Tennis

Ivo Karlovic rolls into second round of Delray Beach Open tennis

Ivo Karlovic, shown in a file photo, defeated teen Thanasi Kokkinakis in two tiebreakers in the second round of the Delray Beach Open on Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2015.
Ivo Karlovic, shown in a file photo, defeated teen Thanasi Kokkinakis in two tiebreakers in the second round of the Delray Beach Open on Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2015. El Nuevo Herald

Ivo Karlovic beat an opponent close to half his age, outlasting teen Thanasi Kokkinakis in two tiebreakers in the second round of the Delray Beach Open.

Karlovic, the 6-foot-11 Croatian who will turn 36 at the end of the month, showed no signs of age in beating the 18-year-old Australian 7-6 (7-4), 7-6 (7-2) on Wednesday.

The fourth-seeded Karlovic, a runner-up at Delray Beach in 2010, will face seventh-seeded Steve Johnson in the quarterfinals. Johnson topped 17-year-old wild card Andrey Rublev of Russia 6-3, 6-3.

Fifth-seeded Adrian Mannarino of France also advanced, needing less than an hour to dispatch 22-year-old Denis Kudla 6-2, 6-2.

Karlovic, who could be competing on the ATP Champions Tour for senior players, used his serve to overpower Kokkinakis.

“If I didn’t come up against a guy who serves out of a tree like that, I would have had a good chance to keep going,” Kokkinakis joked about Karlovic’s 21 aces, including four in a row – one on a second serve – in the 10th game of the first set.

Neither player was able to break serve, though each had chances. Karlovic double-faulted twice in the second game of the match to set up break points but escaped with strong serves. Kokkinakis saved two break points while serving at 2-3 in the second set.

Kokkinakis had another chance with Karlovic serving at 3-2 in the first-set tiebreaker. After a crafty exchange near the net, the Australian attempted to lob over Karlovic’s left shoulder but the ball fell short, allowing the Croatian to hit a high backhand volley winner.

“Trying that lob was a pretty dumb play,” said Kokkinakis, who gained attention when he played two five-setters during the Australian Open. “That point really killed me.”

At 1-2 in the second set, with Karlovic planted at the net, Kokkinakis drilled a forehand right at his opponent, forcing Karlovic to duck as the ball landed inches inside the baseline.

“He can really hit those forehands so it was really difficult for me,” said Karlovic, who is currently ranked No. 29, down from a career-high of No. 14 in 2008. “He’s unbelievable. He’s young and he will be very, very good. I was just hanging in there and serving really well.”

▪ Elsewhere: The Miami Open announced that world No. 1 Novak Djokovic will be in the featured match at 8 p.m. on March 28. Potential opponents for the defending Miami Open champion will be announced March 23 during the draw ceremony.

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