Smashing streaks: Lopez, Cornet in class of their own

They say father time never loses in tennis, but don’t tell that to Feliciano Lopez and Alizé Cornet.

Feliciano Lopez, Roland Garros 2020, doubles first round© Clément Mahoudeau/FFT
 - Chris Oddo

Survive to thrive. That mentality has been the calling card of Spain’s Feliciano Lopez and France’s Alizé Cornet, the iron man and iron woman of tennis, for well over a decade, and going on two. 

Lopez holds the all-time record for consecutive Grand Slam main draws played, at 74.

He broke Roger Federer’s all-time mark at Wimbledon in 2018 and he’s shown no signs of slowing down since.

The bomb-serving Spaniard, who fell in first-round action to Germany’s Daniel Altmaier, is still alive in the doubles draw, and still craving the adrenaline rush he gets from competing on tour.

“I'm more proud of being able to stay there so long and to still be competitive,” 39-year-old Lopez told “It's not about the number, it's about the way I played, especially the last six or seven years, it was something completely and totally unexpected from me.” 

Lopez, a former world No.12, commenced his streak in 2002 when he played at Roland-Garros as a lucky loser and won a round. Remarkably, more than 18 years later he still hasn’t missed a single Grand Slam tournament. 

The current world No.57 says he gains motivation from the victories he has been able to achieve on tour in his late thirties. Lopez won the prestigious Queen’s Club tournament in 2017 at the age of 36. The next year, at 37, he won both the singles and doubles titles at the same event. 

"It's been a bit easier in the last four or five years because I have been achieving things that I never thought I could be achieving at this stage of my career,” Lopez said. "That gives me that extra motivation to keep training and to keep travelling, and it's much easier when you have the good results, to keep going." 

Feliciano Lopez, Roland Garros 2020, doubles first round© Clément Mahoudeau/FFT

Cornet, a former world No.11 who turned 30 in January, is closing in on the WTA’s all-time record for consecutive Grand Slams played. With 55 consecutive majors under her belt, the WTA’s active leader in this category could top Ai Sugiyama’s all-time record of 62 in two years' time.

“I'm pretty proud of this record,” says Cornet. “Because it just means that my career has been very consistent since I was 17. It's not easy never to be injured and not to drop in the ranking. I've been between 10 and 90 for my whole career, so it's quite a good consistency.” 

Cornet, who fell in second-round action at Roland-Garros, still can’t believe that she’s played every major since she reached the second round in 2006 at her home Slam. 

“It's a miracle that the streak is going on for 55 times,” she said. “I mean, I cannot believe it. I feel kind of old with this record, but at the same time I don't know if I see myself playing two whole more years, so I cannot tell you if I might break the record, but we'll see.” 

Cornet’s advice to aspiring iron women? 

“I just try to enjoy every slam like it was the last,” she said. “I think that's the secret.” 

Alizé Cornet© Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

When Lopez was young he never imagined he’d become the tennis iron man. He says when he was coming up, players used to retire when they hit 30, and even before. 

"It was not in my mind, honestly,” he said. “I would never have thought that I will be here now talking to you and playing this Roland-Garros." 

Ask around and you’ll find that other players have an immense appreciation for the streak. 

“That is an unreal achievement by him,” Dominic Thiem said of Lopez’s streak. “If you look at his body, it's a joke how he takes care of it, how he looks in general, so fit. I think he never had any bigger injuries in his career.” 

Rafael Nadal agrees. “That's something amazing, no?”said the Malloran 19-time Grand Slam champion.

"It's really unbelievable that he never got injured. It shows that he has passion for the sport because he was able to maintain a good level of tennis for such a very, very long time, and without injuries.” 

It is indeed impressive, and as Lopez and Cornet clearly stated, it’s about so much more than a number. It’s about total dedication to the fever dream of competing at the biggest stages that tennis has to offer, and answering the bell every time it rings.  

“I think passion is probably number one, without that passion it would be impossible to be playing now, to still be here and trying to win matches at this stage of my career,” Lopez says. “It's a combination of a lot of things, if you manage to somehow put them all together, you can still have success.”