Sports Tennis

Rafael Nadal claims 1,000th tour-level match win

Top seed Rafael Nadal, in his first match since a record-extending 13th Roland Garros title, has become only the fourth man to reach 1,000 tour-level match wins. He defeated his fellow Spaniard Feliciano López 4-6, 7-6(5), 6-4 at the second round of Paris Masters this week. He sits behind tennis legends Jimmy Connors, who tops the list with 1,274 victories, 32 more than second-placed Roger Federer.

“To achieve that number is because I have been playing well for a lot of years and is something that makes me feel happy,” Nadal told reporters at a virtual press conference after the game that was played behind closed doors. “I just can say thank you very much to all the people that helped me and all the people that in any moment of my life helped me to be where I am.”

Nadal’s first match win on the ATP Tour came in April 2002 when he was just 15. A year later, the 16-year-old Nadal stunned the tennis world by beating French Open champion Albert Costa in the second round at the Monte Carlo Masters. By the age of 24, he had already reached 500 wins. At the time of writing, his career tally also includes 35 Masters titles and 86 tournament victories overall.

“I know it is a very special number, 1,000. Even if it’s not the same to celebrate something like this without a crowd, I enjoy it with ATP, with the president of the French (Tennis) Federation, Guy Forget, supervisor and the ball boys. I enjoy it and just can say thanks to all of them to make this moment a little bit more special.” Nadal added. He will next play against Australia’s Jordan Thompson.

Nadal, who has never won this tournament, was given a special presentation to celebrate his achievement after the match in a near-empty Bercy Arena. He smiled as he posed at the net with the number 1,000 displayed on the court in a brief ceremony. It was the second milestone he reached in Paris this year, having won the French Open last month to tie Federer with 20 majors.

“One very negative thing about getting to 1,000: you are very old,” said Nadal, laughing, speaking about the feat. “To win 1,000 matches you need to have a very long career. But I’m super happy. Of course, to arrive at that number means that I did a lot of things well and during a long time.” Taking the trophy in Paris would see Nadal equal Novak Djokovic’s record of 36 Masters titles.

Elsewhere, Alexander Zverev, who also made comeback after being accused of domestic violence by his ex-girlfriend, joined Nadal in the third round by beating Miomir Kecmanovic 6-2, 6-2. Russian Daniil Medvedev, the tournament’s number three seed, was leading 5-2 in the first-set tie-break when South Africa’s Kevin Anderson was forced to retire because of a right leg injury.