Karlovic: Some Musings

Karlovic. What is it about this giant that gives us some muse? When one muses about someone, one typically muses about their nature, so is this case of ours with Karlovic. 'What makes someone like this?' Questions of this sort. On the surface, Karlovic hardly needs to be pondered over, when the nature of him or his game is concerned. He is the typical tennis giant: very tall, big serve, big forehand, and of course some very compromised movement given the mentioned traits. His game, given his clumsy movement as a result of a height too high, is based mainly on the serve and forehand. Such, as we know, leaves one terribly vulnerable in today's tennis game in which the predominance of the serve-and-volley is long dead, and baseline rallies are the norm. However, Karlovic defies such a definition. Were he as constricted in his tennis abilities, he would not have reached the quarterfinals of Wimbledon in 2009, not to mention his upset over Djokovic at the 2015 Doha Open!

Karlovic moves exceptionally for someone of his height

Karlovic makes up for a (relative) lack of flexibility and agility with an ability to move around the court that far surpasses what would be expected of a person his size. Tennis is 85% footwork after all, a coach once put it (I believe it was Chris Evert), and Karlovic would not have reached as deep a grand slam round as the quarterfinals had he not fulfill such requisite. Such efficiency could be seen in his 2015 upset over Novak Djokovic at the 2015 Doha Open quarterfinals, during the 4th game of the 3rd set, in which he broke Djokovic's but first having held out his ground against the best baseliner of the game as of then. A typical giant would have stumbled towards and not be able to hit thoroughly the shot hit by Djokovic wide to Karlovic forehand, let alone hit a winner. Proof to this point also lies with Karlovic's storming into the 2009 Wimbledon quarter-finals. En route to his eventual defeat by Federer were encounters with Tsonga and Verdasco, two 'heavy-weight' offensive baseliners who would not succumb to a pure serve-and-volley game.

Too much of a good thing may not be a bad thing

When people relate the concepts of quantity and excellence, they tend to conceptualize a goldilocks zone - that the best at what they do has to have neither too little, nor too much, of whatever qualities or quality that propelled them to such excellence. Think height and the Big Four. None of them are shorter than 1.85m, or taller than 1.91m. The people taller than 1.91m - the likes of Berdych, Cilic and Del Potro - they are in what you can call the second-tier stratum of best professional ATP players. Even more eerily, Federer and Nadal share the same height (both stand at 1.85m). Is this enough scientific explanation for the truth of the goldilocks principle. Well, not enough, in our opinion, for we believe the rules of the universe are far too weird for such standardization to be of any actual truth. Now we think Karlovic. The most obvious asset of Karlovic's is his serve. With over 12,000 aces under his belt, he is the greatest tennis server in history. That height deemed 'too much' by many analysts (both lay and professional) has given him yields underrated by most people, for perhaps they do not understand that the serve is arguably the most important shot of the match.

Basically: do not judge a book by its cover, and the commonly held rules can be debunked as rules do not adjust for the bumpiness of reality.

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