Croatia’s Ivo Karlovic became the oldest man to win a match at the French Open for 46 years on Tuesday as he beat Spain’s fellow veteran Feliciano Lopez in a first-round duel. Karlovic, who turned 40 in February, won 7-6(4) 7-5 6-7(7) 7-5 in a match featuring players with a combined age of 77 — the oldest in a Grand Slam in the professional era.
He became the oldest male player to win a Grand Slam match since Ken Rosewall, aged 44, did so at the 1978 Australian Open. The last player to contest a Grand Slam singles match having turned 40 was American Jimmy Connors at the U.S. Open in 1992.
Croatian giant Karlovic fired down 35 aces on his way to a second-round clash against Australian youngster Jordan Thompson. He was the first man in his 40s to compete in a Grand Slam singles match for 27 years, but the evergreen Karlovic made light of his age to outlast left-hander Lopez.
“It means a lot. Even though it’s in the record books as the oldest one, at least it’s in the record books, so I like it,” Karlovic said of playing his fellow long-survivor. “I was out for almost two months, so I am really happy that I was able to win today.”
Karlovic, ranked 94, had decided against playing any claycourt tournaments in the build-up to Roland Garros where he has never gone past the third round. But there was nothing rusty about his serve, not giving Lopez a sniff of a break in the opening two sets.
He took the first set on a tiebreak but did not engineer a break point on the Lopez serve until pouncing with his opponent 5-6 down in the second set. Almost inevitably the third set went to another tiebreak and when Lopez missed a routine volley at 5-5 it handed Karlovic a match point, only for him to be denied by a lucky backhand return that left him floundering at the net.
A fifth set loomed when Lopez led 5-2 in the fourth set but Karlovic rattled off five straight games to move through. In a performance of old-school skills he won 65 points at the net.
“Right now I’m just happy with any match that I win,” Karlovic said. “Even if it’s against older guys or kids, whatever. I just like to win.”