my last year for four or five years now,” he said, smiling.
The 37-year-old Spaniard has been a Top 100 staple since 2002 and still continues to pick up ATP Tour titles and high-profile wins. When Lopez competes next week at the US Open, It will be a record 71st consecutive Grand Slam appearance.
But at the moment, his attention is fully devoted to the Winston-Salem Open. Lopez, seeded No. 16, held off an inspired comeback from fellow Spaniard Pablo Andujar in his opening-round match to advance 6-4, 1-6, 7-5.
See where to watch the Winston-Salem Open
“I never expected to be playing this long,” he admitted. “I know that it’s not normal. I’m very happy to keep going, play another US Open and add some more Grand Slams to my record.”
But Lopez knows that all good things inevitably come to an end. He briefly dropped out of the Top 100 in April, marking the first time that happened in 17 years, and also took over this year as the tournament director of the Mutua Madrid Open. Lopez thought this season would likely be his last.
My Point: Lopez’s New Journey
That all changed in June at the Fever-Tree Championships. Lopez, the 2017 champion at Queen’s Club, made full use of his wild cards by winning the singles title (d. Simon) and teaming with Andy Murray to take the doubles crown (d. Ram/Salisbury). His magical run was his first clean sweep at an ATP Tour event. Lopez arrived that week at No. 113 in the ATP Rankings, but jumped up nearly 60 places with his seventh ATP Tour singles title.
If anything, the constant travel of Tour life. The Spaniard is competing in his 22nd season and long stretches away from home have understandably made him wary of airports, but he’s using his experience to maximise his time on the road.
“I find the traveling to be tough. A two-hour flight feels like a whole day ,” said Lopez. “Being in the gym is okay for me, but the training it takes to be competitive, spending hours on the court hitting balls… It’s tough for me now.
“But the most important thing is that I love what I do and love to compete. And I have experience. I know myself and what I need, so I try to condition the most important things. I hit less, but spend more time in the gym to avoid injuries.”
For now, Lopez is happy to keep going. With his grass-court success this season ensuring he will remain in the Top 100 of the ATP Rankings until at least June of next year, the Spaniard sees little reason to call time on his career.
“I don’t think it would be fair to stop now,” he said. “I think that I deserve another season.”