Feliciano López on course to face Rafael Nadal on hard courts at Paris Masters

Feliciano López has won only four of his 13 matches against Rafael Nadal, yet the 39-year-old left-hander from Toledo knows his illustrious Spanish friend is vulnerable on the hard courts of Bercy, where has not reached the final since losing to David Nalbandian in 2007.

López ensured a 14th career meeting with Nadal by beating the Serb, Filip Krajinovic, 7-6 (11), 6-1, in the first round of the Paris Masters on Monday.

“It was a crazy match,” López said. “I had a very tough start, losing my serve with three double faults. I managed somehow to come back and go into the breaker – and then it was over. I was 5-0 down and a lot of things just happened. I was a little bit lucky, I have to say. I think it was very tough for him to handle after losing that set when he was only one point away a few times to win it.”

In the absence of world No 1 Novak Djokovic, Nadal, meanwhile, has a shot at winning his first Masters title here at the eighth attempt in the city where he has won 13 slams, one of the game’s enduring curiosities. Two of López’s wins over Nadal have come on hard courts in their most recent encounters, in Shanghai six years ago and in Cincinnati in 2015.

As tournament director of the Madrid Open – cancelled in the summer because of coronavirus – López said the “significant reduction” in prize money across the game will not ease much in 2021.

“This is the best we can have right now,” he said of the still considerable €4m on offer at this Rolex tournament. “I don’t see the virus going away for awhile – until they find a vaccine. For now, I don’t see any hope on prize money. Hopefully by the middle of next year the pandemic is going to get better and everything is going to get back to normal.”

Other contenders on that side of the draw to go through to the second round included resurgent prodigy, Borna Coric, the dangerous German, Jan-Lennard Struff and the Australians Alex de Minaur and Jordan Thompson.

In the bottom half, Corentin Moutet, the young Parisian rapper, was on song against the Italian, Salvatore Caruso, winning 3-6, 7-6 (2), 6-3. Moutet, given a wildcard here after losing five of his previous six matches, came to notice at the US Open when he put Dan Evans out in the second round. Recently he turned his talents to recording with the Canadian, Denis Shapovalov, and said the response was, “amazing”. He added: “I stopped the social media because I was receiving a million messages every day. I couldn’t handle it.”

Evans, the British No 1 who made the semi-finals in Vienna at the weekend, begins his campaign here on Tuesday against Stan Wawrinka, who beat him in three close sets in St Petersburg last month.

Top-ranked British doubles star Joe Salisbury has withdrawn from the tournament after having, “close contact with a confirmed Covid-19 case”, the ATP said on Monday, although he is asymptomatic. Salisbury and his playing partner, Rajeev Ram, might not now be able to take their place in the ATP World Tour Finals at the O2 Arena in London, starting on 14 November, which is within the two-week isolation period.