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Australian Open: Feliciano Lopez eager to see five-setters stay after landmark victory in his 75th straight Grand Slam

Feliciano Lopez will play Russian Andrey Rublev in the third round on Saturday after seeing off Lorenzo Sonego in five sets; the Spaniard says he wouldn't change the format to five-set matches at Grand Slams, calling it "something different"

Feliciano Lopez in action against Italy's Lorenzo Sonego during their second round match at the Australian Open. (AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)
Image: Feliciano Lopez in action against Italy's Lorenzo Sonego during their second round match at the Australian Open (AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)

Playing in his 75th consecutive Grand Slam at the age of 39, Feliciano Lopez remains a keen advocate for the survival of the five-set format in the men's game.

The Spaniard overturned a two-set deficit to beat Lorenzo Sonego 5-7 3-6 6-3 7-5 6-4 in the second round of the Australian Open on Thursday and become the oldest player to reach the third round of a major since Ken Rosewall in 1978.

It marked his 21st win over five sets in his 75-Slam run, which has seen him reach the quarter-finals at Wimbledon on three occasions and the US Open quarter-finals once. He is now due to face Russian Andrey Rublev on Saturday in what will mark his first third-round appearance in Melbourne since 2016, with Lopez having never advanced beyond the fourth round in the tournament.

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"This is a long debate, I love the five-setters, honestly," said Lopez post-match. "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.

"I don't know if they are the best, given the circumstances that we have right now where most of the players we haven't played much in the last year, nearly one year and a half.

"This I don't know. But I wouldn't change the five-set matches in the slams, honestly. I think if you ask about my opinion, I'll keep it like this. I will still play best-of-five in the slams. I think it's something different."

Lopez makes a forehand return against Sonego (AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)
Image: Lopez makes a forehand return against Sonego (AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)

Roger Federer held the previous record for successive Grand Slam appearances with 65 until his streak came to an end at the 2016 French Open due to injury. Lopez, who has won seven singles titles throughout his career, surpassed the Swiss star's feat at Wimbledon in 2018 and has not missed a Slam since the 2002 French Open.

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"As you know, to win a match in a slam for me now is very special," he continued. "If I do it the way I did today, even more. Imagine how this, how special it can be for me to win a match after two sets to love down against him, he's a great player.

"So for me to win today I think it's over any expectations, honestly, coming here with very short preparation. As I said the day before in the press conference, I became a father just lately, I didn't practice much and my preparation was the quarantine here. So to be in the third round now, it's something very special for me. So that's why I'm very happy today."

Rewind 20 years and Lopez was making his Grand Slam debut at Roland Garros back in 2001. It's a day he remembers well.

"I think I got killed in the first round by Carlos Moya, if I'm not wrong," he recalled. "I qualified and I lost to him. He was my idol when I was growing up as a junior, Carlos was always someone I really admired when I started playing professional.

"For me it was like a gift to play against Carlos in the French Open. So nothing else to say about the match. I think he was a much better player than me. But this is my first memory from a slam. Then that year I didn't play any other slam I think and then from Australian Open next year I think I started the streak."

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