When These Players Lead 15/0, Turn Out The Lights
The statistical chance of breaking Ivo Karlovic’s serve when he wins the first point of the game is so small that it’s laughable.
An Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers analysis of Karlovic's service games for the past five seasons (2015-2019) uncovers just how dominant he has been when he gets ahead in the point score. The data set includes players who have played 50-plus matches during that period, so on average 10 matches per year.
The only point score over the past five seasons where the returner was favoured to break Karlovic was 0/40. How often did opponents win the first three points of the 6’11” Croatian’s serve game? Just 1.8 per cent (59/3329) of the time.
Holding From 40/0
Karlovic is near-perfect at this specific score, holding serve 1,040 times out of 1,041 from 185 matches. During that span, he averaged playing a "love-hold" game almost six times a match. Reilly Opelka, who played his first ATP main draw match in 2016, has not yet dropped serve on Tour when leading 40/0. The leading three players holding from 40/0:
R. Opelka = 100% (310/310)
I. Karlovic = 99.90% (1040/1041)
J. Isner = 99.85% (1362/1364)
Holding From 30/0
Karlovic has dropped serve only 11 times in five years when leading 30/0. It's an astounding statistic that puts him above a 99 per cent win rate with only half the points in the game completed. The leading three players holding from 30/0:
I. Karlovic = 99.23% (1411/1422)
J. Isner = 98.93 (1844/1864)
M. Raonic = 98.76% (1518/1537)
Holding From 15/0
Karlovic is the career leader for Service Games Won at 92.08 per cent (8713/9462) from 683 matches. He is one of only four players to be above the 90 percentile mark, along with Isner (91.79%), Milos Raonic (91.02%) and Andy Roddick (90.11).
In the past five seasons when Karlovic has won just one point in his service game to surge ahead 15/0, he has won a jaw-dropping 97.3 per cent (1915/1969) of his service games. You may as well turn the lights out after just one point. The leading three players holding from 15/0:
I. Karlovic = 97.26% (1915/1969)
J. Isner = 96.83% (2537/2620)
R. Opelka = 96.66% (636/658)
Holding from 15/40
You may think you have finally turned the tables on Karlovic by putting him in a 15/40 hole. Think again. Karlovic is the only player in the past five seasons to have a winning record from 15/40, just tipping the scales at 50.9 per cent. The leading three players holding from 15/40:
I Karlovic = 50.94% (81/159)
J. Isner = 45.03% (86/191)
S. Wawrinka = 39.77% (138/347)
Holding From 0/40
Amazingly, this is the only point score in the past five seasons that the returner tips the scales above 50 per cent with the odds to break serve. Karlovic is still the best-rated player in this category, holding serve on average one out of three times. The leading three players holding from 0/40:
I. Karlovic = 33.90% (20/59)
R. Federer = 30.12% (25/83)
M. Raonic = 28.57% (22/77)
Karlovic's career-high ATP Ranking is No. 14, which he reached in August 2008. and he was ranked inside the Top 20 as recently as February 2017. The Croatian has made a career of winning one more point than his opponent. He finished the 2016 season ranked No. 20, went 34-24, and won $1.2 million. He won 4,612 points for the season. He lost 4,611.
Editor's Note: This story was amended to correct Karlovic's hold percentage from 15/0, which is 97.26%, not 99.26% as originally reported.