Ivo Karlovic, beaten in the second round by Andy Murray here yesterday, left the All England Club in a state of fury last night after claiming that he had been cheated out of possible victory by line judges who foot-faulted him regularly in the match.
Karlovic, who calculated that he had been foot-faulted 11 times, called his treatment "outrageous", said the officials were biased and claimed that the credibility of the tournament had been damaged.
The 33-year-old Croatian, who was beaten 7-5, 6-7, 6-2, 7-6, has a reputation as one of the game's biggest servers, but his rhythm was interrupted by the foot faults. "I feel cheated," he said. "It was outrageous, outrageous. It's Wimbledon, Centre Court, and they do this.
"In my whole life, ever since I was eight years old, I didn't do this many foot faults. They were never called when it was like 30-0 or 40-0. It was always when it was 30-30 or in a tie-break. I mean, what is this? Is it Davis Cup or is it Wimbledon? After this match, the whole credibility of this tournament went down for me."
A fault is called if a player's foot touches the baseline – or the court inside the baseline – before he strikes the ball. Karlovic, who said he had never been foot-faulted more than once or twice in all his previous matches, said he had tried moving further behind the baseline when he served, but to no avail. "I don't know what I'm going to do," he said. "Right now I'm angry about it because I don't expect it here. Even though it is against an English [British] guy who they always want to win, I don't expect it here."
Murray said that he had no idea whether the calls had been correct. "If it turns out that he wasn't footfaulting, if I was him I'd be very, very disappointed," Murray said.
The Scot now meets Marcos Baghdatis, who works with Murray's former coach, Miles Maclagan. Murray was pleased with his own performance. He returned serve well, served consistently and hit the ball with assurance. However, his greatest asset was his mental strength. Against an opponent like Karlovic the need to remain focused and take the limited opportunities presented to him was crucial.
"I've had success against guys of that height and game style," Murray said. "I think I played him three times before and won each one. I've had a decent record against [John] Isner. I normally haven't minded it too much. It's just important to be patient against them. The more times you play against them you know more or less what to expect so you can be a little bit better prepared each time, mentally."
Until last month, Karlovic held the world record for the game's fastest serve at 156mph. His thunderbolts can trouble the very best, particularly on a slick grass court. With the ball struck from a great height – at 6ft 10in the Croatian is the tallest top-100 player in history – his serves bounce higher than most players'. His first serve of the match, a 130mph winner, drew a gasp from the crowd, while later in the game an audacious 128mph second serve – faster than many players' first serves – saved a break point.
Another bombshell hit the top of the fence at the back of the court and flew into the Royal Box, scattering the guests, while a group of eight Chelsea Pensioners might have wondered about the seating arrangements when they found themselves in the servers' line of fire in the second and third rows.
The first requirement when facing any big server is to hold your own serve and Murray got off to the worst possible start, losing five points in a row from 40-0 up as Karlovic broke in the opening game. However, the world No 4 responded in kind, though luck was on his side when his forehand clipped the top of the net and flew over Karlovic's racket on the second break point.
It was not the start that anyone had expected, but the match quickly fell into a more predictable pattern. Karlovic, having trouble returning Murray's kick serves, did not force another break point in the first set, while the Scot had to bide his time. Karlovic saved two set points with big serves at 4-5, but two games later Murray forced a third by running round a body serve to hit a fine backhand return winner, upon which the Croatian double-faulted.
There were no break points in the second set, at the end of which Murray played a poor tie-break. From 5-4 up he missed opportunities to break on the next two points, after which Karlovic took the set with a crisp volley winner. Murray had been calmness personified until that point but berated himself when he sat down at the subsequent changeover.
Nevertheless, the Scot's response was superb. On break point in the opening game of the third set, he hit a damaging return to feet and followed up with a beautiful winning lob into the corner – no mean feat against a man of Karlovic's size. Six games later, he broke again in similarly thrilling fashion, forcing Karlovic into a volley error with a cracking forehand down the line.
Although Karlovic was becoming increasingly frustrated by the foot faults, the Croatian hung on grimly in the fourth set, which went to another tie-break.
At 4-4, Karlovic was again foot-faulted on his first serve and went on to serve a double fault, upon which Murray went on to serve out for the match. The Scot again pointed his fingers to the sky in celebration, as he had after his first-round victory over Nikolay Davydenko, while Karlovic left the court an angry and frustrated man.