Nadal joins the 1000 club on cherished Parisian territory

 - Alex Sharpp

The 13-time Roland-Garros champion chalked up the milestone of career singles wins at the Rolex Paris Masters

Rafael Nadal and his 1000 milestone at the Rolex Paris Masters 2000©Cédric Lecocq/FFT

April 29th back in 2002 a 15-year-old Mallorcan took his bow on the ATP Tour.

In front of his home crowd, Rafael Nadal was ranked down at No.762 but managed to topple world No.81 Ramon Delgado 6-4, 6-4.

18 years later and the 20-time Grand Slam champion has accumulated an astonishing milestone in a place that feels like home, Paris.

Nadal has become the fourth man in the Open era to claim 1000 ATP singles victories. The 34-year-old joins an exclusive club alongside Jimmy Connors (1274 wins), Roger Federer (1242) and Ivan Lendl (1068), losing just 201 encounters along the way.

Worlwide adulation

The ‘King of Clay’ exemplified his battling brilliance once again in Bercy on Wednesday evening, opening his Rolex Paris Masters title tilt with a 4-6, 7-6(5), 6-4 passage past compatriot Feliciano Lopez.

Nadal welcomed the worldwide adulation with a smile, whilst one particular factor caught his attention.

"One very negative thing about getting to 1,000 is that you know you are very old,” joked the 13-time Roland-Garros champion.

“To win 1,000 matches you need to have a very long career. To arrive at that number means I’ve done a lot of things well, played well for such a very long time. That is something that makes me feel super happy.

“I just can say thank you very much to all the people that helped me and all the people that in any moment of my life helped me to be where I am.”

A captivating career

The staggering statistics of Nadal’s accomplishment rattled around social media on Wednesday evening.

For his 1000 wins, Nadal has totted up 482 on hard courts, 445 on his beloved clay (including 100 on the terre battue of Roland-Garros), 71 on grass courts and just two on carpet surfaced courts.

Rafael Nadal fist pumping during his secound round match at the Rolex Paris Masters 2020©Philippe Montigny/FFT

For a captivating career stretching into its third decade, the 34-year-old has acquired 387 wins at Masters 1000 level, 282 within the Grand Slam arena, 29 flying the flag in Davis Cup competition and 302 elsewhere.

Athletes across the sporting world hail Nadal’s immense mental fortitude, which was exemplified on court in Bercy.

In his first match since his lifted the record-extending 13th Roland-Garros Coupe des Mousquetaires last month, Nadal was pitched against fellow Spaniard Lopez.

Feliciano Lopez and Rafael Nadal at the net at the Rolex Paris Masters 2020©Philippe Montigny/FFT

“I found a way“

The 39-year-old veteran had prevailed in the last two encounters with Nadal, their most recent was a three-set tussle at the 2015 Cincinnati Masters. However, this time victory 1000 was up for grabs and Nadal demonstrated his archetypal fighting qualities to secure a special triumph.

“I found a way. That's the main thing. This victory is one that I am very proud of,” declared the 20-time major champion.

“The personal satisfaction sometimes is bigger when you win these matches than if you go on court and you win 6-3, 6-3.”

Rafael Nadal and his 1000 milestone at the Rolex Paris Masters 2000©Cédric Lecocq/FFT

1000 and still counting

Nadal may have 13 Roland-Garros titles in his trophy cabinet, but the Rolex Paris Masters ‘Tree of Fanti’ still eludes his grasp.

In his past seven appearances to the AccorHotels Arena, the world No.2 has advanced to the quarter-finals or further. Nadal’s finest Rolex Paris Masters showing was on debut in 2007, finishing as runner-up to David Nalbandian.

Next up, a ticket into the last eight will be the reward against world No.61 Jordan Thompson. The 26-year-old Australian overhauled a set and break deficit facing Borna Coric to book his duel with Nadal.

1000 and counting for the Spaniard. Another landmark, but can he toast success with a second title in Paris this Autumn?