By Stephen Wood
New York - Ivo Karlovic has left the real world behind again to embrace more unexpected grand slam infamy.
The towering Croatian, a regular at Challenger and lower-tier events, stunned the tennis world by knocking out defending champion Lleyton Hewitt in the first round at Wimbledon in June.
He won one more match in London and on Friday, Karlovic repeated the feat at the US Open by beating Moroccan Hicham Arazi 3-6 7-6 7-6 7-6 to reach the third round.
'I hope that soon I won't have to qualify for any more tournaments'Yet Wimbledon and Flushing Meadows aside, the 24-year-old has only played in two other ATP Tour events this year - at Queen's Club in London and Umag, Croatia.
From the end of 2000 to the beginning of this season, he had improved his ranking by just 124 places, from 299 to 175.
In February of this year, he was coming to terms with a first round loss to Britain's oft-mocked Jamie Delgado at a challenger in Wrexham, Wales.
So for Karlovic to claim that success in New York at the final grand slam of the year is business as usual, takes some fathoming.
"But life for me is just the same," said Karlovic, who next faces 12th seed Sjeng Schalken.
"Okay, I get recognised a bit more because of my height and I have some (potential) sponsors to choose (between)...
"But since Wimbledon, I have played the same sort of tournaments. Life is the same.
"At the grand slams, I think I like the excitement. Now I try to stay focused."
A qualifier here after being refused a wildcard, Karlovic struggles with a stutter, which is exaggerated when the shy interviewee is faced by a bank of reporters.
On court, however, the bigger his audience the better his performance.
Now ranked 109, he intends to improve his ranking still further so that he can gain direct entry into main ATP events.
"It is my goal and I hope that soon I won't have to qualify for any more tournaments," he said.
Out of future equations is the prospect of military service, from which he says he has been excused.
So all he needs now to complete his perfect week is some contact from 2001 Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic, his fellow Croatian and someone Karlovic referred to at the All England Club as his "god".
"I haven't heard from Goran," said Karlovic. "But maybe I will, maybe there will be a phone call."