From Challengers To History In Pune, Karlovic Going Strong At 39
From last May through the end of the 2018 season, Ivo Karlovic managed to earn just two tour-level wins. His struggles forced him to compete on the ATP Challenger Tour towards the end of the year to try to remain inside the Top 100 of the ATP Rankings. He is currently World No. 100.
But it’s a new year, and the 39-year-old has wasted no time showing that he has plenty of good form left. Karlovic has made history this week in Pune, putting his name in the record books en route to the final at the Tata Open Maharashtra.
“It’s unbelievable. I didn’t expect it at all,” Karlovic told ATPTour.com. “Coming here I was hoping I could win a round or two. That would have been unbelievable. It’s incredible.”
By making the semi-finals, Karlovic became the oldest player to reach the last four at a tour-level event since 40-year-old Jimmy Connors at San Francisco in 1993. And now that he’s in the championship match, the Croat is the oldest player to advance to a tour-level final since 43-year-old Ken Rosewall triumphed in Hong Kong in 1977.
“Obviously he was one of the greatest. To be even mentioned in the same category as him, it’s incredible,” Karlovic said.
The former World No. 14 is projected to return to the Top 70 in the ATP Rankings on Monday regardless of whether or not he beats top seed Kevin Anderson in Saturday's final. But if Karlovic lifts his first ATP Tour trophy since Los Cabos in 2016, he can climb back into the Top 60.
One may wonder, how is Karlovic playing so well when he is less than two months away from turning 40 years old? He has finished between No. 20 and No. 101 in the year-end ATP Rankings for 16 consecutive seasons.
“It helped that I didn’t reach the Top 100 at a really young age. I was 24, so I don’t feel like I’ve been doing this a long, long time. I have been, but it’s a different feeling,” Karlovic said. “I also try to do a lot of exercises to stay without injuries.”
According to former World No. 4 Brad Gilbert, “Dr. Ivo” has a gamestyle that allows him to maintain a certain level of consistency. It doesn’t hurt that the Croat is the ATP Tour’s all-time aces leader. This week, Karlovic became the first player to hit 13,000 aces.
“The serve and volley is almost dead these days but Dr. Ivo uses it to his advantage. His game is almost ageless,” Gilbert told ATPTour.com. “He plays with a great sense of calmness and doesn’t get too high or low. He plays with clarity and serves and volleys all the time, no matter what surface he plays on, which is difficult to do.
“He’s kept himself remarkably fit and he plays so economically. It’s almost like he plays doubles, playing singles. Guys 45 are playing doubles well and he’s doing the same at his age in singles... What is most impressive about him in these long three-set matches is that he sustains his serving power and doesn’t drop off. He’s been remarkably healthy throughout most of his career. He’s like Nolan Ryan, who was a power pitcher in his 40s. Ivo is still bringing the heat and he’s going to be 40 next month.”
And while Karlovic will be focused on trying to win his ninth ATP Tour crown on Saturday, his success shows that the 39-year-old has plenty of game left in him.
Did You Know?
The Pune final between Karlovic (6'11", 2.11m) and Anderson (6'8", 2.03m) will be the tallest championship match in the Open Era (since 1968). The previous tallest final was in Atlanta in 2013, when John Isner (6'10", 2.08m) defeated Anderson in a third-set tie-break.