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Sunday, June 28, 2009

One to watch: Ivo Karlovic

Photo Titled Ivo Karlovic
Ivo Karlovic

Ivo Karlovic knows what people say about him. They say he has just one shot – his serve. Statistics bear this out. This tournament, the Croat has served 102 aces. Andy Roddick, another player with a big serve, has hit 72. At the French Open this year, Karlovic set the record for most aces in a match – 55 against Lleyton Hewitt – in a game he lost.

It is a simple case of physics really. Karlovic at 6’10”, is the tallest player in professional tennis, and his fastest serve has been recorded at 153mph. When a tennis ball is coming at you that fast from that height, it doesn’t matter if your name is Roger Federer, you are going to have trouble getting it back.

That is the whole point of watching Karlovic. In the modern era when people complain that no one plays serve and volley tennis, he plays serve and volley tennis. It’s just that most times he does not have to volley because his serve does enough to win the point.

Nobody has broken Karlovic’s serve at Wimbledon this year. In fact, of his three opponents, only one has created a break point opportunity – Lukas Lacko, who won none of the four he won.

On grass, he can be impossible to play. In 2003, Karlovic, then was ranked 203 in the world, became the first player since 1965 to beat the defending Wimbledon champion on the opening day when he beat Lleyton Hewitt. Alternatively, he is very beatable. Between 2005 and 2008, he did not win a match at the All England Club.

In an era when people complain that everyone plays from the baseline, Karlovic offers something different. No one is saying that it is the prettiest style of tennis, but it is different. Ask Karlovic how he feels to be called a one-shot wonder and he replies: “I like it, because if I can win with only one shot, I'm, I don't know, a genius, so I like it.”

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