On this day: Ivo Karlovic stuns defending Wimbledon champion Lleyton Hewitt



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On this day: Ivo Karlovic stuns defending Wimbledon champion Lleyton Hewitt

In one of the most unexpected Wimbledon finals in the Open era, Lleyton Hewitt defeated David Nalbandian 6-1, 6-3, 6-2 to in 2002, standing as one of the favorites a year later as the reigning champion and a three-time Queen's winner.

Nonetheless, his 2003 Wimbledon campaign proved to be the shortest one, stunned by a qualifier Ivo Karlovic 1-6, 7-6, 6-3, 6-4 in two hours and 24 minutes on June 23, becoming the first defending champion who lost in the opening round of the world's biggest tennis event since 1967 and Manolo Santana!

Ranked 203rd, the 24-year-old Croat made his Grand Slam debut on the Wimbledon Centre Court on that day, producing stunning tennis to overcome a slow start and topple world no. 2 in four sets, writing one of the most astonishing Wimbledon stories.

Ivo had failed to qualify for the first ten Grand Slams, entering this match with just two ATP wins. However, no one could have noticed that on the court against Lleyton as he blasted 59 service winners and fended off ten out of 13 break chances for one of the most remarkable wins ever.

Hewitt didn't know much about the tallest player that had ever stepped on the sacred tennis court, unprepared to face one booming serve after another and never finding the rhythm after a strong opener, allowing Ivo to control the pace.

The Aussie was off to a perfect start and it seemed it would be an easy day at the office for him before Karlovic found his range and started to dominate in the crucial moments, giving his rival no rhythm and avoiding any longer rallies with serve&volley in virtually every point.

Hewitt created a break chance in eight different return games but that wasn't enough to carry him through, scoring three breaks in the opening set and none after that!

The second set was crucial, with Lleyton yet to face a break point and creating six chances on the other side, including a set point at 5-4.

Ivo repelled them all and stole the tie break to level the score at 1-1, gaining a massive momentum that drove him in sets three and four where he broke Hewitt once to secure the win and book his place in the second round.

Ivo got broken in the very first game of the encounter after a double fault, unable to endure the pressure of the big stage and the rival on the other side of the net. The Croat hit another double fault in game three to find himself 3-0 down in less than ten minutes, standing no chance on the return and suffering another break in game seven to send Lleyton 6-1 up following another double fault.

Ivo had to play against a couple of break points in the second game of the second set, blasting four winners to get out of trouble and make a great hold that marked the end of his downfall. Hewitt had an even more significant opportunity to move in front, leading 40-0 in game four before Karlovic erased them with three service winners, bringing the game home with a smash winner after a few deuces to level the score at 2-2 and hang in there.

With the boost on his side, the Croat raised his level after that, serving well and finally reaching some deuces on the return before having to play against a set point at 4-5 following a forehand down the line winner from Lleyton.

Ivo fired three service winners to get out of jail and stay in contention, setting up a tie break after a hold at love in game 12. From 5-4 down, he hit two unreturned serves and closed it with a crosscourt forehand winner, stealing the set and roaring towards his box in a moment of relief after saving those six break points throughout the set.

Facing a break point in the third game of the third set, Ivo blasted another booming serve, delivering a pivotal hold to stay on the positive side of the scoreboard. Lleyton hit a double fault a few minutes later to offer Karlovic the first break chance in the entire match (more than 90 minutes since the start of the encounter), giving serve away following another double fault that sent Ivo 3-1 up.

Karlovic cemented the advantage with an ace, producing more of those to find himself 5-2 in front and closer to the set. Hewitt lost the ground in those moments, saving a set point in the next game to reduce the deficit and force Karlovic to serve for the set.

That proved to be no problem for the giant server what so ever, hitting four aces in game nine to wrap up the set and move a step away from a considerable surprise that had looked impossible before the second set tie break.

The Aussie had a chance to regain the momentum in the second game of the fourth set before Ivo found his mighty serve again to repel a break chance, with both serving well in the next couple of games to stay locked at 4-4.

From 30-15 in the ninth game, Lleyton got broken when his backhand landed long, with a qualifier serving for the victory in the next one. Showing no signs of nerves, Ivo earned three match points with two smash winners and sealed the deal with the 59th service winner of the match, performing one of the biggest upsets in the history of tennis and especially at Wimbledon where the similar thing occurred only once before in the tournament history that goes way back to 1877!