WATCH: Rafael Nadal’s emotional tribute to retiring Feliciano Lopez
Rafael Nadal shared a warm tribute with Feliciano Lopez after his Spanish compatriot called an end to his remarkable 26-year career.
The 22-time Grand Slam champion described his former Davis Cup teammate as a “super outstanding player” and lauded his longevity.
Lopez retired after losing 6-2, 6-4 to world No 48 Yannick Hanfmann in the quarter-finals of the Mallorca Open.
The 41-year-old earned impressive wins over Australian duo Max Purcell and Jordan Thompson at the grass court ATP 250 tournament.
The left-hander helped Spain win the Davis Cup in 2008, 2009, 2011 and 2019. Nadal also competed for Spain during all four of these triumphant campaigns.
Lopez reached a career high singles ranking of world No 12 in March 2015 and won seven ATP singles titles. In doubles, the Spaniard was ranked as high as ninth and won the French Open alongside Marc Lopez in 2016.
In a video shared on the on-court screen after Lopez’s final match in Mallorca, Nadal paid tribute to Lopez’s career.
— ATP Tour (@atptour) June 29, 2023
“Congratulations, you’ve had an amazing career. Good, long and steady. You have fulfilled the dream of dedicating yourself to what you dreamed of since you were little,” said Nadal.
“You have been a super outstanding player in a world as super competitive as tennis. Many congratulations, it has a lot of merit to have achieved everything you have achieved and to maintain it for so long. On a personal level, I can only congratulate you.”
Lopez holds the record for most consecutive appearances in Grand Slam tournaments with the 79 straight he featured in from 2002 to 2022.
The Spaniard reflected on his aggressive brand of tennis – featuring big-serving and net-rushing – which was atypical for a Spanish player.
“I was a different player without trying to be, because of my identity as a player, my style and my serve. 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 to the rest,” Lopez told ATPTour.com.
“I feel very proud of having been able to make it through 20 years as a professional without missing one [Grand Slam], but also of having left a good impression on my fellow players and on the people I have spent time with.”
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