Australian Open 2017

Karlovic's aces marathon

Croatia's Ivo Karlovic punching the air after surviving a five-hour, five-set, 84-game first-round battle against Argentina's Horacio Zeballos.
Croatia's Ivo Karlovic punching the air after surviving a five-hour, five-set, 84-game first-round battle against Argentina's Horacio Zeballos.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Croat smashes record 75 of them over 5 hours to defeat Zeballos, winning the fifth set 22-20

MELBOURNE • Croatian Ivo Karlovic fired a record 75 aces as he beat Horacio Zeballos in an 84-game marathon which went more than five hours at the Australian Open yesterday.

The 20th seed threw his hands in the air in delight after sealing a 6-7 (6-8), 3-6, 7-5, 6-2, 22-20 victory when Zeballos ballooned an attempted lob high into the night sky.

The match beat the Australian Open's previous tiebreak-era record of 83 games, set in Andy Roddick's win over Younes El Aynaoui in 2003.

At 5hrs 15 min, it was one of the longest matches in the tournament's history, although still short of the 5hrs 53 min set in the 2012 men's final between Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal.

"This is what I will, after my career, remember," said Karlovic, the world No. 21.

"If it was an easy match or I lost easy, I wouldn't remember. But this one definitely I will remember forever."

Karlovic embraced his exhausted first-round opponent from Argentina, then exchanged high fives with a large part of the crowd which had stuck with the contest from its start in the afternoon sun to the finish under the lights on the tiny Court 19.

With all the other matches on the outer courts long finished, a carnival atmosphere had developed, as the players tried and failed to break each other's serve in the final set.

Organisers sent ballboys running off to get more energy drinks as the marathon continued, with the gloom punctuated occasionally by fireworks being set off at a match at the neighbouring Melbourne Cricket Ground.

The break point Karlovic converted was only the fourth in the 42 games in the deciding set, with long rallies at a premium as the serves continued to power into the back fences at both ends.

The 2.11m-tall Karlovic's 75 aces were the most in Australian Open history and the fourth-most in tennis history.

American John Isner recorded 113 aces in his epic victory over Nicolas Mahut at Wimbledon in 2010 - the longest tennis match ever.

"I was thinking about that other match Isner against Mahut, I was hoping little bit it could go that long, so I could also have a record," said Karlovic.

Mahut had 103 service winners in the encounter that spanned three days. After 11 hrs 5 min of play, and a total of 183 games, Isner won 70-68 in the final set.

Karlovic also holds the third-best aces total - 78 - achieved at a 2009 Davis Cup match against Czech Radek Stepanek.

The 37-year-old will have two days to rest his legs before his second round contest against local wildcard Andrew Whittingham, who earlier beat Czech Adam Pavlasek 6-4, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 in a relatively modest 145 minutes.

Defending champion Novak Djokovic launched his bid for a record seventh title at Melbourne Park with an impressive 6-1, 7-6 (7-4), 6-2 win over Spain's Fernando Verdasco.

Former world No. 1 Rafael Nadal also enjoyed a commanding straight-sets win yesterday, defeating Germany's Florian Mayer 6-3, 6-4, 6-4.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 18, 2017, with the headline 'Karlovic's aces marathon'. Print Edition | Subscribe