The Day That Rafa Showed He Is “A Very Good Friend” To Marc
"Rafa has shown that he is a very good friend.”
Shortly after winning the title at the BNP Paribas Open, the first words of thanks from Marc López were for his teammate in the first ATP Masters 1000 victory of his career. It was 20 March 2010, the same day that Rafael Nadal had lost his semi-final in the singles after a difficult third-set tie-break defeat against Ivan Ljubicic 6-3, 4-6, 6-7(1). But the man from Manacor reached the doubles final at Indian Wells alongside the Catalan and they would be crowned champions.
Nadal put behind him the bitter taste of his tie-break defeat, where he had been just one point away from reaching the final after two hours and 35 minutes.
“Rafa was back in the zone just hours after playing his semi-final match", continued López’s account after they won their second ATP Tour doubles trophy together (also Doha 2009). "I’m very grateful to him.”
The response from the Balearic Islander was immediate: “For me it’s a pleasure to play with Marc. He’s a good friend and we understand each other well. After losing an important match in the singles, this victory in the doubles makes me very happy. It’s always nice to win a tournament, so the title is very important to me and to Marc.”
Ten years after that unforgettable gesture from his doubles partner, Marc López went into the finer details for ATPTour.com. Without a high enough FedEx ATP Doubles Ranking to play in an ATP Masters 1000 tournament — he was the World No. 88 — he received a new proposal from Nadal to play in Indian Wells. It was a risky idea, but a winning one. The gamble lay in the fact that he would be travelling to the United States just to play in the tournament in the California desert, as Nadal was not planning on playing doubles in Miami.
“My schedule wasn’t very clear, because I was at a time of transition in my career, and I was close to not going. He told me that in Miami he wouldn’t play in the doubles, so I would only go to the U.S. swing to play one tournament. I wasn’t sure, but thankfully I thought about it hard and it’s clear that you can never say no to a chance to play with Rafa,” the Barcelona native now remembers with the peace of mind of knowing that he made the right decision.
“I remember that I was very happy about winning that first match," López says. "In the end, it was a unique feeling for me winning each match, because I had barely played in the Masters 1000 tournaments."
In the second round, they defeated countrymen Feliciano López and Fernando Verdasco. In the quarter-finals, they saw off Michael Llodrá and Andy Ram, and in the semi-finals they cruised past Simon Aspelin and Paul Hanley.
“It was my first big tournament. We were playing some really great games and the final was against the same two we beat in the final in Doha. It changed everything for me. I entered the Top 30 in the world and was able to play in Miami with another partner (Thomaz Bellucci).”
It was a special tournament. Not only did Marc have the chance to win alongside a friend, win his first Masters 1000 title and seal a place in Miami, but it also proved to be the final step in believing he was good enough to win big tournaments and establish himself among the elite of the FedEx ATP Doubles Rankings.
“I remember that I wasn’t sponsored by any brand: I was wearing Wilson shoes, a Babolat shirt... let’s just say my outfit was not that of a first-class professional tennis player, but I remember it with great affection.”
That Saturday, Marc proved that he had made the right decision and Rafa, as well as a friend, had an excellent doubles player beside him.
“We didn’t plan on winning the tournament here, so we’re very happy. We really enjoy playing together, it’s our second title. It will probably be difficult to repeat, because it’s a very big one”, Nadal said.
Did You Know?
Lopez and Nadal won their second BNP Paribas Open doubles title together in 2012.