Big-serving Karlovic on mount 10k

Big-serving Karlovic on mount 10k

Tennis : Having registered 10,000 aces, the Croatian eyes Goran Ivanisevic's record of 10,183

Big-serving Karlovic on mount 10k

When Ivo Karlovic was a lanky teenager, his daily routine took him to the Salata tennis club in Zagreb, Croatia, where he would fire hundreds of serves into an empty court.

It was during the war in the former Yugoslavia, and Karlovic said it was difficult to find other teenagers with whom to play. So Karlovic, from about age 15 to 16, would gather about 200 balls and launch them across the net while emulating his favorite player, the big-serving Goran Ivanisevic, a fellow Croat.

Karlovic would then walk to the other side of the court, pick up the scattered balls and serve them back again - to no one. More than 20 years later, it sometimes looks as if Karlovic is still serving to no one, such is the power of his often unreturnable serve.

With a first serve that was once recorded at 156 mph, the 36-year old Karlovic has the most devastating serve in tennis, a point that was demonstrated when he reached a plateau that only Ivanisevic had reached.

In the second set of a two-set win over Milos Raonic at the Rogers Cup, Karlovic launched a serve down the middle for the 10,000th ace of his career. He finished with four more aces to give him 22 in the match, a tour-leading 1,009 for the year and 10,004 in his career, 179 shy of Ivanisevic’s record.

“That’s a lot of aces,” Karlovic said after he practiced his serve ever so gently. “It is something I am proud of. I am proud of my serve, and I knew this was coming. I am glad I did it. Now I am looking to get the record.”

Aces are the big hitters’ ego stick, the closest the sport comes to a home run, a 75-yard touchdown pass or a thunderous reverse dunk. It is often a demonstration of pure power, the coiling and release of fierce energy that translates into the ball blurring through the air like a fuzzy yellow comet.

And for the 6-foot-11 Karlovic, the tallest player on tour, his serve comes down from about 11 feet in the air at the point of contact with racket on ball and screams across the net, regularly at more than 132 mph, as on Tuesday.

“It’s not fun to be waiting for that,” said Nenad Zimonjic, 39, from Serbia, who stopped by Karlovic’s practice session to offer his congratulations. “You’ve got to be ready, and even then, sometimes they just go right by you.”

Karlovic has set his sights on the U.S. Open to pass Ivanisevic, who is credited with 10,183 aces.

“That would be perfect,” Karlovic said.
The ATP began keeping ace records in 1991, three years after Ivanisevic turned professional. Ivanisevic has said he will be happy and proud to see his countryman pass him.

“That means a lot to me,” Karlovic said. “As kids, we all looked up to Goran, and we all tried to emulate him. That is why so many of us, we all have good serves.”

Roger Federer ranks third with 9,279 aces, but he has played in almost 600 more matches than Karlovic. Andy Roddick is fourth with 9,074.

Although Karlovic is reaching an age when most players have retired, he is actually improving. Karlovic, who is ranked No. 23, is almost certain to reach the top 20 for the first time since Oct. 20, 2009.

He led the tour in aces from 2007 through 2009 and again in 2014. He has surpassed 1,000 aces three times, including each of the last two seasons. In Halle, Germany, on grass in June, he set a two-set match record with 45 aces against Tomas Berdych.

Karlovic takes pride in the fact that his overall service game has improved in recent years. He has won 57 percent of the points on his second serve in 2015, up from 53 percent over his career.

This year he has won 96 percent of his service games.
Since the ATP began keeping such records in 1991, no one has won more than 94 percent, the rate that Karlovic achieved in 1995.

Karlovic is also in the top 10 in all six major serving categories - aces, first-serve percentage, second-serve percentage, first-serve points won, second-serve points won and break points saved - and leads in four of those.

But the one that stands out is most aces.
According to his Serbian coach, Petar Popovic, Karlovic’s 10,000th ace was the lead story on the website for the Serbian newspaper Blic, which Popovic said was noteworthy for a Croat, especially on a day when No. 1-ranked Novak Djokovic of Serbia had also won his match.

“I think that was because of him,” Karlovic said, pointing playfully to his coach, “not me.”
But there was no ceremony at the moment when he reached 10,000, and Karlovic did not even get the ball that set the mark - it was gobbled up and put back into circulation.

“It would have been nice to have it,” Karlovic said. “I would have kept that ball, for sure. Maybe we can do it if I break Goran’s record.”