Murray backed to combat threat

Published: Sunday 5th July 2015 by The News Editor

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Andy Murray knows exactly how to “neutralise” ace master Ivo Karlovic’s shotgun serve, according to Tim Henman.

Giant Croatian Karlovic stands between 2013 Wimbledon champion Murray and an eighth consecutive SW19 quarter-final appearance.

Murray meets 6ft 11in Karlovic second on Centre Court in Monday’s hectic fourth-round schedule, with the winner facing either Vasek Pospisil or Viktor Troicki in the last eight.

Karlovic has served more aces than anyone in tennis history, blasting 136 alone in his three Wimbledon matches this year – but former world number four Henman hailed Murray’s return of serve as “one of Andy’s greatest attributes”.

“Karlovic is one of the guys who will serve aces on any court with any ball, and especially grass, so that makes him a very dangerous opponent at Wimbledon,” former British number one Henman told Press Association Sport.

“Serving well on a grass court is always a tricky combination.

“Along with John Isner and Kevin Anderson, he’s got a great motion, he serves extremely well – and when you’re at the top-end of six feet then it certainly helps.”

Zagreb-native Karlovic shrugged off viral meningitis two years ago, making a complete recovery to climb the world rankings back to number 25 at the age of 36.

The oldest man in Wimbledon’s second week since 1976 came to professional tennis late on, and has adopted a nothing-to-lose attitude since the health scare that threatened his career and more in 2013.

Dry weather and gusty winds meant for ideal big-serving conditions in this year’s Queen’s Club tournament, with South African powerhouse Kevin Anderson exploiting his dangerous action to reach the final.

Murray contained Anderson’s thunderbolt serve for a record-equalling fourth title at the Aegon Championships on June 21.

Karlovic’s serve is another matter though: just last month he blasted an ATP Tour three-set record 45 aces against Tomas Berdych in Halle, and boasted the fastest serve of all time at 156mph until Sam Groth’s 163mph in 2012.

Radek Stepanek dumped Murray out of Queen’s in 2014, before surviving 15 aces from Anderson to reach the semi-finals.

The Czech battler spoke last year of fending off that barrage as small fry in comparison to a Davis Cup semi-final clash with Karlovic in Croatia in 2009.

Stepanek faced 78 aces that day, in a six-hour marathon – and still prevailed.

Murray has beaten Karlovic in all five of their meetings, so no matter what the bombardment, the Scot will be confident he can keep his tilt for a second Wimbledon title alive.

“We saw with how Andy dealt with Kevin Anderson in the final at Queen’s that he can cope with big servers who are in form,” said Henman.

“That’s one of Andy’s greatest attributes, how well he’s able to return serve and get the ball back in play.

“And against a big server you’re not trying to hit return winners, you’re trying to get the ball back in play so that you can use your other weapons.

“Once they get into a rally, if Andy neutralises a big serve he’s going to win seven-and-a-half out of 10 points.

“That’s where he’s very good at it: he will be well aware of what he needs to do to neutralise that kind of weapon.

“Although it was 6-3 6-4 in the final against Anderson at Queen’s, probably 6-2 6-2 would have been a better reflection on how dominant that performance was.”

Published: Sunday 5th July 2015 by The News Editor

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