Player Blog: After 16 Years On Tour, Lopez Savours His Finale Experience
Spaniard thought he had seen it all, then he came to The O2
Throughout my 16-year career, I've played in hundreds of tennis stadiums. I've slid on the grass on Centre Court at the All-England Club. I've gazed at the Mediterranean Sea from the red clay of the Monte-Carlo Country Club. In Indian Wells, I've lost track of time staring at the Palm Desert mountains while in town for the BNP Paribas Open.
But nowhere, including the many indoor tournaments we play annually, prepared me for playing at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals. To put it simply, everything is different at The O2.
Let's start with the lights. For about 10 months of the year, we play our matches outside. Sometimes the sun blocks your vision of your ball toss. Other days, clouds shield the sky and you play under overcast skies.
But at The O2, we have plenty of light, and it's all on you. Maybe it's this way because of the many concerts the venue hosts, but, during play, the arena can feel like a theatre. The lights – the very bright lights – are on us, the performers, and the bulbs on the crowd stay dimmed.
This is a good thing, too. It's so much easier to see the ball inside The O2 than anywhere else on the ATP World Tour. The theatre analogy works to describe the tennis crowd in London as well. Most crowds are respectful, maybe cheering at climax moments – tie-breaks or whenever Andy Murray steps within 50 metres – but the majority of the time, London tennis fans watch attentively and cheer when appropriate.
The lights also shine on you when you walk onto the court during one of our sport's most special on-court introductions. The videos on the jumbo-tron before the match, the public announcer shouting your name before you walk through the tunnel. It's a show that happens to take place before a tennis match, and I'm enjoying every moment of it. Even the most basic part of our game – the sound of the ball hitting the racquet – hits your ear differently because of the acoustics of The O2.
I'm 35 years old – 200 in tennis years – and when you've played professional tennis for as many years as I have, you start to think you're used to everything. You think you've seen all the big crowds, played under the brightest lights and in our sport's biggest stadiums.
But then you make your debut appearance at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, and you get to experience something entirely new.
Feliciano Lopez spoke with Jonathon Braden