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Friday, June 26, 2009

Karlovic a big hit against Tsonga

Photo Titled Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga battles the fierce Ivo Karlovic serve in the third round.

Ivo Karlovic served his way to victory with a 7-6 (7-5), 6-7 (5-7), 7-5, 7-6 (7-5) win over the eighth seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France on No.1 Court.

It was a fine win for the 22nd seed at the age of 30 because he had been beaten in the first round for each of the past four years here and despite having a game suited for grass, may have given up hope of ever making a significant breakthrough at SW19.

The whole of the Croatian’s Grand Slam experiences do not match what he did today with the exception of Wimbledon five years ago when he lost in the fourth round to Roger Federer.

At 6ft 10in. Karlovic is the tallest player to have been ranked in the top 100 and his considerable height is part of the intrigue that surrounds his approach to matches. He is uniquely equipped to serve dangerously and has the fitness and perseverance to do so for as long as is required.

But it is not simply that weapon that put Karlovic into the fourth round where he will face Fernando Verdasco of Spain who will also fancy his chances in a serving contest. The Croatian had to bring a whole package of abilities to the court to cope with the challenge of Tsonga, six years his junior and 13 places higher in the seedings.

Facing such a big server, Tsonga knew what was coming even though he had not played Karlovic previously. But the Frenchman is no slouch himself when it comes to serve and volley, which is why he was able to sustain his challenge for so long.

Karlovic served 46 aces against 26 by Tsonga, which was one way of measuring the gap between them but there was a strong streak of defiance about Tsonga’s manner, which endeared him to the crowd, particularly in the last two sets when he was serving second and chasing rather than setting a target.

Not much in this match was dependent on subtle play. There was no room for that in the grinding tennis for which both players were prepared. If there were some special shots they usually came from Tsonga, such as a backhand crosscourt winner in the second set, a shot through his legs when he faced the back of the court in the fourth. But otherwise it was all power.

Karlovic won two of the three tie-breaks and in that sense finished the match in persuasive style. From 4-3 behind in the final tiebreak he won three quick points. The last, coming from a forehand error by Tsonga off a powerful return, took him to his first match point.

He failed to convert the first but yet another ace settled it. Of course.

Court 1 - Gentlemen's Singles - 3rd Round
Ivo Karlovic CRO (22)Winner7765777
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga FRA (9)6577565

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