Murray crushes battling Croatian giant Karlovic
After being taken to five sets in his first two matches here at the French Open, what Andy Murray needed more than anything in his third-round encounter with Ivo Karlovic was a quickfire victory.
The world No 2 delivered in emphatic fashion, crushing the giant Croatian 6-1, 6-4, 7-6 in an hour and 56 minutes to earn a meeting tomorrow with the winner of the meeting between John Isner and Teymuraz Gabashvili.
Karlovic, a man mountain at 6ft 11in tall and weighing more than 16 stone, had pummelled his first two opponents this week with 72 aces, but in Murray he was facing one of the game's great returners. Having dropped serve only twice in those first two matches, Karlovic was broken three times in his first four service games here as Murray took charge.
"I got off to a quick start and against someone like Ivo that's important," Murray said afterwards. "But he fought right to the end."
At 37 Karlovic was the oldest man to play in the third round of a Grand Slam singles competition for 25 years. He passed Goran Ivanisevic's all-time aces record last year and still has an awesome serve.
Murray, however, has nearly always played well against the biggest servers. His lightning reactions and speed of thought and movement help him to get to more balls than most and can sometimes force opponents to go for that little bit extra on serve.
The quality of his returns was exceptional. Karlovic, knowing that he would have little chance if the rallies developed into lengthy baseline exchanges, put his faith in serve-and-volley, but Murray kept putting him in trouble by hitting returns into his feet, especially in the early stages. Getting down to play balls that low is not easy when you are 6ft 11in tall. Even if Karlovic did get the balls back in court he was often able to do little with them.
Karlovic hit only 14 aces to Murray's eight, but an equally telling statistic was the 75 per cent of first serves which the Scot put in court, which is more than usual. By finding the target with so many first serves he did not allow Karlovic many chances to attack. Murray did not have to defend a single break point all match.
"The return has normally been the strongest part of my game but against Ivo it's not always down to you," Murray said after the match. "When he serves well there's not much you can do."