Sunday, 22 February 2015


Donald Young IS just that, young compared to the 'old man' Ivo Karlovic but he was no match for the man who is beginning to make history in his twilight years. Karlovic comprehensively beat Young 6-3, 6-3 in the final at Delray Beach which had 'old' written all over the tournament. In fact if Leander Paes and Raven Claasen had hung onto their 3-0 lead in the third set super tie breaker against the Bryan Brothers it would have been a tournament for the ages, literally. 
Paes is an absolute doubles genius, the reigning Australian Open Mixed Doubles Champion (with Hingis, another 'old' player) and has won every Mens Doubles Grand Slam at least once. In fact if Paes had won the 2005 French Open Mixed Championship he would own the complete set of Mens and Mixed Grand Slam Doubles titles however he lost in the final of that year. Back to Karlovic.
Ivo is six feet eleven inches, a giant of tennis and many fellow pros I am sure would have been happier if he had taken up basketball, a sport most guys his height would have preferred. This is due largely to his serve, it is quite simply a bomb and one that his defeated opponent at Delray could not pick. Donald Young spoke of Karlovic's ball toss not changing yet his direction did, that's a talent without a doubt.
The big man from Croatia follows a rather talented list of both former and current professional tennis players from that Country who all own a huge delivery. The 2001 Wimbledon Champion Goran Ivanisevic is possibly the most famous of them all. 
Goran now coaches Marin Cilic, the 2014 US Open Champion, another huge server. Why are these guys so tall and how do they hit the serve so big ? 
Cilic is 1.98 meters (6ft 6in), Ivanisevic is 1.93 (6ft 4in) and we all know how tall Karlovic is, 2.11m (6ft 11in) so let's put that into perspective. These three current and former professional tennis players own around six meters of height combined and have terrorized countless opponents with a serve sometimes known better as a missile. Goran served a career total of 10,183 aces, Karlovic has just over 9,000 to his name. That's a lot of free points.
The strength of the return against these types of players when you think about it has to be something super human, probably more so in the mind than anything else. As a returner you may get just one chance to break a serve of that capacity per set, only the best players can take that opportunity. 
Roger Federer has beaten Karlovic 13 out of 14 matches, the only loss being a 7-6, 4-6, 7-6 victory by the big man from Croatia. Not a lot in it was there ?
Out of those 13 victories for Federer there have been no less than 13 tie breakers played and two of those victories were by the score of 7-6, 7-6. I wonder if Federer goes elsewhere mentally whilst receiving Karlovic's first few service games until he reaches the tie break then switches on. 
Would Roger go to the Bahamas perhaps or to his Swiss mansion over looking the lake while his opponent bangs down the unplayable bombs then returns in time to win the important points ? I would love to quiz the great man on his mind set when he plays big servers like Karlovic, there surely is an art to it.
Karlovic is the oldest man to win an ATP Tournament since Jimmy Connors won in Israel in 1989 and who famously donated his winners cheque of around $30,000 to the Israel Tennis Federation. Despite his much publicized on court antics Jimmy Connors was a tennis professional who gave back to tennis in many ways. 'Jimbo' was entertainment plus, he made people tune in to watch him whether they loved or hated him, he had that type of aura about him.
To still be competitive at age 37 and win a  professional tennis tournament shows just how much fight he had. Connors also famously made the semi finals of the US Open at age 39 and had New York in the palm of his hand for nearly two weeks with his on court antics and refusal to lose against the youth of the sport.
Speaking of 'old', former top 4 player James Blake just won the 'Legends' event at Delray Beach defeating Australian Mark Philippoussis in the final. This was Blake's first dip at the 'old boys' tour since retiring a year and a half ago. 
Just like the famous Spaniard Carlos Moya did when he first joined the Legends Tour it seems Blake may just be a cut above the rest, for now at least anyhow.
I love reading about the 'Old Boys' and how they are still swinging a racket, inspiring.........

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