Ivo Karlovic, a few weeks shy of turning 41 lost in the opening round of the Maharashtra Open in Pune on Monday. But the man whom the tennis world calls “Dr. Ivo” is not ready to give it up, just yet, despite the defeat seeing him drop points courtesy of his being a finalist in the event last year.
Not that he did not rue the opportunities that had lapsed in his match against Cedrik-Marcel Stebe. Karlovic had six break points in the opening service game and two more when trying to break back at 2-3. Stebe’s wiliness and an errant let cord clipping put paid to Karlovic’s hopes in the set – and as it would turn out, in the match.
“When you have all those opportunities and you don’t use them, [it’s not] possible to it’s a little bit difficult to stay positive. That was the opportunities that I had and I wasn’t able to use them,” Karlovic said in his post-match press conference.
Yet, there was never a moment in the match when it seemed like he was out of it, despite looking more worn-out and tired towards its end. Stebe’s efforts were – in a continuation of his comeback trail from injuries – laudable.
Karlovic’s pushing his opponent physically and mentally to outwit him, at the age of 40, was just as incredible. On a broader context, Karlovic’s being able to do just this consistently – regardless of wins or losses – is what makes him so inspiring.
To Karlovic though, this is part of what makes him a sportsman and more specifically, a tennis player. Age does not factor into it for him. “I train hard, work hard. I [haven’t begun] to train any less than when I was 35,” Karlovic said.
“I don’t train anything less. I am not any weaker. It’s all about day-to-day motivation. With my age, it’s a little bit harder now, every day to be that motivated but I try”. Although he is out of the ATP top-100 presently – with his ranking dropping further following his hastened exit in Pune – the Croatian’s trying has never seen him move farther from among the 100 top players of the world.
In fact, the former world no. 14 was the oldest player to make the cut-off for 2020 Australian Open and, when he won his first-round match against Vasek Pospisil, he became the oldest player since Ken Rosewall in 1978 to win a match at the Major.
Funnily, that win of Rosewall’s was before Karlovic’s was even around. Speaking of lifespans, in the 20 years that he has been around professionally, Karlovic has seen the rise and the eventual settling in of the baseline-dominated style of play.
He has taken this in his stride even as he has made himself comfortable with his “old school” play-making. He “I am used to it. It isn’t anything new. I just have to do my execution. My execution has to be a little bit better than what it was.
That’s it,” he said, before summarising wryly, “This is how I am. I do all those volleys and everything. It’s a little bit old school but I am old school, also”. As it turns out, in the midst of the power-soaked baseline-to-baseline exchanges, Ivo Karlovic with his old-school style is no less interesting to watch, making even the contemplation of his leaving the sport difficult for the audience, thus completing this unorthodox-yet-unique circle. Photo Credit: Tata Open Maharashtra