Last season, Feliciano López set a new record for appearances in the Mutua Madrid Open. The Toledo native was the only player to have played in every edition since the ATP Masters 1000 tournament was first held in the Spanish capital, taking to the courts of Madrid 17 times throughout his career. Until this season. This time he will not be adding to his tally, as his role as director means he cannot compete alongside his colleagues on tour in 2019.
However, the record for longevity welcomes some newcomers this year by the names of Rafael Nadal and Fernando Verdasco. This season, they will equal Feliciano’s mark with 17 Mutua Madrid Open participations since they first came here in 2003, the year after the first edition. Both the Mallorcan and the Madrid native form part of the tournament’s living history, and they produced one of the most thrilling chapters in the annals of the Caja Mágica.
Nadal was unable to participate the first time the city of Madrid hosted the event in 2002. At the time he was just 16 years old, still playing in Futures tournaments and outside of the top 250 in the ATP world ranking. Just one season later he found himself among the top 50 players in the world, and he received an invite from Manolo Santana to play in the Mutua Madrid Open for the first time in 2003. On his debut he was close to upsetting Álex Corretja in a tight clash that ended 6-2, 3-6, 6-4 after three hours and seven minutes.
He then got to work on the most successful Mutua Madrid Open career ever, accumulating a total of six crowns (2005, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2014 and 2017). The Balearic Islander also has the honour of having won the trophy on two different surfaces. In 2005 he won the only trophy in his cabinet on indoor hardcourt after an epic final against Ivan Ljubicic (3-6, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4, 7-6), while the change to clay in 2009 helped him anoint himself as the undisputed king, with five victories in ten years.
Nadal has only failed to reach the quarter-finals on clay once. This came in 2012, when Verdasco produced one of the matches of the tournament to defeat his compatriot in the third round (6-3, 3-6, 7-5) on that year’s famous blue surface. It is the Madrid native who will also reach 17 consecutive participations in the Mutua Madrid Open this year.