It’s 12:30 p.m. on Monday, September 20, 2021, and Feliciano López is waiting at Madrid Barajas Adolfo Suárez Airport for a flight to Boston to compete in the Laver Cup on Friday. The interesting thing about the trip is that the Spaniard is doing it on his 40th birthday and is still competing with the elite of the TBEN.
“I never imagined myself competing at this point in my career, and I’m not talking about being 40, I mean a few years ago, that’s why I’m having so much fun. I wasn’t expecting it at all, ”admits the native of Toledo before flying to the USA to join Team Europe.
Feliciano is one of the few players of his generation still active on the TBEN, joining Roger Federer and Ivo Karlovic (42) in his forties. “Federer was the torchbearer of this generation and then, among the players who were able to compete at a good level at this age, I may be coming after him. There is no one who was born in 1981 or 1982 who still plays at this level.
There is no doubt that his extra years on the Tour have been fruitful. The best seasons of his career have come in the later stages. He peaked at FedEx ATP Ranking (No.12) at 33, while five of his seven titles came from this side of thirty.
At the age of 35 and 37, he won the Queen’s. “It’s true that once I was thirty I was like ‘I feel good’ and it was a surprise, but then I realized that it was a reality and that I could even play more years, ”Lopez said. “When I was 35, I won Queen’s for the first time, it was a surprise to win at that age. Then I realized that it was not a flash in the pan, that I felt like I was very good physical shape and that I could continue for a few more years. “
His tenure on the TBEN has been such that he is one of eleven active players to surpass the 500-game mark, while he single-handedly holds the record for consecutive appearances in major tournaments with 78.
“At first when I started playing tennis we all had the idea that after 30 professionals we started to think about retiring,” recalls Feliciano. “You always have that in mind and it generates a lot of uncertainty. But when I was 30, I was also uncertain, but they were good years. They were the best of my career, so it stopped working. ‘be a surprise.
Over the years on the TBEN, he now faces opponents who are half his age or were not even born when he won his first professional match in 1998.
“It’s great,” he says of this statistic. “Some of the people I play against weren’t even born when I started out as a professional, like Carlos Alcaraz, for example. I also played with De Minaur, who is half my age. It makes sense when you’re 40 and playing with young players, because the best 18 or 19 are already at this level. Beyond the numbers, I am happy to have had so much fun in such a long career.
It’s this pleasure that dominates Feliciano’s memories of his 40th birthday as he looks back: “Besides the fact that I’m still competing, which is really amazing, good things have happened to me. in recent years: I won the Queen’s twice, I won the Davis Cup in Madrid, in my city, now I’m going to play the Laver Cup, who knows, maybe I can replay the Davis Cup at home … how many good things have happened to me in recent years, which is why I appreciate it so much.