Late-night gym sessions and family life have failed to hinder Ivo Karlovic’s longevity, after he made a mockery of his 40 years to beat relative spring chicken, 37-year-old Feliciano Lopez, in the oldest ever men’s match-up at Roland Garros on Tuesday.
Croatian Karlovic, the tallest player on the tour at 6ft 11in (2.11m), defeated Lopez 7-6 (7/4), 7-5, 6-7 (7/9), 7-5 in the first round despite not having played a match since early April.
The world number 94 has instead been spending time with his family at home in Miami after not qualifying automatically for the main draws in Rome and Madrid.
He revealed in Paris that he often heads to the gym at 11p.m. and only sleeps for five hours a night.
“After I drive my daughter to school I would go and hit and after I was home resting,” said Karlovic — the oldest man to win a Grand Slam match since Ken Rosewall in 1978.
“In the evening when they go to bed, which is almost at around 11, then I would go to the gym. In the night. I’m happy because there is a gym open in the night.”
Karlovic — who says that his shock first-round win over then-reigning champion and world number one Lleyton Hewitt at Wimbledon in 2003 remains his greatest tennis memory — will face Australian Jordan Thompson in round two.
He still believes he can win a ninth ATP title and possibly reach the last 16 of a Grand Slam again, having most recently made the second week of a major at the 2016 US Open.
“I would like to do that. That’s what I always try to do but I know that it isn’t easy, it’s real difficult,” said Karlovic.
“Everybody’s strong and good, but you know, who knows. I think I train hard and I have the experience, the edge, so who knows.”
Karlovic fired 35 aces and 69 winners past the 108th-ranked Lopez having wasted two match points in the third set.
“It means a lot… It’s in the record books as the oldest ever one. I was out for the last almost two months so I was really happy that I was able to win.”
The oldest Grand Slam match in history featured 41-year-old Pancho Gonzalez against Torben Ulrich, 40, at the 1969 US Open.
Karlovic is the first man aged over 40 to play in the main singles draw of a Grand Slam tournament since Jimmy Connors in 1992.
“I don’t know (if I’ll feel sore tomorrow), we’ll see,” he added. “I’ll just hit it light and then we’ll see if I have to do (an) extra ice bath or extra activities.”