A man you might not know would be in the US Open draw is the 42-year-old Croatian giant Ivo Karlovic, who qualified for 2021’s final Grand Slam over the weekend.
The ATP Tour’s all-time aces record holder has sat outside the world’s top 100 since January 2020 with the pandemic bringing the future of his career into question, given his participation in just ten events since the Covid shutdown ended a year ago.
Yet the Zagreb born Karlovic is still booming down thunderous serves, establishing a hunger that has rarely been seen on tour, what 42-year-old would still be fighting it out in Challengers and major qualifiers?
Only Roger Federer at 40, with Spaniards Tommy Robredo and Feliciano Lopez, have played majors earlier than Karlovic among active players, with the Croatian’s first coming in that famous Wimbledon victory over defending champion Lleyton Hewitt in the opening round of the 2003 event.
Known as ‘The Doctor’ by his loyal fans for an insane ability to overcome injuries that should have ended his career, as well as his age barrier, but he continues to fight on.
His serve may not have the fear factor that it did 13 years ago when he summited at his career high ATP ranking of 14, but that mighty wingspan that he follows it in with is still enough to send him into his trademark tiebreak score line.
If you associate a tiebreak with anyone, let’s face it, it’s Ivo.
That was again evident in the prequel to this year’s US Open as the former Grand Slam quarterfinalist played three breakers in his trio of wins against Nikola Milojevic, Hugo Dellien and Yuichi Sugita respectively.
None of his foes were able to better him, with only the Bolivian Dellien taking a set off the World No.221.
Up next is Russian superstar and fifth seed Andrey Rublev, who is enjoying a fine season with 41 wins, one title and two Masters 1000 finals.
It will prove difficult for Karlovic, but if statistics are anything to go by, Andrey Rublev has never beaten any of the ATP’s newly dubbed ‘serve bots’ of Reilly Opelka, Milos Raonic and John Isner.
Although the Russian has not played either Opelka or Raonic, he has fallen on all three occasions that he has faced Isner, and that thought will fill Karlovic with confidence ahead of the intriguing matchup.
Should the Florida resident emerge victorious, it will mark the 19th consecutive year that he has progressed through to the second round of a major, with only Federer boasting a longer current streak.
The youngest man in the men’s singles draw is 18-year-old Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz, who is touted as a future Grand Slam champion, and was staggeringly not even two months old when Karlovic stunned Hewitt at the All England Club in 2003.
The 24-year age gap is gargantuan, but it is a testament to the grit and determination shown by the Croatian throughout his career, he deserves the utmost respect for what he has achieved and qualifying for the upcoming US Open is up there with the very best of his honours.
Listen to The First Serve with Brett Phillips and Sam Groth previewing the US Open – 6.30pm-8pm AEST tonight on 1116AM SEN Melbourne, 1629AM SEN SA / replayed at 8pm AEST on 1170am Sydney or listen live and catch up on the SEN App.
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