'This Is Not Forever': Feliciano Lopez Savours Farewell Season
Just before the new year, Spain's Feliciano Lopez announced that he will say adios to life as a player on the ATP Tour this season. The 41-year-old will finish his career with farewell appearances at a select few tournaments, the first of which is this week at the Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado por HSBC.
After more than 20 years as a professional, Lopez is finding it hard to say goodbye.
"Since I decided this is going to be my last year on Tour, it's been a little bit difficult because it's something that you don't want to do, because I love what I do," Lopez told ATPTour.com in Acapulco. "I have a passion for tennis. Even though I know this is my last year, I wish I could continue playing and it's a little bit sad. But on the other hand, I have to do it because I'm 41 years old and this is not going to be forever; I understand."
The former world No. 12 has made the most of his Acapulco wild card this week, earning his first tour-level singles victory since July 2021 with a 7-6(3), 6-4 win against Christopher Eubanks—a player 15 years his junior—on Monday night. It was his first competitive match in nearly five months.
"It's been a while since I won my last ATP match," Lopez reflected. "To be honest, I had this in mind because last year was difficult for me. I couldn't win any matches on Tour, even though I played only a few tournaments. But still it's something that I had in mind and it was kind of a relief moment when I finally won my match yesterday."
After playing a light schedule in 2022, competing in just 11 tour-level matches, Lopez's win was reward for an intense effort in what was his last offseason training block.
"I knew this was going to be very challenging and very difficult," he said of returning to the ATP Tour after the layoff. "That's why I was preparing myself to be ready here in Acapulco. I think considering all the circumstances and all the challenges that I've faced in the last year I think I played great tennis overall.
"The match was great, I was feeling great physically and of course my tennis has some room to improve but I think the level overall was very decent."
Having earned his way back into the win column, Lopez will next face sixth seed Frances Tiafoe on Wednesday in a marquee match in front of the Mexican crowd. Lopez won their lone previous ATP Head2Head meeting in Antwerp in 2018, but the in-form American comes into this matchup as World No. 15, just one spot off his career-high Pepperstone ATP Ranking achieved earlier in February.
"I know it's a very difficult match," Lopez said. "Probably the most difficult one that I'm facing in the last three or four years because Tiafoe is one of then best players in the world, especially now that he's been playing great tennis in the last year and a half. I know it's going to be very difficult but I have nothing to lose. I'm here to enjoy myself.
"My only goal tomorrow is to play the best I can... to be myself on the court, to be aggressive. It's one of the matches that you really want to play."
Beyond Acapulco, Lopez has already been confirmed as a wild card in Barcelona and Mallorca. He is also hoping to return to The Queen's Club in London, where he won his two most recent tour-level singles titles in 2017 and 2019. He also won the doubles title there with Andy Murray in a 2019 trophy sweep, and later claimed the 2022 Acapulco doubles crown with Stefanos Tsitsipas.
While Lopez is hoping for a wild card to this year's Cinch Championships in London, he says it will be tough based on what he has heard at the moment.
"It's one of the tournaments I would really love to play there one more time," he shared.
Of course the Spaniard will understand the complexity of the situation, given his role as tournament director at the Mutua Madrid Open since 2019. It's a position that can provide some solace to Lopez and his many fans: The seven-time tour-level champion may be stepping off the court, but he is not leaving the game of tennis.