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 »  Home  »  Sports  »  (E) "IVO IS MY MAN"
By Nenad N. Bach | Published  09/2/2004 | Sports | Unrated




By Katarina Tepesh

I was working in the media room on the first day of the US OPEN, when approached by the famous NBC commentator BUD COLLINS. Shaking hands and smiling widely, "I have seen you before?" Sure, last year at the IVO KARLOVIC press conference. "Yes, IVO IS MY MAN!" exclaimed Collins and raised his hands in delight.

Legendary Collins, along with his beautiful wife Anita, are always on the lookout for new tennis talent and took the time to learn a few words in Croatian long time ago when Goran Ivanisevic played and eventually won Wimbledon. "Kako si? Dobro…. Hvala" and so on.

Last year, Collins took an intense interest to the newcomer to the US Open and wrote a very complimentary article on Karlovic.

Disappointingly, this year Ivo Karlovic lost in the first round to No. 5 seed British Tim Henman 7-6, 6-7, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4. Karlovic had 39 aces to Henman's 10. It was a very close match, played point by point. Despite Henman's severe back problems, he had 33 unforced errors versus 54 from Karlovic.

"Karlovic has definitely got one of the best serves. It's coming from an angle that I've never seen before," said Henman.

Six-foot, 10-inch Karlovic's serve is a study of technique and rhythm, as well as a lesson in the physics of being almost a foot taller than most players are. His fastest serve was 138 mph, a speed Roddick reaches regularly, but Karlovic hits the ball at such severe angle that his serve oftentimes resembles an overhead smash struck from midcourt.

During the match, the British fans playfully chanted, "Hen - man, Hen - man…" In turn, Croatian fans responded with chanting "Ivo - Ivo - Ivo."

Karlovic provides the most intense tennis matches and is a very serious person. He only breaks into a wide smile when I ask about his girlfriend. It turns out, I was talking about his girlfriend from last year, the medical student from Zagreb. However, Karlovic tells me, he already moved on to a new girlfriend from Miami. He was happy that she joined him in New York.

Coached by Goran Oresic, 25-year-old Karlovic began playing tennis at age six. His father Vlado works as a meteorologist and mother Gordana works in agriculture. Has one older sister, Ana, who used to play when she was younger. Ivo played for Croatia Davis Cup team since 2000. However, there is trouble in paradise. Captain Nikola Pilic does not treat him well and Karlovic vowed not to work with Pilic again. In general, every person talking with Ivo must have patience to carefully listen and understand his speech impediment, slurring his words.

By the way, watching the match of Mario Ancic vs. Olivier Rochus was No. 2 player in the world Kim Clijsters from Belgium rooting for compatriot Rochus.

There are more Croatian fans at US Open this year than ever before. It is even nicer when a total stranger takes an interest to Ivo Karlovic, Mario Ancic and Ivan Ljubicic. The loyal fan is Jeffrey Lesser from New York and he wants to move to the beautiful Croatia! Not to mention the super attractive Croatian players of Karolina Sprem, Jelena Kostanic and Silvija Talaja.

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