Getting to know Guillermo Garcia-Lopez
One of the lesser-known Spaniards on tour, Guillermo Garcia-Lopez is the no.30 seed at this year's French Open. The man from Alicante's progress up the rankings has been slow but steady, thanks to an uncanny ability to get results on all surfaces. We met him and got a peek at his passion for the sport of tennis.
"I'm not like Raonic, who has moved up two hundred spots in the rankings since the start of the season! I've always taken things one step at a time. I know I can reach the top 20, but I don't know how long it will take and I don't really like to set goals for myself," confides Guillermo Garcia-Lopez after his four-set win over Robert Kendrick (6-1, 7-5, 4-6, 6-3) in the first round.
Despite this lack of goals, the Spaniard has reached no.23 in the world, thanks in part to his run to the third round at the 2011 Australian Open, where he lost to Andy Murray. To equal that achievement at Roland Garros, he will have to get by Turkey's Marsel Ilhan, who he says is "a hungry young man who will be very tough to beat."
Training with Juan Carlos Ferrero
"Before every match, I try to tell myself that I'm here to have fun. When I was little, and only played once a week, I couldn't wait until it was time to play. I've always felt this love for the game," he explains. Born in La Roda, he began playing at the age of 7, with his tennis-instructor father. "He taught me everything. Then, when I was 12, I reached the final in the Spain Championships and joined Manolo Orantes' BonaSport Club, in Barcelona. Since things were going well, I decided to stick with tennis and when I turned 18, I went to Juan Carlos Ferrero's academy to train."
With this background, one would assume that Spain's no.6 player is a clay-court specialist but his results say otherwise; after winning his first title in Kitzbuhel in 2009 on clay, he went on to the final in Eastbourne in 2010, where he lost to Michael Llodra on grass, and then won his second title indoor in Bangkok.
"Djokovic has the edge on Nadal"
"I don't really have a favourite surface," he admits. "Maybe a fast clay court or a slow hard court. I'm a multi-surface player, really, and I've recently greatly improved my serve. I think the new, fast balls used in Paris this year will help me a bit, just as they could favor Rafael Nadal if he plays Novak Djokovic," he volunteered on the subject that is on everyone's minds.
Garcia-Lopez knows what he's talking about, since he lost to the Serb two weeks ago in Madrid, 6-1, 6-2. "I felt utterly powerless. He was incredibly tough in every respect. When he's playing at this level, he can beat Nadal, even in Paris. They've met in four finals this year, two on clay, and Novak won all of them. Mentally, I think he has the edge."
A fan of Sampras and Bruguera
Coached since 2004 by Juan Manuel Esparcia, Garcia-Lopez, who will turn 28 this June 4th, is an unabashed fan of Pete Sampras: "What I liked about him was his variety of shots, and the ease and class with which he played. He truly was my idol growing up, but Bruguera was just as fascinating to me because his willingness to fight and will to win helped him surpass himself."
This contrasting pair of role models undoubtedly helped form Garcia-Lopez. "My biggest asset is my humility and I am improving thanks to hard work. However, my real motivation is the pleasure I take in what I do, and that is what might take me further. Others may be more successful but won't be enjoying themselves. I know that, no matter what, I will be having fun."