The Most Exciting Adventure Yet For Lopez & Lopez
Feliciano Lopez and Marc Lopez have shared many experiences since they met more than two decades ago, but none have been as thrilling as the one that awaits them in 2020; Marc will be coaching Feliciano, as well as playing doubles with him in order to try and regain the position that was snatched from him by a problem-plagued 2019.
After ending his relationship with Pepo Clavet, with whom he shared the seven most important years of his career, Feliciano now begins this new phase with Marc. Their partnership will face its first official test at the ATP Cup, where Spain will start their campaign against Georgia on Saturday in Perth.
Earlier, in this ATPTour.com exclusive, the Spaniards spoke of their memories and what the future may hold for them.
Feliciano Lopez. The first time I saw you was at an Under-12 tournament, in Alicante. You beat me, too.
Marc Lopez. I beat your brother Victor on the same day, in the morning, then you in the afternoon.
F.L. You were a little chubby kid who hit lobs and drop shots…
M.L. Although I’m not sure if it was the first time I saw you.
F.L. I think it was. It was a tournament that took place over Easter, before the Spanish Championship. Normally, at the Spanish Championship you would face the best players in your category. This tournament was like a kind of prequel to the other, and that’s where I saw the chubby kid who hit lobs and drop shots.
M.L. I was an under 11.
F.L. At under-12, under-14 and under-16 we would see each other, but only in the odd competition throughout the year. You were playing in the team a year below me.
M.L. Once, I went to the Copa del Sol with you, with Iván Navarro, Marc Marco…
F.L. We would see each other in international team competitions, but little else. At 17 we got together. You were at the Federación Catalana and I had just left the CAR [High Performance Centre]. I started to train with Francis Roig. And the idea came up for you to form part of our team. Francis was our coach, and we were his two students.
M.L. We trained together, travelled together, roomed together…
F.L. At that point we would see each other every day.
M.L. We would eat the whole minibar every day… We used to pick up the fridge and empty it onto the bed.
F.L. That’s true.
M.L. Yeah, more or less. And we would do it every day.
F.L. They are great memories. Later, Francis founded his current academy with two other coaches and we kept training together, but in a bigger group. I was with Francis and you were with other coaches. There were a lot of good people, Albert Costa, Galo Blanco, Fernando Vicente...
M.L. They hired more coaches and I didn’t always travel with Francis, but we were friends by that point.
F.L. There’s no single reason why a friendship forms. In our case it was tennis, which brought us together as children. We got on well, although we didn’t see each other often. Then, when we started to train together with Francis, we would get together more. Although we stopped travelling together, we were always in contact. That year and a half was pretty important for forging the friendship we have now.
M.L. We get on well, we share interests, we have the same opinions on certain things... It’s a question of chemistry.
F.L. A long time later, we started to play doubles and it went well for us. When we were with Pepo Clavet, travelling together for four or five years, you always said to him that when it came to the final year of my career you would try to be my coach.
M.L. I wasn’t serious of course, it was just one of my little jokes.
F.L. But deep down I also thought it would be a good way to finish my career. You know me really well, we can play doubles together and in addition you can help me.
F.L. When I started as a professional, before coinciding with you, Francis was coaching Alberto Berasategui. And I joined that group. Then Berasategui retired, and you joined us. Francis was coaching Alberto, and they played doubles together. And Francis and I, at the start, also played together. Among all your jokes with Pepo, I thought that maybe it would be a good idea. And last year the Pepo thing came up naturally, it wasn’t a case of either of us being tired of travelling with the other.
M.L. It was beautiful that you two finished your career together by winning Queen's and then the Davis Cup, even though you had already decided to stop working together.
F.L. It was a way of finishing our relationship in style after seven years together, a natural transition towards you, as you know me so well.
M.L. In the years that we have played doubles together, I have always sat with Pepo watching your matches, and we had the same opinions. It’s not just that I am familiar with the way you play, I’ve been watching all your matches for three years.
F.L. I know.
M.L. For me it’s a completely new experience, but I am really excited about this phase. I think I can bring you happiness, because of our personal relationship, but I will always tell you what I think so that you can enjoy what is left for you in tennis, be it one, two or three years.
F.L. And from a technical point of view?
M.L. Few technical things, because you’ve been with very good coaches and you know your faults, and your options for improving. I want to make your daily life fun so that you can continue with the same ambition you’ve always had. You’re 38, but you also have the game to stay at the top.
F.L. We’re working together on things that you think I can improve. Although I am of a certain age, little things can always be changed. You are very keen on improving my forehand, on being more aggressive... They are small details that come up.
M.L. I don’t think I’ll get you to stop getting upset with yourself on court because you do it naturally. As long as it doesn’t affect you on the following points... You have to analyse that it doesn’t help you in any way, and that it doesn’t help you with other people or with yourself. I understand the frustration of playing badly because I’m a tennis player and I feel it too. Always having a positive attitude is very difficult, but my philosophy is that you should be as positive as possible for the time that you’re on court. You can improve that. We’ll see if we can change it.
F.L. I’ve always been very lucky because all of my coaches have been great friends of mine, but I’ve had huge respect for their position as coach. I have never left a relationship with a coach through fear of the friendship going down the drain because of problems we might have in our working relationship, on the contrary.
M.L. Like Francis and Pepo, for example.
F.L. Francis and Pepo are the people who have had the most influence on my career, by far. In those two very different phases of my sporting life, but Francis taught me a lot technically at the time of transitioning from a junior to a professional, which is so important. And Pepo, for the seven years we were together, the best of my career, he taught me a lot technically because he reads games very well. I love the way he understands tennis, and he’s convinced me to play more aggressively in recent years.
M.L. And he got you to do it.
F.L. I’m certain it’s not a problem that you and I are friends. That’s why I’ve done well and I’ve been able to extend my career. I’ve had people by my side that have made my life easier. It’s important to be surrounded by good people.
M.L. They’re not mutually exclusive. We’ll get serious when we have to without forgetting that we are tennis players, but also people that have to have a good time, who also need to laugh.
F.L. I can’t comprehend working relationships in tennis without friendship. I need someone by my side who has a number of characteristics that allow me to be happy. I’ve been very lucky because all of my coaches have practically been my best friends in the world of tennis: Francis, Albert Costa, Alberto Berasategui, Pepo, now you... You are five very important people in my life, not just in terms of sport.
M.L. I can’t wait to see how things go for us.
F.L. We’ve had a good preseason, working more on fitness than tennis. We haven’t had many days. The weather wasn’t good in Madrid.
M.L. At this point of your career, it’s fundamental to be physically fit so that everything comes more easily later.
F.L. We are making the most of these days in Perth. We arrived early and I have 10 days more until the next tournament in Auckland.
M.L. That was the idea, to be able to have our tennis preseason at the ATP Cup.
F.L. I’m happy because I feel good. I think I’m ready to be competitive. I’m not certain if 2020 will be my last year. The last few seasons have been good, I’ve been competitive and had a ranking good enough to play in the tournaments that I like. If I didn’t feel physically fit, I wouldn’t play. Tennis is very just because your ranking allows you to keep playing or sends you home. That time still hasn’t arrived for me. Last season it wasn’t going well for me, but suddenly I won Queens and go my passion back. It wouldn’t be fair to say that this will certainly be my last year. If I have a good season and I finish among the top 50 in the world, I don’t think I’ll retire.
M.L. I don’t think much about the future. I had a very complicated 2019. Feeling like I do now is a blessing because I was feeling pretty bad. I want to get back to the top in doubles, to feel like a tennis player again. I haven’t felt like that at all for a season. And I’m lucky to be able to play with you again, so that I can also help you as your coach in your singles career. I love tennis, I love competition and I love training, but I don’t know if I will want to continue as a coach. I think maybe I could be a good teacher.
F.L. Without a doubt.
M.L. I want to try again to continue with my career. You remind me of it a lot, that I’m still a player. I am proud to see that my accreditation says I’m your coach, but I want it to say that I’m a player again.
F.L. We’re gonna give it a go.
M.L. We’ll play in all the tournaments we can. I have a protected ranking to use in nine tournaments. I will always be with you at the tournaments you are playing, that’s been the idea from the start.