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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Preview: Karlovic v Federer

Photo Titled Federer fired up
Federer fired up
It’s not the elephant in the corner of the room that no one wants to talk about, it’s the 6ft 10in tennis player.

If Ivo Karlovic beats Roger Federer in their quarter-final then, for some people, it ruins the chance of a dream final between Federer and Andy Murray and for many others it denies them their dream finish to this year’s Championships, with Federer claming a sixth Wimbledon title.

There is a precedent. The last time one player had such a hold over the men’s title, it was Pete Sampras. Yet he had one fallow year in 1996, when he was beaten by Dutchman Richard Krajicek, a player who relied heavily on a massive serve. It was the only defeat Sampras suffered at Wimbledon in eight years.

Krajicek thinks that Karlovic could do the same thing to Federer. “It will be very difficult for Federer to break but Karlovic does not have the greatest of return games so maybe he’ll only break Federer once or twice. But that’ll be enough if he’s serving well,” the Dutchman said.

“I think they will play a few tiebreakers. Federer wants to avoid that because Karlovic has played a lot of tiebreakers this tournament and won a lot.”

Karlovic has won all of his 79 service games at Wimbledon 2009 and has faced just four break points, all against first-round opponent Lukas Lasko.

Federer leads Karlovic 8-1 in head-to-head encounters. The interesting match in that list is Karlovic’s solitary win - at on the hard courts at the Cincinnati Masters in 2008 where Karlovic won 7-6 (8-6), 4-6, 7-6 (7-5). But he didn’t break the Federer serve once on that occasion and it is telling that in their nine matches there have been 12 tiebreaks in 22 sets.

Krajicek said: “I think Roger wants to get the breaks. If anyone can break a serve Roger can and he has neutralised the Andy Roddick serve over the last couple of years. Anyone would think that Andy has a bad serve the way Federer returns. It’s so tough to ace him.

Federer holds the advantage over Karlovic on almost every objective measure – except one crucial statistics for grass court tennis. Karlovic is the leading ace server at this tournament, as he is on the ATP tour, as he has been for the last two years.

Critics attack Karlovic as one-dimensional but when that one dimension can end a game in four swings of the racket, it is hard to dispute its success.

Federer is not a fan. During the press conference after his victory over Philipp Kohlschreiber in the third round, Federer was informed that Karlovic had just taken the fourth set to defeat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. “In a tiebreak?” he asked. “It’s not that I don’t have any respect for him, but that’s not tennis. I lost to him in Cincinnati – I broke him once, he didn’t break me and I had three chances in the tiebreaks. I got one right and made two mistakes and that was that. It’s good for people who are lower in the rankings and bad for those who are higher as he tends to raise his game.”

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