David Ferrer’s race is all but run. Tomas Berdych and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga are pale shadows of the players that once offered powerful challenges to the game’s best. Andy Murray still hopes of a comeback, but it really is more hope than expectation. Even Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, though ranked inside the world’s top four, are no longer the all-conquering forces of yesteryear. In short, this golden era of men’s tennis is ending.
Another signal of its approaching demise is the end of the remarkable record held by Feliciano Lopez. The serve-volleying Spaniard may not immediately come to mind as one of the leading lights of his generation, but he has compiled an excellent career. He reached four Major quarterfinals, most recently at the 2015 US Open, as well as winning titles on all three surfaces, with his most notable success his title at Queen’s Club where he outlasted Marin Cilic in an epic contest in the final. Though he never quite broke into the top ten, he did reach a career-high ranking of world #12.
And that was just in singles. As a doubles player, he won the French Open in 2016 alongside his countryman Marc Lopez, besting the Bryan Brothers in the final. Partnering with Lopez again, he reached the US Open final a year later and climbed as high as 9th in the world rankings. Thanks to his combination of delicate touch and flamboyant attacking tennis, he was a popular figure with the crowd wherever he played.
But now, at 37, his fine career is winding down. Appearances in main draws at the biggest events are becoming rarer and victories there rarer still. And as a result, when the rankings were released today, Lopez found himself outside the top 100. Astonishingly, it marked the first time the Spaniard had held a triple-digit ranking since the 8th of July, 2002. At that point, current world #1 Djokovic had not even begun his professional career. Three of the current top ten, Alexander Zverev, Dominic Thiem and Stefanos Tsitsipas, were yet to celebrate their tenth birthday’s.
A phenomenal streak then, one of which Lopez is surely proud. One that, alongside his as yet unbroken run of 68 appearances in grand slam main draws, speaks to the commendable consistency the Spaniard has displayed throughout his career. A consistency that, when the long process of remembering the most august of era’s of men’s tennis begins, will stand Lopez in good stead beside the glories of his peers.
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