In an All-Croatian match on Stadium 7 at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, 40-year old Ivo Karlovic managed to beat an eighteen years younger opponent, world no.12 Borna Coric, 6-4 7-6. It’s the popular “Dr. Ivo’s” second win after turning forty on the 28th of February. The Croatian will now face either Nikoloz Basilashvili or Prajesh Gunneswaran for a shot at reaching the fourth round of the 2019 BNP Paribas Open.
Which are the reasons for Karlovic’s longevity?
Obviously, his game is based on a monstrous serve. The all-time leader when it comes to the number of aces served, his height (211 cm – 6’11”) is both a gift and a curse. It gives him an uncanny ability to win tons of points while also keeping him down by worsening his movement skills. Karlovic has a very natural game for his physicality, he plays serve and volley almost every point on his own delivery and tries to approach most of the time on return. Some might say that he’s a servebot, some might say that his backhand is useless (which it is (outside of sliced approach shots) but you have to agree that a career of eight ATP singles titles, a Grand Slam quarterfinal (Wimbledon 2009) and a career-high ranking of no.14 is something a lot of players would be delighted to have.
Some downsides are pretty surprising, like the fact that Karlovic always looks for coaches that are former tennis players and are still capable physically. Why? It’s very hard for him to find a sparing partner, simply because it’s more worthwhile for other players to practice against someone who plays with more rhythm and is actually comparable to anyone else on the tour.
Now that we’ve established that his style of play is not that tiresome for the body, another reason we can find is how Ivo’s childhood looked like. When he was a teenager he had to stop practising for a few years because of the Crotian-Bosnian War. There was no one around to train with and it delayed his career for a few years, the Croat actually turned professional at the age of 21 (just for comparison, Nadal already had three French Opens to his name when he was the same age). For further information on how he got into tennis and a lot of other stuff like the brain disease he got a few years ago, check that interview.
Ivo Karlovic returning better than ever at 40 yo. He really is just like a good ol' wine. Now would be a good time for him to get a son so we can see them play dubs together.
— ilan woolley (@ilantennis) March 9, 2019
A record after a record
Two days ago, when he beat Matthew Ebden, Karlovic became the oldest player to win a Masters 1000 main draw match. Last year in Calgary he also got the record of being the only player to win an ATP Challenger Tour tournament.
Karlovic 40y #IndianWells 2019
Connors 39y 6m Miami 1992
Haas 39y 1m Rome 2017
Stepanek 37y 8m Toronto 2016
Federer 37y 3m Bercy 2018
F. Lopez 37y 1m Bercy 2018
— Luca Brancher (@LucaBeck) March 7, 2019
As you can read in the interview I mentioned, last year the Croat was pretty close to ending his journey on the tennis tour. Honestly whether you like his style or not, he actually gives the game a nice share of diversity. I’m pretty sure his fitness is not a big problem at this point yet and it’s just up to him how long he’ll try to stay on the tour. As long as he remains a professional tennis player though, he’ll throw a brilliant performance once in a while, just like the one today against Coric (it even featured a backhand topspin passing shot winner, something of extereme rarity when it comes to Ivo).
It would certainly be great to see him face Djokovic one more time, as quite surprisingly, he’s one of the very few players who have a positive record against the Serb (2-1, plus one qualiying win). Maybe it can happen here in Indian Wells?