Adios to the legend of “Gee-Gee-El” | ATP circuit

“Gee-Gee-El! Gee-Gee-El! Was a common sound at the Australian Open. Every time Guillermo Garcia Lopez set foot in the first Grand Slam of the season in January, a group of around 15 local fans followed him wherever he went in Melbourne Park. They sang his initials every time he played. However, these fans have received some bad news for 2022; he’s not coming back to play in Australia. The reason? The 38-year-old Spaniard hangs up his racket.

“After my first victory at the Australian Open (against world number 5 Carlos Moya) in 2005, a group of Australians started to come and watch me train,” Garcia Lopez told “Every time I played there were 15 people with a photo of me printed on their T-shirts. The people are very lively there and they have made a lot of noise in the matches. It’s funny, because they came out of nowhere and followed me to every game.

“GGL, you have to come back this year. “

‘No, no, I won’t go anymore.’

‘What do you mean?’

“I am retiring. “

This is how they discovered that their hero was saying goodbye to professional tennis. He does so with five ATP Tour titles to his name: Kitzbühel 2009, Bangkok 2010, Casablanca 2014, Zagreb 2015 and Bucharest 2015, and with a total of 297 victories in 654 matches on the Tour, allowing him to culminate in the 23rd. ATP rankings.

Besides the trophies, five memories of his career are forever etched in his mind. The first of them happened in 2005, 17 years ago. He had yet to make it into the Top 100 and Chennai was the first event on the schedule. Only Moya was able to stop him, beating him 4-6, 6-2, 6-7 (2) in the semi-finals. A few weeks later, after passing qualifying, he would face the same opponent in the second round of the Australian Open.

“This is where things clicked in my career. I had had the experience of being about to beat him a few weeks before and, although it’s not the same as playing a Grand Slam, I knew it could happen, ”García Lopez reveals. “I had a good game, maybe things didn’t go so well for him, and that day I realized that I could be a professional and have a brilliant career if I continued on this way.” Garcia Lopez won 7-5, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3.

“I achieved my goal of reaching the Top 100, it was the first time I beat a Top 10 player and, also, it was Moya, who was a legend in our country. I thought I had done something very well and if I continued like this I could do great things, ”admits the Spaniard of his first big win.

Once Garcia Lopez established himself as one of the top 100 players in the ATP rankings, he was consistent enough in the following years to enter the Top 50, where he would have another unforgettable day. On February 3, 2006, he beat Andre Agassi at Delray Beach, 6-4, 6-2, “I beat him on hard and in the USA. I played very well in this game.

Then, in 2009, Garcia Lopez had another defining day for his career. At Kitzbühel, he won his first title by beating Julien Benneteau 3-6, 7-6 (1), 6-3 in the final, another of his unforgettable moments. “It was amazing,” he says of a week in which he also knocked out Bjorn Phau, Martín Vasallo Arguello, Victor Hanescu and Mikhail Youzhny.

But if there was a victory that catapulted him into the elite, it was in the semi-final in Bangkok against the world n ° 1 of the time Rafael Nadal in October 2010, 2-6, 7- 6 (3), 6-3. “I had achieved one of my biggest goals, because I had beaten a world number one, who was also Nadal, and who had just won his first US Open,” said Garcia Lopez. “It was amazing. He was playing really well at the time.

He took the opportunity to win his second title, beating Jarkko Nieminen 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 in the final. “It gave me a lot of confidence because I thought I could aim high and my game was much better than the Top 50, where I was at the time. And in the following tournaments, I had d “Excellent results. Garcia Lopez added. He went to the quarter-finals in Tokyo and the ATP Masters 1000 in Shanghai to end the season as world number 33.

“Beating Nadal means people are more aware of you, but in reality the news was that he had been beaten by Guillermo Garcia,” he said of his victory. However, a few months later, on February 21, 2011, it would reach its peak in the ATP ranking at No.23.

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At the time, he was one of 14 Spaniards in the Top 100, with nine in the Top 50; Nadal (n ° 1), David Ferrer (n ° 6), Fernando Verdasco (n ° 9), Nicolas Almagro (n ° 13), García Lopez (n ° 23), Albert Montanes (n ° 25), Tommy Robredo ( n ° 29), Juan Carlos Ferrero (n ° 34) and Feliciano Lopez (n ° 41).

All of them have forged impressive careers in the shadow of Nadal’s unparalleled success. “In Spain we were lucky to have one of the best players in history. It has been very good for Spanish tennis, it is a source of pride for the country, for the people and something to follow for everyone, but on the other hand it is true that it means that the careers others are not valued as much as they are. should be, ”Garcia Lopez said.

Finally, among his fondest memories, there is a match which was not a victory, but which seems to be. He arrived in the second round at Wimbledon in 2005, the first time he faced Novak Djokovic. Here’s how he remembers it: “I won in straight sets at Love, at 5-4 and match point at 40/30. I hit a good serve, then I had a three-quarter-field forehand and played a winner on the other end. He didn’t chase him, the linesman called him and Djokovic took off his blindfold and came to the net to shake hands. I celebrated like I won the game.

To his amazement, however, the game was not over. “I realized the referee canceled and called him. We went to two. I lost him a bit so he broke my serve and we went 5-5. I broke it to go back 6-5 and 40/0. I still had three match points. He defended them and I ended up losing 3-6, 3-6, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (3), 6-4. It’s a game I lost, but I see it as a victory in my head.

This is the story of the kid from La Roda who bumped against the wall in an empty room in his house and one day realized his dream of becoming a professional tennis player. So goes the legend of “Gee-Gee-El”.

About Walter J. Leslie

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