Feliciano Lopez retires in Mallorca | ATP Tour

One of the longest careers in the history of the ATP Tour has come to an end. Feliciano Lopez has said goodbye to the circuit at the age of 41 after 26 seasons as a professional, after losing on Thursday to Yannick Hanfmann at the Mallorca Championships.

He did so at home, surrounded by his family, his fans and many of the players he has competed with for so long. Fittingly, Lopez’s last fight came on the surface that has given him the most joy in his career: he has won more on grass than any other Spaniard.

Most tour-level wins on grass by Spaniards

Watch highlights from Lopez’s last fight:

That achievement came by virtue of his unique brand of tennis, which came despite having learned the game under the same conditions as his fellow Spaniards in a system designed to produce clay specialists. But his serve, his volleying and an innate touch at the net made him a more classic grass court player.

“I was a different player without trying to be, because of my identity as a player, my style and my serve,” Lopez told ATPTour.com. “But I didn’t train to have that style of tennis. I grew up like most Spaniards. I trained in Barcelona but naturally decided to be this type of player, different from the rest.”

The ‘strange player’ – as he describes himself – was destined to make history. Since claiming his first singles victory at a Grand Slam at Roland Garros in 2002, he did not miss a single main draw in the category for 20 consecutive years until Roland Garros 2022, giving him the record of 79th straight appearances.

“I feel very proud to have been able to make it through 20 years as a professional without missing a single, but also to have left a good impression on my teammates and on the people I’ve spent time with with,” the Toledo native explained.

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Lopez in action against Lleyton Hewitt during his first Wimbledon quarter-final in 2005. Photo: Phil Cole/Getty Images.
It was on Wimbledon grass that Lopez produced his first major result at a major with a fourth-round finish in 2002. The London major is the only one where he reached the quarter-finals three times. His ability to find a way to win on grass, more than any of his countrymen, earned him his first call-up to Spain’s Davis Cup team in 2003.

“I made my debut in a final against Australia because it was played on grass and at that time I was practically the only player who had good results on the surface,” he revealed. “They dropped a player who had played on the team all year and chose me. The experience gave me so many wonderful feelings.”

He enjoyed what he calls his “best week” on the ATP Tour on the same surface. It came in 2019 when he was crowned singles and doubles champion at the Cinch Championships at The Queen’s Club.

“It’s impossible to beat something like that,” Lopez said. “When I was almost 40 I managed to win a tournament like Queens, also in doubles, and played 15 hours of tennis in three days. In that age [37]and with Andy [Murray] who had just had hip surgery, in his home country and at a tournament that is special to me. Everything that happened that week is impossible to repeat at any other time.”

There is one statistic that sticks in Lopez’s mind after so long among the ATP Tour’s elite; break the 500-win barrier. “I’m not someone who constantly looks at statistics and numbers, but when I saw the list of players who had achieved that, I felt proud because when you see those names, you think how amazing it is to be on it list with those people,” Lopez said. “There are players you admire from every era.”

Lopez reached the goal last year in Mallorca, on the same stage where he hung up his racket today with almost a thousand matches under his belt and a career record of 506-490.

The Spaniard is delighted to have been able to choose how he wants to say goodbye. “I didn’t want to back down with people feeling sorry for me or play a level I wouldn’t have felt comfortable with,” he revealed. “I’m very happy to be able to play the way I’ve done so far. I feel competitive and that’s what I wanted.”

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Lopez lifted his third ATP Tour title – his first of four on grass – at Eastbourne in 2013. Photo: Ben Stansall/AFP via Getty Images.
Acapulco, the ATP Challenger Tour event in Murcia, Barcelona, ​​Stuttgart, Queen’s and Mallorca were the six stops in his own personal swan song. “I prepared diligently in every sense,” Lopez said. “I was on a diet, losing weight and even working out in the afternoon some days.

“When I went to Acapulco, I was a little scared, because even if you’ve played tennis all your life, it’s a little scary when you stop playing so much. But I was pleasantly surprised because I competed well and I beat [Christopher] Eubanks. I lost a good fight against [Frances] Tiafoe, and that gave me peace for the other tournaments, because I felt competitive, and that’s what I wanted.”

On Thursday, June 29, 2023, Feliciano Lopez ended his long career. He leaves the Tour with seven singles titles behind him and another six in doubles – one of them a major (2016 Roland Garros with Marc Lopez). ‘Feli’ has reason to smile as he says his final goodbye.

“Obviously not everyone loves me,” Lopez said. “It’s normal and not something I aspire to, but I’m proud to have left positive memories, to have been a polite person and a bit of a different tennis player.”

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