Last week in Tokyo, Croatia's Ivo Karlovic hit his 1,000th ace of the season, becoming only the fourth player to do so since the ATP began keeping record in 1991.
The man who Roger Federer labeled as "uncomfortable" to play against stands 6 feet 10 inches and is the tallest professional tennis player on tour. With that kind of height, one would expect Karlovic to have a pretty powerful serve.
Karlovic joins the power trio of Pete Sampras, countryman Goran Ivanisevic, and Andy Roddick as the only other players to have hit 1,000 aces in a season.
While Karlovic's career hasn't been as spectacular as his fellow power-servers, he has hit aces at an unmatched pace. Tennis Web site ATPtennis.com shows that Karlovic averages 20.4 aces per match compared to the next best of 15.4 aces per match when Goran Ivanisevic set the record of 1,477 aces in a single season in 1996.
Ivo Karlovic, now ranked a career-best 25, reached the semifinals last week in Tokyo before bowing out to eventual champion David Ferrer of Spain 7–6 (3), 6–3.
After that match Ferrer said, "He is the best server on the ATP circuit."
Karlovic reflected on his achievement after the loss: "Reaching the 1,000 aces here it is such a big accomplishment. I know it was only Goran [Ivanisevic], [Andy] Roddick, and [Pete] Sampras, so I am in great company."
Defense Triumphs Over Offense
No matter what the sport, it's always interesting to see what happens when the best offense meets the best defense. The pundits say defense wins championships and they were proven right here.
Karlovic's semifinal loss to Ferrer featured, statistically speaking, the game's best server against the game's best at returning serves.
In the latest Ricoh ATP MatchFacts published Oct. 8, Karlovic leads in four of six serving categories (aces 1,029, service games won 94 percent, first serve points won 84 percent, and break points saved 74 percent).
Ferrer leads three of four return of serve categories (break points converted 49 percent, points won returning second serve 57 percent, and return games won 37 percent).
While tennis may have never seen a server like Karlovic, the biggest improvement to be made in his game would be the return of serve. Then maybe he wouldn't lead the ATP tour in tiebreaks played.