Australian Open 2021: Ageless Feliciano Lopez prevails in five-set grind, sets up third-round date with Andrey Rublev

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Melbourne: Feliciano Lopez stands only in the shadow of Roger Federer when it comes to longevity in Grand Slams, and the Spanish veteran proved he’s still got the stamina to go five sets.

The 39-year-old battled back from two sets down on Thursday to outlast Italy’s Lorenzo Sonego, 14 years his junior, 5-7, 3-6, 6-3, 7-5, 6-4, and ensure he stayed alive at his 19th Australian Open.

Lopez has a reputation for going the distance and while admitting he was “exhausted”, he said he lived for long matches.

“I love the five-setters, honestly,” said the veteran, the oldest man in the Melbourne Park draw.

“I think the five-set matches bring something different to tennis, especially when they go into the fifth set, sometimes you have big matches and I honestly love them.”

No one has made more consecutive Grand Slam appearances than Lopez, who is playing his record-extending 75th in a row, having not missed one since the French Open in 2002.

Only Swiss great Federer, who is missing the Australian Open for the first time in his career with an injury, has played more in total, with 79 to the Spaniard’s 76.

Novak Djokovic and Andreas Seppi (both on 63) are the only other active players in the top 10 of the all-time list.

Lopez can still vividly remember his debut Slam at Roland Garros in 2001.

“I got killed in the first round by Carlos Moya, if I’m not wrong. I qualified and I lost to him. He was my idol when I was growing up,” he said.

Lopez recently became a father and said he barely practised before heading to Australia, and then had to go into 14 days of quarantine.

“I’m exhausted, obviously. I was already tired the first day when I won my first match, so even more today,” he said.

“So for me to win today I think it’s over any expectations, honestly, coming here with very short preparation.”

His reward is a third-round clash with in-form Russian Andrey Rublev.

Times2 Desk
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