The Spaniard is tennis' ultimate iron man at the Grand Slams.
Respect, and nothing but. That’s the prevailing sentiment after Spain’s Feliciano Lopez took the court today to begin his 66th consecutive Grand Slam, setting a new record for ATP tennis, as he passed Roger Federer on the ATP's all-time list in that category.
That he won makes the occasion even sweeter for Lopez, a 36-year-old hard-serving southpaw who has mastered the art of getting better with age like many of his contemporaries on the ATP tour.
And speaking of getting better, the run of 66 consecutive Grand Slams played is so good that not even Roger Federer can match it.
“When I was [thinking] about breaking the record, I thought, wow, I'm going to beat Federer at something, which is a lot already,” Lopez said after his 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 victory over Federico Delbonis.
The Spaniard made some jokes, but he also talked seriously about the significance of a remarkable achievement. For more than 16 years he has not only been healthy enough to compete at every major, he has also kept his ranking in good enough standing to qualify for all of them.
There’s a reason nobody else has a streak as long, not even the great Federer.
66, not out…
— Wimbledon (@Wimbledon) July 3, 2018
“Of course it means a lot to me,” he said. “As I said before, it's not about reaching this number of the most consecutive Grand Slams played. It's about being 15 years or more playing at the top level.
“For me, after 30 years always so important to be competitive and to challenge the best players in the world. This is what I thought at this stage of my career was the most important thing, to stay healthy and to be able to compete against these monsters, because for me I played in the past against other monsters, but after the 30s it was so important for me to stay fresh and healthy, just to challenge these animals, because they are very—the level overall is getting higher and higher in the last decade.”
Lopez moves on to face another monster in the second round in Argentina’s Juan Martin del Potro. Win or lose, he’s already made an indelible mark on Wimbledon 2018, and that mark could last forever.