February 16, 2010

Gimme a Break!

Only six weeks into the 2010 tennis season, it's no surprise that Ivo Karlovic sits atop the ace-count leaderboard. In the eleven matches he's played this year, he's already fired off 217 bombs, two more than Andy Roddick, who's played five more matches. In his first round match in Memphis today alone, the Croat shot thirty-two serves that his opponent couldn't return -- it's a figure I'd love to boast for myself. So what's the problem?

For some reason, the six-foot-ten Dr. Ivo hasn't really been able to capitalize on that otherwise imposing statistic. Even winning eighty-four percent of his first serves today (only seventeen points did not result from an ace), he wasn't able to break Germany's Benjamin Becker. He made it through, eventually, in a little less than a hundred minutes, but this was not the first time this has happened -- a few weeks back in his hometown of Zagreb, Karlovic got by Alexandre Sidorenko in two tight tiebreaks, unable to convert on any of his nine break chances.

That's a frustrating result, and one Ivo is going to have to reverse if he's ever going to be a real force in tennis -- and at thirty years old, he doesn't have a lot of time left. He's only won four titles, none since 2008, and his best ever result at a Major was a quarterfinal appearance at Wimbledon last year. His five-set record is even more dismal than James Blake's used to be -- according to my latest count, he's only won twice in thirteen tries when going the distance. Sure he's beaten his fair share of top-ten players over the years, but when even his monster serve isn't enough to guarantee an easy (okay, easier) win, and when he can't convert on his opponents' (relative) weakness, it might be time to regroup.

Next up in Memphis, Karlovic will face either Tommy Haas or Xavier Malisse, either of whom would be a formidable foe. And if Ivo is going to advance further -- at this tournament or at all this year -- he's going to have to figure out a way to do what he was unable to today.

He just needs to get a break!

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