Juan-Carlos Ferrero? Tommy Haas? Lleyton Hewitt? Andy Roddick? Roger Federer? Ivo Karlovic?
This sounds like a run-down of 1995’s Future Stars of Tennis. Or the quarterfinals of a major in, say 2003. But, 2009??? No chance. Well, that is the case, as it is these six elder statesmen of the men’s tour making up 3/4 of the final eight at Wimbledon in 2009–joined only by young guns, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic. For my money, I find it incredibly exciting as there is a great combination of the youth (Murray and Djokovic), the accomplished (Federer and Roddick), the career revivals (Hewitt, Ferrero, and Haas), and the throwback late-bloomer (Karlovic). So, what are we to expect tomorrow? That is anybody’s guess.
#2 Roger Federer vs. #22 Ivo Karlovic
In the first match on Centre Court tomorrow, the five-time Wimbledon champ will take on a throwback to the days where groundstrokes were few and rallies were short, who, by the way, happens to be 6-foot-10.
How They Got Here
The Federer has not exactly been as overwhelmingly dominant this year as he has in year’s past, but he still has only dropped one set–a third-set tiebreak to 27-seed Philipp Kohlschreiber. He is coming off a straight-set win over 13-seed Robin Soderling in a rematch of the surprising French Open finale. Soderling had chances in both the second and third set tiebreaks, but Federer showed exactly why he has won 14 Grand Slams and made an astonishing 20 consecutive Grand Slam semis–he wins big points.
Ivo Karlovic won his first-round match against Slovakian Lucas Lacko in straight sets. But, Lacko did something that no one else has done yet against Karlovic–he earned a break point. In fact, Lacko had 4 break points in that match. He was 0-for-4. Since then, Karlovic has gone through three more rounds, including matches against 9-seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and 7-seed Fernando Verdasco, without facing a single break point. Yes, you read that correctly–IVO KARLOVIC HAS NOT BEEN BROKEN IN 79 SERVICE GAMES AND HAS ONLY FACED 4 BREAK POINTS ALL TOURNAMENT, ALL IN THE FIRST ROUND! He has made 71% of his first serves (and they are bombs) and won 91% of the points on that first serve. Unbelievable! Needless to say, Karlovic is on an absolute roll with his serve. However, this is not to say that he has cruised because his lack of an all-around game makes it difficult for him to break. He broke Tsonga once in the third round, winning 7-6, 6-7, 7-5, 7-6, and Verdasco once in the fourth round, winning 7-6, 6-7, 6-3, 7-6.
Needless to say, we will probably see a tiebreak or two. I will at least go out on a limb and say that Karlovic will NOT break Federer–that much is pretty sure. So, it is going to come down to the big points in a tiebreak or a Federer break. In both cases, I like Federer, but not easily. I could see Dr. Ivo winning at least one tiebreak and making Federer really work for his 21st straight semifinal. Federer is 8-1 against Karlovic all-time, but the one win was on hardcourts in Cincinnati last year, where Karlovic beat Fed without a single break, 7-6, 4-6, 7-6.
Federer in 4. Look for Federer to break once and win a pair of tiebreaks (the big points), but it will not be a walk in the park. Karlovic is serving as well as anyone ever has, and, as boring as it is to see no breaks, it is pretty incredible to see someone do something better than any else does in the world. Then again, the game is tennis, not “serving,” and Federer is better at tennis than anyone else in the world, so we will go with him to win this one.