41 Going On 18: Record-Breaking Karlovic Still Shining
Ivo Karlovic turns 42 in less than two months, but the big-serving righty continues to prove that age is just a number.
On Friday evening, the Croatian defeated Spaniard Pablo Andujar in three sets to reach the second round of the Delray Beach Open by VITACOST.com. Karlovic broke his own record as the oldest ATP Tour match winner since a 42-year-old Jimmy Connors in Halle 26 years ago. Virtually every time the eight-time tour-level titlist steps on the court, he etches his name in the history books.
“Of course it’s special, even if it’s [because I am] that age,” Karlovic told ATPTour.com. “In any sentence that you are with him, compared [to Jimmy], it’s nice.”
Typically it might take a player a few matches to find their best level at the start of the season. But Karlovic showed no rust in hitting 27 aces against Andujar in Delray Beach. That is his personal record for most aces at the ATP 250, where he lifted the title in 2015.
As Karlovic continues to enjoy success, it’s easy to forget that competing — and winning — at that age is incredible. Former World No. 1 Marat Safin, who is only 40, last played in 2009. Another former World No. 1, Andy Roddick, is 38. The American retired in 2012.
Karlovic claimed his first ATP Tour main draw doubles win with Ivan Ljubicic in 1995. Jannik Sinner, the 2019 Next Gen ATP Finals champion, was not born until six years later. Yet Karlovic is still getting the job done. If you ask the former World No. 14, he'll tell you he doesn’t feel his age.
“It’s interesting, I had the most injuries from like 2009 to 2013. That was the period when I was always injured and after that I didn’t have a lot of injuries,” Karlovic said. “Last year I didn’t really travel a lot, so I didn’t have any injuries… I was able to train as when I was an 18-year-old man.”
Mentally, Karlovic keeps himself young too, whether that’s through his mental outlook or fun question-and-answer sessions with fans on social media. But what’s most important to Karlovic are his daughter and son, who are nine and three, respectively. They keep him motivated.
“Of course when you have a family it’s a little bit different with my priorities,” Karlovic said. “Right now maybe tennis is not my No. 1 or No. 2 or No. 3.
“Even if I win, it doesn’t mean anything compared to when I didn’t have kids. They know what I do, but they know I’m their dad [first] and I’ll always be there for them. It doesn’t matter if I win or lose. I have to be there for them.”
That’s not to say Karlovic doesn’t dedicate himself to his tennis. It’s just not as easy as it once was to travel, knowing on many occasions that means leaving his family. Karlovic chose not to play Australian Open qualifying in Doha, since he gained entry into the Delray Beach main draw. He has a home in Florida.
“I live around the corner here, so it’s almost a home game,” Karlovic said. “My kids were in the stands, so I had to motivate myself.”
What does Karlovic still have to play for? The 41-year-old is the No. 148 player in the FedEx ATP Rankings, and he wants to make a charge back towards the Top 100.
“Last year, I didn’t do well with the [COVID-19 pandemic] going on,” Karlovic said. “I didn’t train, I didn’t know when I was going to tournaments or not with corona and everything, so I didn’t do really well last year.”
But after a strong start to 2021, Karlovic said he has his motivation back and is ready to make another push.
“It’s good,” Karlovic said of his season-opening victory. “When you win, it’s always good.”