Karlovic Oldest Man To Win At Roland Garros Since 1973
Forty-year-old Ivo Karlovic became the oldest player to win a match at Roland Garros since Torben Ulrich (44) in 1973, defeating 37-year-old Feliciano Lopez 7-6(4), 7-5, 6-7(7), 7-5 in three hours and six minutes on Monday to reach the second round at the clay-court Grand Slam for the sixth time.
This was the oldest men’s match in combined age at Roland Garros during the Open Era, and the seventh-oldest match at a Grand Slam. Karlovic, the oldest player to compete on the Parisian terre battue since 41-year-old Istvan Gulyas in 1973, hit 35 aces and saved five of the six break points he faced to win his first match since Indian Wells.
"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. "I was out for almost two months, so I am really happy that I was able to win today."
The World No. 94 arrived in Paris having not played since Houston in April, carrying a three-match losing streak into France. But Karlovic consistently rushed the net — winning 65 net points in the match — to take an 8-4 lead in his FedEx ATP Head2Head series with the Spaniard. None of their previous 11 matches were contested on clay.
Karlovic was not injured, but he did not get into the clay-court ATP Masters 1000 tournaments with his ATP Ranking, so he elected to stay home in Miami with his wife and two children. He would take his seven-year-old daughter to school and various activities, and spend the time in between with his nearly two-year-old son. Only after they went to sleep, around 10pm, did he go to the gym to get his physical activity in.
""It was interesting. It was really, really nice," Karlovic said. "I am happy that after my career I will have that every day."
Karlovic was under pressure after he let slip two match points in the third-set tie-break and Lopez served to force a decider at 5-3 in the fourth set. The first four matches Karlovic lost this season came in deciding tie-breaks, under the utmost of pressure, so perhaps those memories entered the Croat’s mind.
But Karlovic hit a winner to break back to love, and then broke Lopez again — his third return game won in the match — to allow himself to serve for a spot in the second round. He will next face Aussie Jordan Thompson, who beat Estoril semi-finalist and Spanish lucky loser Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 6-3, 6-2, 7-6(3) in two hours and eight minutes for his first win here since 2016.
Fittingly, in the second round that year, Karlovic beat Thompson in their only previous FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting. The Croat hit 41 aces in a 6-7(2), 6-3, 7-6(3), 6-7(4), 12-10 victory that featured a combined four breaks of serve from 21 opportunities over four hours and 31 minutes.
"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."