By Jennifer Knapp, in Barcelona

  • Fernando Verdasco def. Feliciano López [WC] 6-4 6-3
  • López now faces a drop out of the Top 100 for the first time in 17 years
BARCELONA, SPAIN – An all-Spanish opener  Fernando Verdasco and Feliciano López saw Verdasco progress at the expense of his lifelong friend.

 

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Former doubles partners, fellow lefties and lifelong friends, Fernando Verdasco and Feliciano López met today in the first round of the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell. It was just the 11th time they’ve played each other in 15 years and only the third time on clay (Verdasco leads head-to-head 6-5 overall and 2-1 on clay).

This was a “must win” match for the 93rd ranked López who needed the first-round win to remain the Top 100, a ranking he had held for almost 17 years (June 2002).

For Verdasco, who didn’t play in Barcelona last year and who opted out of both Indian Wells and Miami while awaiting the birth of his first child, it was an opportunity to recover the rhythm he lost in March.

Both players started strong, but it was the 37th ranked Verdasco who scored the lone break with López serving at 4-5 in the first set. López roared back the second, breaking Verdasco in the first game and consolidating the break with a strong service game to go up 2-0. He showed glimpses of previous brilliance but alas it wasn’t meant to be for the former world number 12 as López’s booming serve, normally a huge advantage, really let him down today as did the multiple unforced errors at the most inopportune times.  Verdasco reeled off 5 straight games to win the match 6-4, 6-3.

For Verdasco, it was his first win as a father (son Miguel was born on March 26th, 2019) and a tough one to play as he and López have been friends since they were children.

“I can tell you thousands of things why it is hard to play against Feliciano. Not only because we know each other perfectly also because we are super close friends so it’s not easy to play against someone you love. He’s super special to me and that’s why I don’t feel happy at all when I win against him. But at the end, you have to try your best and you have to try to win against whoever you have in front of you on the court. It’s part of tennis but I really don’t enjoy it the same as with another player.”

It was clear that Verdasco had mixed feelings about his win today. It was one he desperately needed and wanted but it came at the expense of his good friend.

Next up for Verdasco on Wednesday is Grigor Dimitrov who accepted a wild card into the tournament. They’ve played each other six times with each player winning three matches. Dimitrov prevailed in the Round of 32 on the hard courts of Toronto last year but it is Verdasco who had the most recent clay court success at Roland Garros in 2018.

Play continues at ATP Barcelona at 11am (10 am BST).

 

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