Alejandro Lopez is tournament referee in Tarragona ©ITG

The man who helped Rafael Nadal win his first doubles title is the tournament referee at the Tarragona Tennis Club, where Mediterranean Games competition began today.

Alejandro Lopez was a top-100 player in his own right but recalls a teenage Nadal, now a 17-time Grand Slam champion, including 11 French Opens, at the start of his career.

"When he began playing, he was my doubles partner and the first doubles competition he won, we were together," said Lopez here.

The pair had an Association of Tennis Professionals ranking of 99 when they beat Todd Perry and Thomas Schimada in the Croatian town of Umag to win prize money of $8,850 (£6,700/€7,500). 

"At that moment you could tell that he was going to be a great player but I wasn't certain just how much he would achieve," Lopez added. 

"Obviously to have won Roland Garros 11 times you would not have thought of that."

Tarragona 2018 tennis is being played on red clay courts ©ITG
Tarragona 2018 tennis is being played on red clay courts ©ITG

Nadal would surely have loved the clay surface at the Tarragona Tennis Club here where this tournament is taking place.

Tennis was first included at the 1963 Mediterranean Games in Naples when Manuel Santana of Spain beat Nico Pietrangeli of Italy. 

Both men were Grand Slam winners.

It would be the equivalent of a Nadal v Djokovic final here but Lopez admits such a stellar line-up is no longer possible.

"The game has changed considerably since then, there are many more tournaments nowadays and it is very difficult to attract all the best players to a tournament.

"The calendar hasn't really helped us because the best players are in England for Wimbledon but we do have a lot of young players with great potential here. 

"I am certain some of them will become top players in a very short space of time."

The five days of competition will feature men's and women's singles and doubles over three sets, but all the matches on the first morning were decided in straight sets.