Third Time Lucky As Karlovic Lands Newport Title
Croat wins seventh career ATP World Tour title
In his third Newport final, Ivo Karlovic won his first title at the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships on Sunday. The 6'11” Croat erased three championship points and came back from a set down against Luxembourg's Gilles Muller to win 6-7(2), 7-6(5), 7-6(12) in two hours and 56 minutes.
The 37-year-old Karlovic takes home his seventh career ATP World Tour title and also becomes the oldest winner in the tournament's 40-year history. Fabrice Santoro, 35, won the 2008 title. Karlovic, at 37 years, 4 months, also becomes the oldest ATP World Tour singles champion since Marty Riessen (37 years, 9 months) in 1979 (Lafayette, La.).
"After all these years when I was losing in the final and now I was finally able to do it," Karlovic said. "And I was down a match point. That makes it even nicer."
The big-serving Croat, who was playing in his third consecutive Newport final, took the title with titanic serving. He blasted 27 aces and won almost 90 per cent of his first-serve points (71/80).
But both he and Muller began the match battling nerves. Karlovic, who had been broken once in Newport heading into the final (36/37), lost his first service game at 15 to give Muller the early break. The 6'4” left-hander then held to lead 3-0. But Karlovic broke back and like that, the two were headed to a predictable first-set tie-break.
“In the beginning... I didn't really feel my serve. I was a little bit doubtful,” said Karlovic, who double faulted six times in his first three service games. “But I just tried to hang in there and tried to get to a tie-break any way I could.”
Muller dominated to the first set tie-break, though, and in the second set tie-break, he was a swing away from gaining a match point. At 5/5, Karlovic tossed up a lob and Muller had a play on it but let it sail over him. The ball bounced in, and Karlovic evened the match on the next point.
Neither player saw a break point again in the third set, and the match between two of the best grass-court servers headed into a final set tie-break. Muller saw the first match point at 6/5 but Karlovic erased it. Muller would then erase four match points but at 12/12, he tapped a volley long to give Karlovic his fifth match point and the first on his racquet. The 26-point tie-break was the longest in a decisive set in an ATP World Tour final in the Open Era.
"His serve is unbelievable. I was trying to return anyway I could," Karlovic said. "It was difficult. I was really happy that I was able to do it."
The win gives Karlovic his first title of the season. The Zagreb native struggled with a left knee injury earlier in the year. He also improves to 7-8 in ATP World Tour finals. Karlovic will bring home 250 Emirates ATP Rankings points and $91,630.
"I'm really happy that I was able to do it this year," he said of his first Newport title.
Muller was going for his first career ATP World Tour title. The 33 year old has reached five finals, including two this season also ('s-Hertogenbosch, l. to Mahut). Before this year, his last final was in Atlanta in 2012. The Luxembourg native collects 150 Emirates ATP Rankings points and $48,260.
“Having match points, being so close to winning my first title and not winning, it's tough,” Muller said. “He played good. He came up with the big shots, with the right shots in the big moments and that's what makes you win those matches.”