Big-serving Croat Ivo Karlovic’s red-hot summer continues. The 37-year-old Karlovic defeated top seed Feliciano Lopez 7-6 (5), 6-2 in the final of the inaugural Abierto Mexicano Mifel in Los Cabos last night. For the third-seeded Karlovic the title was his second of the summer and the eighth of his career. The 6-foot-11 Croatian won at Newport last month and was a finalist at Washington the following week. Doctor Ivo has posted a 14-2 record during the summer streak. Lopez, also a greybeard at 34, was denied back-to-back titles after winning at Gstaad last week. Karlovic improved to 6-3 against Lopez, while winning his fourth match in a row over the Spaniard. “It was a difficult match in the beginning,” Karlovic said. “He was playing really well. I was a little lucky at the end of the first set, but that gave me confidence for the rest of the match. I realized what he was doing and took my opportunities.” There were no breaks of serve in the first set, in fact nary a break point, and thus a tiebreaker was needed to decide the opener. Karlovic captured a mini-break on the fifth point and raced to a 5-2 lead. Lopez coughed up another mini-break at 3-5 to trail 6-3 with Karlovic serving for the set. The Croat gave back the two mini-breaks on his next two serves, but Lopez’s serve failed him again at 5-6 and Karlovic had a one-set lead. The second set was all Karlovic. Doctor Ivo broke the Spaniard in the sixth game, courtesy of a double fault and a perfectly executed drop volley, and the eighth when the Spaniard double-faulted on the first match point. It was over in one hour and 22 minutes. Karlovic served 21 aces and won 76 percent of his first service points. Lopez had five aces and won 81 percent of his first serves. The Spaniard served up five double faults, including the two crucial ones. “I thought I could have won, but I committed a few unforced errors in the tie-break and two big double faults in the second set and was broken twice,” Lopez said. “It was complicated because he does not give you many chances on his serve. It’s difficult to take positives today, but I believe that these recent weeks have been great for me. It’s another final and I have great memories from Cincinnati and New York, so I hope to play well.” Both players will compete in the Cincinnati Masters this coming week.
Reilly Opelka has done it again. The 18-year-old American wild card defeated No. 7 seed Donald Young 6-4, 6-4 in the quarterfinals of the BB&T Atlanta Open in the last match of the day session this afternoon. Opelka, ranked No. 837 coming into Atlanta, has now won three straight matches in his third ATP Tour level event. The 6-foot-11 American lost in the first round at both Washington, two weeks ago, and Houston in April. Young, ranked No. 53 in the world, had no answer for Opelka’s incredible serving and aggressive all-court game. Opelka hit 10 aces and won 80 percent of his first serves and 63 percent of his second. He erased the only two break points he faced. Opelka broke a sluggish Young in the opening game of the match and frustrated the 27-year-old Chicago native throughout. Young had break point opportunities on Opelka’s serve in the fourth and eighth games of the opener but failed to cash either one. Opelka took the set in just 39 minutes. Set number two was a one break deal also as Opelka broke in the fifth game. The big guy served it out at 30 to seal the upset in one hour and 11 minutes. “In the first set, he had a couple of break points. I was able to step up with some big serves,” Opelka said. “Then I started serving even better, and he barely had any chances in the second set. I have a lot of belief in my game and in my level right now. I’ve been doing a really good job with my movement, winning points on my opponent’s serve. The way I am serving now, I know I can at least get to a tie-break. But being able to hit good returns and passing shots is huge.” Young had four aces and seven double faults, and saved two of four break points. Opelka will take on John Isner in tomorrow’s semifinals.
Eighteen-year-old American wild card Reilly Opelka staved off two match points and held on to upset No. 3 seed Kevin Anderson of South Africa 6-7 (5), 6-3, 7-5 in the second round of the BB&T Atlanta Open earlier this afternoon. The 6-foot-11 Opelka won his first ATP Tour match on Monday and came into the tournament ranked No. 837 in the world. Anderson, a tall fellow himself at 6-foot-8, served for the match at 5-4 in the final set, but couldn’t cash either of two match points in the four deuce game. Opelka played with poise, youthful exuberance and dogged determination. The youngster, who has competed almost exclusively on the Futures circuit and was the junior Wimbledon champion last year, just refused to back down. Opelka served 20 aces to 14 for the big-serving Anderson, who was plagued by 14 double faults on the hot muggy afternoon. Anderson, ranked No. 28, broke to take a 3-1 lead in the opening set, but was broken right back. Both players held the rest of the set to force a tiebreaker, although not without peril. Anderson needed to save four break points in the ninth game and Opelka two in the 12th. A mini-break by Anderson on the second point was the difference in the tie-break. Opelka broke in the fourth game of the second set and raced to a 4-1 lead. The Michigan native struggled to hold serve in the seventh game, erasing three break points, and then served it out at 30, leveling the match at a set apiece. Anderson appeared to be cruising to victory after saving three break points in the third game of the final set and breaking in the fourth. He pushed his lead to 5-2 before Opelka captured service breaks in the ninth and 11th games. The young American served a love game to close out the win in two hours and 49 minutes. Opelka won 80 percent of his first service points and saved seven of nine break points. Anderson defended 14 of 18 break points. Opelka will take on fellow American and seventh seed Donald Young in the quarterfinals.
Top-ranked Novak Djokovic defeated third seed Kei Nishikori 6-3, 7-5 in Toronto this afternoon to win his fourth Rogers Cup title and his record 30th Masters Series crown. Djokovic also won the Rogers Cup, also known as the Canadian Masters, in 2007 and 2011-12, and improved to 10-2 against Nishikori with his ninth straight win over the Japanese. The loss dropped Nishikori’s record in Masters finals to 0-3. Djokovic hadn’t played a tournament since losing to Sam Querrey in the third round at Wimbledon in early July and it showed earlier this week. “My two best performances came in the semi-finals and the final,” Djokovic said. “It came at the right moment for me. It’s a process like any other that has happened many times in my career, where I would start a tournament still feeling a little bit uncomfortable on the court and searching for my rhythm, and then, as the tournament goes on, I find that proper comfort level with shots, with the way I feel, with my mental attitude.” The two traded blows back and forth through the first five games of the opening set before the Serb broke through in the sixth game to take a 4-2 lead. That was the only opening Djokovic needed as he wrapped up the set in 31 minutes. Nole got an early break in the second set to go up 2-1, but the tenacious Nishikori broke back in the sixth game to level things at 3-3. Both players held through the next four games before Djokovic captured the deciding break in the 11th game. The Serb served it out to seal the win in one hour and 22 minutes. “Today I think he stepped it up,” Nishikori said. “He raised his level a lot from these past couple days. He played really deep, and he didn’t give me any free points. He was especially serving really well, so I didn’t have many chances for my return game. I was really feeling the pressure every game.” Djokovic served five aces and won 81 percent of his first service points. Nishikori had four aces and won 63 percent of his first serves. Djokovic saved one of two break points, Nishikori two of five. Djokovic will now turn his focus to winning an Olympic gold medal in Rio, something that has eluded him throughout his magnificent career. He did win an Olympic bronze medal, though, in Beijing in 2008.
“Ol’ Man River” just keeps rolling along. Thirty-seven-year-old Ivo Karlovic toppled No. 8 seed Marin Cilic 6-4, 7-6 (3) in a second-round battle of fellow Croats earlier today at the Rogers Cup in Toronto. Karlovic, ranked No. 27 in the world, has certainly been on a roll lately, winning at Newport two weeks ago and reaching the final at Washington last week. The big-serving Karlovic blasted 20 aces and never faced a break point in taking down Cilic, while evening his record against his compatriot at 2-2 and winning for the 10th time in his last 11 matches. Karlovic captured the only break of the match in the third game of the first set and jumped out to an early 3-1 lead. The 6-foot-11 Croat yielded just four points on his serve and pounded out 12 aces in the 33-minute opener. Cilic struggled getting his first serve in, landing just 41 percent of his first deliveries, while saving two of three break points ( the only ones he faced in the match). The second set was all about serving as neither player faced any difficulties holding. Cilic upped his first service percentage to 60 percent and served two of his three aces. Karlovic stayed steady throughout. Doctor Ivo dominated the tie-break, capturing three of the four mini-breaks to wrap things up in one hour and 22 minutes. Karlovic won 82 percent of his first service points and hit 33 winners, while committing 20 unforced errors. Cilic had 19 winners and just 11 unforced errors.
Frenchman Albano Olivetti’s return to the ATP Tour after an extended injury layoff has had its ups and downs, but as of late it appears to be on the upswing. The big-serving Frenchman was on the sidelines for 18 months after surgery for a cervical hernia following Wimbledon in 2014, and only returned to the tour this January. Prior to the injury, suffered in an auto accident, the 24-year-old Olivetti had established a reputation as one the Top Guns of Fast Serve. The 6-foot-8 Frenchman cracked a 160-mph serve at the Bergamo Challenger in February of 2012 and thus the legend grew. Only Sam Groth’s 163.7-mph missile three months later at Busan tops it. Olivetti also has a 158-mph bomb on his resume. More important than the locker room bragging rights that the monster serve could afford him was the fact that Olivetti had reached a career-high No. 161 ranking on May 26, 2014, shortly before the injury. The big Frenchman’s career was on the rise and his upside looked very promising. Olivetti started the comeback trail unranked and posted a 4-4 record in four Futures events, before gaining entry in February to the Wroclaw Challenger via protected ranking. He reached the quarterfinals before losing to German Dustin Brown. That would unexpectedly start a string of eight consecutive losses leading up to Wimbledon. Olivetti got his mojo back in London, winning three qualifying matches at Roehampton, before losing one of the best matches of the early rounds at the All England Club. Fellow qualifier Matt Barton of Australia defeated Olivetti 6-7 (7), 7-6 (5), 6-3, 6-7 (5), 14-12 in an epic first-round marathon stretched out to three days due to rain stoppages. Olivetti served 56 aces in the match, the fourth most ever in a men’s contest. Since Wimbledon, the Frenchman has reached the quarterfinals at the Portugal F8 Futures (upping his ranking to No. 552) and Wednesday lost to top seed and 80th-ranked Evgeny Donskoy 7-6 (5), 6-7 (5), 6-7 (5) in the second round of the Recanati Challenger. Olivetti served 26 aces in the match and never faced a break point. The improvement shown in his last three tournaments should give the Frenchman a boost in confidence. That and more match play could be the answer to a significant climb up the ladder. Olivetti certainly has the talent and the athleticism. And the serve.
Big-serving Croat Ivo Karlovic defeated Luxembourg’s Gilles Muller 6-7 (2), 7-6 (5), 7-6 (12) in the final of the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships yesterday afternoon. The pulsating victory helped the second-seeded Karlovic erase bad memories of losing the championship match at the Newport Casino each of the past two years. At 37 years and four months, Karlovic became the oldest player to capture an ATP event since Marty Riessen won at Lafayette (La.) in 1979 at 37 years, nine months. The grueling serving duel between two of the best grass-court servers lasted two hours and 56 minutes and saw each player win 124 points. Karlovic fought off three match points and won it on his fifth match point to capture his seventh career title. “There was a lot of joy,” Karlovic said. “After all these years of losing in the finals, now I was finally able to do it. I was down match point, so that makes it even nicer.” The 6-foot-11 Karlovic improved to 3-1 against the third-seeded Muller and avenged his only loss to the smooth serving lefty, a defeat in the semifinals at ‘s-Hertogenbosch last month. There were just two breaks of serve in the match, and both occurred in the first five games of the opening set. Muller broke in the second game and Karlovic in the fifth as both players came out nervous. Karlovic in fact double-faulted six times in his first three service games. “In the beginning… I didn’t really feel my serve. I was a little bit doubtful,” Karlovic said. “But I just tried to hang in there and tried to get to a tie-break any way I could.” Muller dominated the first set tie-break with two mini-breaks and in the second set tie-break was a point away from gaining a match point. At 5-5 Karlovic hit a lob which Muller had a play on but let go and the ball landed in. The Croatian won the next point and the match was even. Neither player saw a break point in the third set, forcing, yet again, another tie-break. Back and forth they went, until Muller hit a volley long while serving at 12-12. That was the opening Karlovic needed and he delivered, stabbing a backhand volley into the open court serving at 13-12. The loss for Muller was his fifth in five ATP Tour finals. “If I look back at the beginning of the week I would have been happy being in the final,” Muller said. “Right now, it’s too close after the match. Having match points, being so close to winning my first title and to not win it, it’s tough.” Karlovic served 27 aces and won 88 percent of his first service points, while ending up with 10 double faults. Muller had 18 aces and won 83 percent of the points on his first serve.
Andy Murray won his second Wimbledon crown and third Grand Slam earlier today, defeating Milos Raonic 6-4, 7-6 (3), 7-6 (2) in a sterling display of all-court tennis. Murray played like an unstoppable force, serving impeccably while dulling Raonic’s booming serves and huge forehands. Three years ago the Scot became the first man from Great Britain in 77 years to hoist the championship trophy at SW19, defeating Novak Djokovic in the final. Today’s encounter with Raonic was Murray’s 11th trip to a Grand Slam championship match and the first time his opponent was someone other than Roger Federer or Djokovic. “This is the most important tournament for me every year. I’ve had some great moments here and also some tough losses,” Murray said. “The wins feel extra special because of the tough losses. I’m proud to have my hands on the trophy again.” Raonic fought Murray tooth and nail, and battled all the way to the end. Indeed there was no letdown from the superb form Raonic displayed in his upset of Federer in the semifinals on Friday. But Murray’s razor-sharp returns prevented the big-serving Canadian from getting the cheap points he was getting against others previously during the fortnight. Raonic didn’t hit an ace until his fifth service game and only had eight on the day. He had been averaging 23 per match through his first six matches. “I was keeping up with him,” Raonic said. “But then when it counted, I wasn’t able to get on top.” Murray captured the only break of the match on his third break-point opportunity in the seventh game of the opening set. From that point on he was in the drivers seat. It was close of course, but Murray was the master of the tiebreakers. He raced to 6-1 leads in both and won each easily. “I played really good stuff today. Milos has had a great few weeks on the grass and had some unbelievable wins,” Murray said. “His match against Roger in the semis was a great, great match.” Murray landed 67 percent of his first serves and won 87 percent of those points. He hit seven aces and 39 winners, while committing just 12 unforced errors. Raonic also had 39 winners, but committed 29 unforced errors. Murray saved two of two break points, Raonic six of seven.
Milos Raonic became the first Canadian to reach a Grand Slam final yesterday afternoon when he defeated No. 3-ranked Roger Federer 6-3, 6-7 (3), 4-6, 7-5, 6-3 in the semifinals at Wimbledon. It may have been the last best chance for the 34-year-old Federer to reach a record 11th final and capture an unprecedented eighth title on the lawns at SW19. In addition, it squelched his quest for an 18th Grand Slam trophy. Raonic, ranked No. 7 in the world, appeared to be on his way to defeat after dropping the second and third sets and Federer showing no signs of letup as the fourth set unfolded. But the 25-year-old Canadian, whose serve reached 144 mph and produced 23 aces, dug deep and foiled Federer every time he got an edge from the middle of the fourth set on. “I sort of persevered. I was sort of plugging away,” Raonic said. “I was struggling through many parts of the match. He gave me a little opening towards the end of the fourth. I made the most of it.” Raonic saved two break points to hold for 3-2 in the fourth set and then another — a monumental one — in the ninth game. The Canadian erased that break point with a 139 mph service winner to get back to deuce, preventing Federer from serving for the match at 5-4. Two games later at 5-6, and on course for a tiebreaker, Federer raced to a 40-love lead. After a forehand winner from Raonic the unthinkable happened — Federer double-faulted twice and it was 40-40. The Swiss would be broken and drop the set to deadlock the match. “I can’t believe I served a double fault twice. Unexplainable for me really,” Federer said. “Very sad about that and angry at myself because never should I allow him to get out of that set that easily.” Raonic had smooth sailing in the final set, capturing an early break for 3-1 lead and never facing a break point himself. He closed out the match with two aces, a service winner and a forced Federer forehand error. The Canadian hit 75 winners to 49 for Federer, but committed 40 unforced errors to 14 for the Swiss Maestro. More importantly, Raonic saved eight of nine break points, Federer five of eight. Raonic improved to 3-9 against Federer and will face Andy Murray in tomorrow’s final. Murray won Wimbledon in 2013 and was a finalist in 2012.
Australian qualifier Matt Barton withstood 56 aces from big-serving Albano Olivetti to win an epic three-day first round marathon 6-7 (7), 7-6 (5), 6-3, 6-7 (5), 14-12 at Wimbledon earlier today. Barton was the last man accepted into the Roehampton qualifying tournament after several late withdrawals in the final hours prior to the cutoff time last week. The 24-year-old Aussie won three matches at Roehampton, as did fellow qualifier Olivetti, to reach his first Grand Slam main draw. Olivetti was making his third Grand Slam appearance, having qualified for the 2013 U.S. Open and the recipient of a wild card for the 2014 French Open. Both appearances resulted in first-round losses for the big Frenchman. The two began their match at SW19 on Tuesday, but rain halted proceedings at 5-5 in the second set tiebreaker, ending play for the day. Barton edged ahead two sets to one on Wednesday before rain halted play again. After a four-hour delay, Olivetti took the fourth set and both held serve through six games of the fifth before rain once again terminated action for the day. On and on they played today. With no tiebreaker in the fifth set at Wimbledon, holding serve was paramount for survival. Olivetti blinked first, double-faulting (his 17th DF of the match) at 12-13, 30-40, Barton’s fourth match point in the nerve-wracking concluding set. The contest lasted fours and two minutes over the three days. Barton fell face down on the court after Olivetti’s crucial miscue. “That was ridiculous. I can’t believe it. I’m still shocked by the win,” Barton said. “I didn’t know what to do. I had no idea. I’ve never been in a situation like that. I didn’t know what to do. I was just relieved and couldn’t believe it. It was a great feeling for me. I’m stoked. Can’t believe it.” Barton served 32 aces and won 86 percent of his first service points, while double-faulting nine times. Olivetti won 84 percent of his first serves and 60 percent of his second, and saved 11 of 13 break points. Barton saved the only break point he faced. The Australian won 217 points to 216 for Olivetti, a telling tale on the closeness of the match. “To win a five set match like this at Wimbledon, coming through qualies, my first main draw. To win is pretty exciting,” Barton said. “I’m just excited to play again.” Barton will face another big server, John Isner, in the second round.