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Rafael Nadal becomes fourth man with 1,000 match wins

Becoming only the fourth man to reach 1,000 match victories should have drawn deafening cheers and a standing ovation for tennis great Rafael Nadal.

Instead, he reached his milestone at the Paris Masters amid a cathedral-like silence Wednesday in a 20,000-seat stadium left completely empty due to the coronavirus pandemic. There was only a fist bump from Feliciano Lopez, after Nadal defeated him 4-6, 7-6 (5), 6-4 in a subdued atmosphere more worthy of a library study area than a sports arena.

“The real feeling, the personal feeling is completely different,” Nadal said. “It makes a big difference that the court is empty.”

The 34-year-old Nadal joins towering company in Jimmy Connors (1,274), Roger Federer (1,242) and Ivan Lendl (1,068) as the only men in the 1,000-wins club since the Open era started in 1968.

“I know it is a very special number, one thousand,” Nadal said. “Even if it’s not the same to celebrate something like this without a crowd.”

Nadal smiled as he posed at the net with the number 1,000 displayed on the court in a brief ceremony, and then he walked off center court like after any other match.

It was the second milestone he reached in Paris this year, having won the French Open last month to tie Federer with 20 majors. But while 1,000 fans cheered him at Roland Garros, none were at the Bercy Arena.

“Of course it’s sad — the level of energy is difficult to compare,” Nadal said. “So the feeling, even if 1,000 [fans] or 1,500 or 2,000, is not a lot.”

Nadal’s first victory came in May 2002 at the age of 15, when he beat Paraguayan Ramon Delgado in the first round at Mallorca.

A year later, the 16-year-old Nadal stunned the tennis world by beating French Open champion Albert Costa under floodlights in the second round at the Monte Carlo Masters. By the age of 24, he had already reached 500 victories. His career tally also includes 35 Masters titles and 86 tournament victories overall.

Nadal, who has never won this tournament, next plays Australia’s Jordan Thompson, who upset 15th-seeded Croat Borna Coric 2-6, 6-4, 6-2.

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