Saturday 17 March 2018

Big-hitting 'Dr Ivo' threatens to test Murray's reflexes to the limit


Great Britain's Andy Murray and coach Amelie Mauresmo during practice at Wimbledon ahead of his return to action today
Great Britain's Andy Murray and coach Amelie Mauresmo during practice at Wimbledon ahead of his return to action today

Simon Briggs

Having revealed that he watched Toy Story 2 and Borat to relax in the build-up to his third-round match, Andy Murray should perhaps turn to the Austin Powers franchise in preparation for his meeting with Ivo Karlovic this afternoon.

Karlovic's nickname on the circuit is Dr Ivo - a reference to the caricature of Dr Evil, who is played by Mike Myers in the movies. The name has stuck because there is something slightly unnerving about Karlovic, a 6ft 10in Croat with a deadpan sense of humour.

A minor controversy blew up after his third-round win against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, during which he saved a set point with a double-hit volley that should really have been ruled illegal. Asked in the post-match press conference what had been going through his mind at the time, he fixed the questioner with an intense stare and replied: "That I was extremely lucky. I liked it a lot."

According to Murray: "I think Ivo is quite quiet, but he has obviously got a fun side in the way he celebrates matches and stuff."

In any case, there were not too many smiles in Karlovic's interviews at Wimbledon three years ago, the last time he played Murray on Centre Court. After their second-round match, which Murray won 7-5, 6-7, 6-2, 7-6, the talk was all about the 11 foot-faults called against Karlovic's size-16 shoes. "I mean, what is this?" Karlovic asked afterwards. "Is it Davis Cup or is it Wimbledon? After this match, the whole credibility of this tournament went down for me. I feel cheated."

Murray is unlikely to receive so many generous donations today, so his cat-like reflexes will have to be at their best if he is to stop his opponent reeling off two-minute service games without trouble.

Already in this tournament, Karlovic has pinged down 136 aces even though he looks like he is simply flicking his wrist at the ball, as if reaching up to squash a fly on the ceiling with a rolled-up newspaper. And then a yellow blur is suddenly flying at up to 135mph.


Murray, who was fascinated by the match in Halle a fortnight ago when Karlovic broke the ATP record by hitting 45 aces against Tomas Berdych, said: "What I normally do before I play the big servers is to get the coach or hitting partner to stand just behind the service line and then try to hit aces at me for 10 to 15 minutes.

"I was watching the live-score app (during the Halle match) in one of the rain delays at Queen's. They were pretty amazing numbers, and everyone was talking about it."

When playing Karlovic, it is essential to hold your own service games, something Murray managed to do throughout their 2012 meeting. He sent a chill through the crowd when he clutched at his serving shoulder on Saturday during a topsy-turvy 6-2, 6-2, 1-6, 6-1 win over Andreas Seppi.

Happily, though, this turned out to be a niggle rather than a tear. Murray was tactful in the interview room on Saturday night. He did acknowledge that Seppi's seven-minute injury time-out had caused his shoulder to stiffen up in the chilly evening breeze, but also pointed out that his opponent was well known as a fair and sportsmanlike competitor. "Andreas isn't like that," he said. "I've never ever seen any issues (with him) on the tour."

On the broader issue of medical time-outs, however, Murray yesterday used his BBC column to argue in favour of abolition. Asked whether the rules on toilet and treatment breaks should be altered to prevent cynical exploitation, he replied "Yes, they should be. Why not? They could get rid of the medical time-outs. You can't get rid of toilet breaks but you could have them at the end of the set.

"Normally the toilets are right by the side of the court. Normally they are right there and there's no reason for a toilet break to last 10 minutes. But sometimes we play for four or five hours and you're drinking so many fluids, you can't get rid of them altogether - what if someone needs to go?

"You don't want to see what might happen on the court!" (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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