Just three days after becoming the oldest player on the ATP ranking list following the big changes and the introduction of the shadow ITF ranking and also the third-oldest year-end top-100 player in the Open era behind Ken Rosewall and Jimmy Connors, the 39-year-old Ivo Karlovic has added another milestone to his already impressive list of the age achievements in the opening tournament of the season in Pune.
The Croatian veteran has defeated Felix Auger-Aliassime and Evgeny Donskoy to reach the quarter-final in the strongest possible way, never facing a break point and scoring one break in each of four sets he played to enter the last eight and become the oldest ATP quarter-finalist since Jimmy Connors in Halle in 1995! In the opening match of the season, Karlovic took down an 18-year-old qualifier Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-4, 7-5 in an hour and 14 minutes.
The giant server lost just 11 points in his service games, never facing a break point and converting both chances he created on the return to secure the win in straight sets. The youngster served at 70% and he had nine great holds, doing his best to create at least a glimpse of a chance on the return but that turned to be the mission impossible against one of the greatest servers in the history of the game.
Karlovic's initial shot worked like a charm right from the start and he endured a baseline rally against one of the most promising youngsters on the Tour in game five to grab a break following a forehand error from Felix.
The world no. 100 confirmed the break with three service winners in the next game, moving 5-3 up with four winners in game eight and the set was in his hands after four unreturned serves in game 10 after half an hour. Both players served well in set number two, reaching 5-5 in no time at all before Karlovic shifted into a higher gear, winning 12 of the last 14 points to cement the triumph and book the place in the second round.
Serving at 4-5, Ivo hit three winners to stay in the set and he made the crucial move with a break at 15 in game 11 after three forehand errors from Auger-Aliassime and a double fault that sealed his fate in this encounter.
Standing just a game away from the finish line at 6-5, Karlovic landed three direct points to secure the win, pumped and motivated to make more damage in the draw. In the second round, Ivo scored an identical 6-4, 7-5 win over Evgeny Donskoy in an hour and 12 minutes, delivering fury from his initial shot to dominate in his service games, keeping the pressure on the Russian and breaking him once in each set to hit the last eight.
Serving at 71%, Ivo landed 17 aces and he lost seven points in his games, keeping Donskoy far from even a glimpse of a chance in the return games and converting two out of four break points to cement the win in style. As always, Ivo hit all-or-nothing returns on Evgeny's second serve and that paid dividends, stealing the Russian's game at 1-1 in the opening set and at 5-5 in set number two before concluding the match with a hold at 30 in the game that followed for another impressive win and the clash against Ernests Gulbis.
If he beats the Latvian, Karlovic will become the oldest ATP semi-finalist since Jimmy Connors in San Francisco in 1993 and he will have a chance if he continues to serve like in an opening couple of matches.