February 11, 2021
MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Feliciano Lopez is only second to Roger Federer when it comes to longevity on the Grand Slam circuit and the Spanish veteran, at the age of 39, proved on Thursday he still has plenty of gas in the tank to win a brutal five-set contest.
Lopez rallied from two sets down to beat Italy’s Lorenzo Sonego 5-7 3-6 6-3 7-5 6-4 and book a place in the Australian Open third round for the first time since 2016.
When asked how highly he rates his latest five-set rescue job, an “exhausted” Lopez said: “Well maybe pole position.
“As you know, to win a match in a Slam for me now is very special. If I do it the way I did today, even more.”
World No. 65 Lopez is playing a record-extending 75th consecutive Grand Slam event, having not missed any since the French Open in 2002.
Only Federer, who has skipped this year’s Australian Open due to an injury, has played more Slams overall, with 79 compared to Lopez’s tally of 76.
Lopez fondly remembers his major debut at the French Open in 2001, even if it ended in a straight-sets defeat.
“I think I got killed in the first round by Carlos Moya, if I’m not wrong,” Lopez said. “I qualified and I lost to him. He was my idol when I was growing up.”
Lopez recently became a father and said he was unable to spend enough time on the court before arriving in Australia.
“I’m exhausted, obviously. I was already tired the first day when I won my first match, so even more today,” he added.
“For me to win today I think it’s above any expectations.”
Lopez will next face in-form Russian Andrey Rublev, seeded at seven, for a place in the last 16.
(Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru; editing by Richard Pullin)
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