The handsome Spaniard who can put the British No 1 (and his mum) in a spin
Feliciano Lopez dreams of the days when serve-and-volley ruled in SW19 – and Judy Murray dreams about him.
Wednesday 29 June 2011
Feliciano Lopez likes bullfighting, counts matadors among his friends, supports Real Madrid, is deeply religious and for many years dated a former Miss Spain. Yet if Andy Murray's opponent this afternoon sounds like the epitome of Spanish manhood, he is also a man of contradictions.
Most of the leading Spanish players – and there are 14 of them in the world's top 100 men – like nothing better than to slug it out from the back of a dusty clay court. Lopez, however, prefers to play on surfaces as fast as sheets of glass. As he prepares for his third quarter-final here — he has never gone as far at any of the other three Grand Slam tournaments – the 29-year-old serve-and-volley specialist's only complaint about Wimbledon is that the courts are not as quick as they used to be.
"It would help me if the courts here were like 10 years ago," Lopez told the DPA news agency here last week. "The great champions had to come to the net to volley to win Wimbledon. Ivan Lendl went crazy trying to win Wimbledon. He hired Tony Roche to teach him how to volley. He had to go to the net to win. I saw a thousand matches. Even Bjorn Borg did serve-and-volley to beat McEnroe.
"Ninety per cent of players used to get to the net behind their first serve. Today the game is more robotic. I played Roger Federer the first year that he won Wimbledon. He used to come in even behind his second serve. Now he sometimes doesn't come in behind his first serve."
To add to the contradictions, Lopez recently appointed Alberto Berasategui as his coach. Berasategui was a classic clay-courter who won all 14 of his titles on the surface and was runner-up at the French Open in 1994. "I can't tell him from my own experience how to succeed on grass, but I listen to what other people say and I can pass on advice," Berasategui said.
The former world No 7 is clearly having a good influence on the current world No 44, who has won just two titles in his career. Lopez, who beat Tim Henman in the latter's last appearance at Wimbledon four years ago, had a match point against Federer in his first tournament working with Berasategui last month, while his victory over Andy Roddick last week was arguably the best result in his 10 visits here.
Lopez's dedication and fitness is demonstrated in the fact that he has not missed a Grand Slam tournament since the 2002 Australian Open. His run of 39 consecutive Grand Slam appearances is bettered among current players only by Federer's sequence of 47.
That was no doubt one of the reasons Lopez took offence at comments made last week by Justin Gimelstob, a former player and now a TV analyst, who told guests at a VIP lunch: "I think Feliciano is a great player, but he certainly loves to look in the mirror."
Lopez riposted on Twitter: "It's funny when people like Justin Gimelstob talk bullshit without knowing me at all. He did not learn what respect means as a kid."
As one of the best-looking men on the tour, Lopez has been the subject of more complimentary comments from Judy Murray, Andy's mother, who has made no secret of her admiration for the man she calls "Deliciano". Five days ago she tweeted: "Oooooooooh Deliciano ... looking good out there. As always." Yesterday she joked that she was going to a "wolf-whistling lesson" after bookmakers offered odds on her whistling at Lopez today.
Her son has been less impressed. "I think it's about time she stopped that nonsense," Andy smiled. "Makes me want to throw up. It's disgusting."
He added: "She'd been writing about it on Twitter all the time. I was practising with him before the tournament and my Mum was on the side. When we were warming up I shouted across the net: 'Feli, if we sit down for a drink, if you could take a picture with my Mum, because she thinks you're beautiful'.
"She went bright red and said: 'I'm not doing it. I'm not doing it.' She refused to take the picture – it was quite funny, and not like her."
The Lopez lowdown
Born: 20 September 1981
Current world ranking: 44
Career singles titles: 2
2004 Bank Austria-Tennis Trophy
2010 South Africa Open
Best at previous major tournaments:
2005 Wimbledon QF
2008 Wimbledon QF
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