The present era of ATP tennis has now witnessed its oldest player competing on the circuit. The Croatian ace-maker, Ivo Karlovic acknowledges that his game makes him feel younger. As he progresses into the round-of-16 at the Californian Tennis Paradise, Ivo Karlovic became the oldest winner of a Masters 1000 singles match since the time of inception of the series in the year 1990.
The best server on the men’s tour recently entered his forties, and to commemorate his 40th birthday, Ivo Karlovic penned his resonating voyage on the professional track of tennis. Also, Ivo Karlovic revealed his endeavours behind the enchantments which he generates with his racquet.
In April 2013, the Miami resident, Ivo Karlovic was diagnosed with encephalitis which is an inflammation of the brain. “When I eventually left the hospital I was a different man, realising what was important in my life. Everything cleared up and I knew what I really loved to do: tennis,” this was the thought which came to his mind upon learning about his ailment for the very first time.
Post that, hitting the tennis courts had become a challenge for Ivo Karlovic and began by practising for five minutes, the next day for eight and then ten minutes. “ I had always been scared of dying, but after this experience, I thought that if it happened, it happened,” Ivo Karlovic mentioned.
Even, boarding an airplane was an apprehensive task for the Croatian, and his mind brimmed with bleak notions when he got on to a plane after the diagnosis of encephalitis. “As I sat on the plane, I noticed that I was completely wet, drenched with sweat. You would have thought that I had walked through a torrential rainstorm to get on the plane,” Ivo Karlovic wrote.
A tennis player is still a warrior even when he/she is not present on the court. Battling with the adversities of life with a sanguine frame of mind, Ivo Karlovic did not let his first love to part ways with him. “ I was 34 years old and while I understood it would take time to fully recover, there was no way I would finish my career on those terms. I wouldn’t let the disease take away my lifelong passion. Not after everything I’d been through,” Ivo Karlovic mentioned.
When Ivo Karlovic was first introduced to tennis he didn’t really understand the game and did not enjoy it. His was brought up in the culture where football was ubiquitous. And his countryfolk did not know what tennis was.
“I remember watching Boris Becker win his first Wimbledon in 1985 when I was six, and I thought his all-silver Puma racquet was the coolest thing. It was expensive and almost impossible to find at home. A few years later he switched to a red-and-blue racquet, so in 1990 I was able to find a cheap, used version of the all-silver one that I had once looked upon in awe on my TV. I took it everywhere I went,” Ivo Karlovic revealed.
Growing up under the shed of Communism in Croatia, Ivo Karlovic could access the sports clubs and practised everyday gratuitously and it played a key role in his career since his parents couldn’t support his tennis expenses back then. “When I was 11 years old, the Croatian War of Independence started and that’s when everything changed. For the next three years, there were very few possibilities to play. It was a dangerous time, as there were airplanes flying above our city while we were all underground in shelters,” Ivo Karlovic disclosed.
The situations in the country were gaining back their standards, and the sport of tennis had become expensive. However, acing against the odds the Croatian server did not let his hopes for tennis simply depart as he conveys, “I would always wait until the evenings when the courts were empty because that’s the only time I was able to practise. There was nobody to play with, so all I was able to do was serve for hours and hours. I guess that explains some things.”
Even after turning a professional there were afflictions which bounced upon him every now and then. Survival was becoming a matter of question as Ivo Karlovic notified, “when I became a professional tennis player, life didn’t get easier. I didn’t break into the Top 100 until I was 24 and there were moments when I didn’t see the way out.”
Consequently, Ivo Karlovic participated in numerous club matches in places like Croatia, Slovenia and Germany in order to finance his travel to more tournaments. “I was okay without having a lot of money and it was fine if I didn’t stay in the official tournament hotel. I was okay hustling because I did what I had to do to climb the ATP Rankings. I would do whatever it took to make a living as a professional tennis player,” he proclaimed.
Last year during Roland Garros, his interests in tennis were fading away, but nevertheless, he uplifted himself from that melancholy. “I was 39 and I have two kids at home. When I left them, it was difficult, and I didn’t have enough love for the sport to make it worth it. That is why my Ranking dropped to No. 138 in September. Overcoming encephalitis was one thing. Battling myself was another,” Ivo Karlovic stated.
“Today I turn 40 and I think I’m still doing pretty well. I’m just happy I’m still able to play tennis at a high level. Every time I have a good result I get mentioned with guys like Jimmy Connors and Ken Rosewall and even though it’s only while we’re talking about age, I still think that’s pretty cool. I don’t feel any weaker or any slower than when I was 38, so why not keep going?”
“I have worked hard all my life: I’ve served on a war-torn court, overcome financial challenges and health setbacks, yet I’m still swinging. I’ve learned that it’s easier to go through tough moments if you really like what you’re doing. If you really want something, you will find a way. When there is desire, everything becomes easier. It is easier to train. It is easier to travel. It is easier to fight on the court. You just have to want it, and I still want this sport. I’m not done yet,” Ivo Karlovic concluded.