Ivo Karlović Returns to Top 100, Will No Longer Compete in Challenger Tour

Daniela Rogulj

It’s been a long and tough year for Ivo Karlović, and although he finished with a loss in the quarterfinals of the ATP Challenger in Houston to Niko Dominik Koepfer, a player 15 years his junior, the 39-year-old Croatian tennis player had no reason to feel defeat – he did achieve his goal of finishing 2018 among the Top 100 players on the individual ATP rankings.

“By entering the quarterfinals, I placed in the Top 100 and have direct entry to the Australian Open. I played this match without any pressure, and it wasn’t so bad,“ the Croatian veteran said after losing 6-1, 6-4 to the left-handed German player in Houston on Friday when a cold front swept Texas all week, reports Index.hr on November 17, 2018. 

“I played the first two games in this,” Karlović revealed, pointing to his long-sleeved shirt. 

“Today, the ball went all over the court,” Ivo said, seeking a logical explanation for the persuasive defeat, which kept him on the court for just 53 minutes against the No. 172 ranked tennis player in the world, and also his rival for the second time this year.

Despite the defeat, Karlović secured a return to the Top 100 after winning against American Marcos Giron and Ecuadorian Emilio Gomez. Karlović had dropped off the list in June after nearly five years of an uninterrupted stay among the Top 100 tennis players in the world.

After the US Open, Karlović found himself in 138th place on the ATP ranking, which was his worst ranking since he was 155th on July 15, 2013. In order to improve his position on the ladder and extend his career, Karlović dedicated the season to the Challenger series. That was the best decision he could have made, because he advanced to the final of Monterrey where he lost against another veteran, Spaniard David Ferrer.

But only two weeks later in Calgary, Dr. Ivo made it to the final again, and this time and to the title, defeating Australian Jordon Thompson. He once again wrote history in the Guinness Book of Records, becoming the oldest winner in the Challenger series tournaments, just four months before his 40th birthday.

The quarterfinals in Charlottesville and Houston brought him enough points to re-establish himself among highly respected company – the Top 100 in the world. Namely, only two players before him at that time managed to achieve the same, and both are tennis legends as well – Australian Ken Rosewall and American Jimmy Connors.

Karlović will end in 98th or 99th this season, opening up the opportunity to compete with the best tennis players in the world in 2019. In sports where 30-year-old players are on their way to retirement or devoted exclusively to playing doubles, being in Karlović’s position today is a privilege. But there is certainly the question of how long he can keep up with the 30-year-olds, and especially the younger players that come in. 

“We will see how the new season will start, and I have decided that I will no longer play in the Challengers, but only the ATP and Grand Slam tournaments,” Ivo revealed.

In light of the new changes in the tournament and scoring system, this is a completely understandable decision, and in his 2018 appearances, Ivo Karlović has shown that he can still handle the big stage even though the season ended with a negative in ATP and Grand Slam tournaments (11- 16). Several tightly-lost matches, and slightly worse results when it comes to tie-breaks (17-24), directed the 39-year-old against the Challenger, where, in a variety of rising stars, returnees and veterans again showed their value. Statistically speaking, Karlović is still at the top when it comes to serving. The only player better than him in 2018 was American John Isner.

Karlović still attracts the interest of tennis lovers, from the youngest, who ask for autographs and photographs, to the older fans who remember his earlier performances in Houston, a city where he won the first of eight individual ATP titles 11 years ago. 

This year’s Houston visit did not end with the same result, but Ivo Karlović can celebrate the fact that he’ll spend his 40th birthday on the ATP Tour.

To learn more about Ivo Karlović, follow TCN’s dedicated page here


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