September 28, 2021

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At 42, Ivo Karlovic still doing his thing

Karlovic

FLUSHING MEADOWS – Of course, all the talk is about Roger Federer turning 40 and, at least right now, intending to try to come back after a third knee surgery.

But while you’re at it, give a shoutout to fellow 40-something Ivo Karlovic.

There are doubles players who are still kicking around at 42, into their third decade as pros. But there aren’t many 42-year-olds still playing singles.

Never mind players pushing seven feet, with all the extra wear and tear that entails just to live your life every day. Not to mention pulling 230 pounds around a tennis court.

Karlovic isn’t playing much – mostly in the U.S. And he’s not winning much, nor earning that much money.

Not much has changed over the years – including the hairdo and the scraggly beard. There’s just a lot more gray in it.

But he’s still out there competing. And even the matches he loses, he’s competitive.

And this week at the US Open, he won three straight and made it into the main draw in his 18th US Open.

On Thursday, Karlovic began his quest against Nikola Milojevic of Serbia, a 26-year-old ranked No. 160.

He defeated him 6-4, 7-6 (1), dropping 18 aces and losing just six points on serve. Notably, though, he won 31 percent of the points on Milojevic’s serve, so it wasn’t ALL about the serve.

Here’s what it looked like.

Three straight in the heat and humidity

On Thursday, Karlovic faced No. 17 seed Hugo Dellien of Bolivia, more of a clay-court guy, in the second round.

He won – 7-5, 6-7 (1), 6-2 in a rather perky two hours, one minute for three sets.

Against the 28-year-old ranked No. 127, Karlovic added 23 aces. He also broke Dellien – four times – and was broken once himself.

Last fall in Paris, Karlovic fell in the second round of qualifying to Benjamin Bonzi, but not before making American Noah Rubin find ever hidden corner of the court trying to track down his serve.

On the final day, Karlovic defeated solid No. 15 seed Yuichi Sugita of Japan, 6-3, 7-6 (5).

It was a big serving day – 25 aces in two sets and an hour, 21 minutes.

Date with Rublev on the Grandstand

This is only the third time Karlovic has been in the qualifying at the US Open.

He was straight into the main draw for his debut in 2003, where he dispatched No. 22 ranked Felix Mantilla in straight sets.

Somewhat surprisingly, he’s never done particularly well here.

Karlovic hasn’t won a main-draw match in New York since he lost to Kei Nishikori in the fourth round in 2016.

At “home” in Miami, Karlovic lost to Canadian Vasek Pospisil in two tiebreaks in the first round of the 2018 Miami Open.

For making the main draw, Karlovic is guaranteed $75,000 US. He’s made less than $44,000 US in 2021 in limited action., after surpassing the $10 million mark in career earnings late last year.

That said, this is Karlovic’s 22nd professional season. So you spread that out, it sounds a lot better as a total than when you break it down. Still, it’s good coin.

Karlovic’s reward – if you can call it that – is a date with No. 5 seed Andrey Rublev on the Grandstand, Monday afternoon.

Rublev is 23. The two have never met before.