Feliciano Lopez has clocked up thousands of airmiles in his 25 seasons as a pro. The Spaniard, who reached a career-high No. 12 in the FedEx ATP Rankings in March 2015, has combined his playing career with his role as Tournament Director of the Mutua Madrid Open since 2019.
ATPTour.com caught up with the 39-year-old, prior to the ATP Masters 1000 tournament, to learn about what life is like for him travelling on the ATP Tour…
What are two essential non-tennis items you always pack for trips?
I don’t know what is non-essential these days! Probably my iPad… I can’t think of anything else.
What item did you forget to bring one time that caused you distress?
I forgot my shoes a long time ago and I had to go out and buy a new pair.
Do you enjoy travelling the world or consider it just something that needs to be done to be a pro tennis player? If you do enjoy it, what do you enjoy about travelling?
I really enjoy it, but it’s also a privilege. We play tennis and it’s a part of our job, but I think it’s amazing to visit so many countries, experience so many different cultures.
I don’t like waiting to board flights at airports, so I try to avoid spending so much time in airports. I try to get there 90 minutes before an international flight, then, if I am in Madrid, leave one hour before a flight. I know how long it takes to get to Barajas airport and I know what roads not to go on.
I missed only one flight in my whole tennis career at Barcelona, when I wanted to fly from there to Lisbon. We had boarding cards, but we went for a coffee and were late at the gate and the plane had flown away.
Can you talk about a time you decided to play a specific tournament in part because you wanted to travel to that city?
The first time I played at the Australian Open in 2003. It’s a country where you’re not sure if you’ll visit. I was so happy to go there the first time, to discover it. I don’t think I could have had the chance to have gone to Australia if I hadn’t been a tennis player.
What is your favourite tournament city to visit and why?
It has to be Madrid of course, my city and my people, and London for [the cinch Championships at the] Queen’s Club. It’s very special to me.
Where is your favourite vacation destination?
I have been to the Maldives twice, it’s beautiful. I have a trip pending for a Kenyan safari, which we didn’t get to go on last year.
What is your craziest travel story?
The first time I flew from Qatar to New Zealand, almost 20 years ago. They didn’t have a direct flight to Auckland back then. I can’t recall the itinerary, but I arrived and I was completely lost for one week. I obviously lost in the first round that week!
I couldn’t adjust to the time difference and I remember saying to my coach at the time, ‘I am never going to play Qatar [the Qatar ExxonMobil Open] and Auckland [for the ASB Classic] again’. Then 15 years later, I did it once more.
As a tennis player, maintaining your body is of the utmost importance, so how do you take care of it during long trips?
I sleep a lot in planes. Sometimes I take a sleeping pill, if it is a very long flight. I watch movies and I try to eat, but it’s normally when I wake from my sleep. I try to rest and I am pretty good on planes.
Are there any routines or activities you do to create a sense of ‘home on the road’ to feel more comfortable?
My life at home is very different to my life on the ATP Tour. It’s about going to the court, practising, seeing the physio for treatment and spending time with my closest friends on Tour. My life away from the court is busy as I have a son, Dario. I try and separate my tennis life and my personal life.
How do you try to overcome jetlag and acclimate to the local time zone?
I try to stay awake as long as I can when I land in a city. I did find it easier when I was younger, but nowadays I do experience tough times with jetlag.
What factors into your decision to bring your child to a tournament and how may that change your routine?
I will be trying to bring my family on Tour with me, when things settle down. We’ve tried with waivers and other things and they came with me to Acapulco. It’s important to have the support, with all the travel restrictions. So if you have your family with you, it normalises what’s happening.
Do you prefer the sense of novelty and excitement of a tournament in a city you’ve never been to before or the comfort and familiarity of cities you know well?
I enjoy going back to the same tournaments, particularly those that I know I’ve done well at in the past. It gives you an immediate confidence boost.
Got any tips to get comfortable on a flight? And how do you pass the time?
I try to fly overnight normally, because it’s much easier for me to sleep. Anything to help me rest!