Age is just another number for Ivo

Omkar Paranjape
Saturday, 5 January 2019

Croatia’s Ivo Karlovic becomes oldest ATP finalist in 42 years, to take on top-seed Kevin Anderson

Pune: Ivo Karlovic continues acing his age at a noticeable rate.

The 39-year-old Karlovic, who turns 40 next month, beat Steve Darcis, 7-6 (7-3), 4-6, 6-3, to power into the final of Men’s singles event at the ATP 250 Tata Open Maharashtra at the Balewadi Tennis Complex on Friday.

By doing so, the Croat made history as the oldest ATP finalist in 42 years.

Karlovic, who is playing for his first title since he won the 2016 Newport crown on American land, is bidding to become the oldest ATP champion since a 43-year-old Ken Rosewall won the 1977 Hong Kong championship.

Despite dropping serve and a set for the first time in four matches this week, Karlovic was commanding in the decisive set.

Against the 34-year old Belgian, for whom this was the first tournament in over a year, it was more of the same, as he blasted 33 aces in all.

First  serve  command
Karlovic won 90 percent (52 of 58) first-serve points wrapping up a one hour, 55-minute victory. The 6’11” Croat hadn’t been broken all week, and had pumped in 55 aces in three matches until the semifinal.

“I am obviously happy that I’m still here, doing what I love to do and winning. I want to be the oldest one ever in the top 100,” Karlovic said in his post-match interview.

Karlovic  a  step  away
The 39-year-old Ivo Karlovic continued to hog the limelight as the lanky Croat reached the final surviving a difficult challenge against Belgian Darcis.

The opening set involved an intense exchange of strong service games. Darcis had the opportunity to move ahead early on but Karlovic saved a break point with a good serve in game three, serving well in the rest of the set to reach the tie break where he gained a 2-1 lead with a deep return that the Belgian failed to control.

By the end of the first set, Karlovic had collected 17 aces, which was one of the main reasons why Darcis was left without a chance to break in the first set.

The Belgian should be pleased to have reached a tie-break, as he had to save three of Karlovic’s chances to take his service to get there. He saved one at 2:2, and at 3:3 when Karlovic had 15:40. 

Darcis saved one with a good backhand, and the second when Karlovic missed a forehand.

It was evident that for Karlovic, his training method meant a lot.

“Usually I would train a lot, but in my old age, I am trying to go a little bit easier because it’s not easy to train anymore. In the off-season, I spent some time at home. Actually, I like it a lot like this,” he says.

Service  stutters
At the start of the second set, Karlovic had to save the first break-point of the match and did well at covering the net. In the next game, he missed the fourth chance to break and lead 2-0 in the second set, and in the seventh game, Karlovic lost his service for the first time this tournament.

Darcis began to return better and made it more and more difficult for the Croatian veteran to break. Karlovic attacked well with his second serve, but Darcis defended the high and deep lobs. Darcis gained the advantage and took the match to the third set.

Karlovic’s decisive set opened with four consecutive aces which sent a message to Darcis that he would have to make a great effort to come back.

The Croatian put himself into a commanding position early in the first set by breaking Darcis serve to take a 2-0 lead.

The following games saw both the players put in big serving games, including a love hold for Darcis in the seventh game to no avail.

Karlovic chases an unlikely feat to topple Roger Federer, and himself, on the courts of Balewadi Stadium.

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