Murray's mountain: Andy has the tools to down giant Karlovic
21:38 GMT, 27 June 2012
When Andy Murray steps out to face Ivo Karlovic, at least he will not be facing quite such an intimidation factor as the man the giant Croatian ate for his tea on Wednesday, the relatively diminutive Dudi Sela.
The 5ft 9in Israeli was giving away a full 13 inches to 6ft 10in Karlovic, and so often could only flail away in despair as a total of 26 aces were pumped past him, the bantamweight brushed aside by the Super Heavy in straight sets.
Murray’s reach and exceptional reflexes will mean that he is likely to get more change out of what is thrown at him from the other end, but an uncomfortable session in the coconut shy beckons nonetheless. The British No1 will have much to lose, his deputy James Ward less so when he takes on American Mardy Fish.
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Murray’s match will be very different to his opening encounter against Nikolay Davydenko, and the 25-year-old Scot will need to show all the composure displayed on Tuesday, and the confidence gleaned from it, to get through without mishap.
He is mentally prepared for a match-up that was only confirmed early yesterday evening when Karlovic finished off Sela from two sets up to win 6-4, 6-4, 7-6.
‘The momentum was with me the whole match against Davydenko, but that isn’t going to happen this time,’ said Murray, who had young Brit Oliver Golding trying to bomb him with serves on Wednesday.
‘There will be some ups and downs and there will be times when I do not touch the ball for a couple of games, so I am not necessarily going to get much rhythm. I have to make sure that mentally I am there for every single point because he can miss a bit and you need to be there to capitalise on it. It’s the sort of match that can come down to a few points.’
Working on his strenght: Murray during practice at Wimbledon
In Murray’s favour is that he tends to handle the big men well, partly through his return and his skill at keeping the ball low. In his three previous matches against Karlovic, he has won each time, although four of the eight sets they have played have gone to tiebreaks.
The 32-year-old is not a one-trick giant as he can hit the ball reasonably well off the ground and likes to volley, but it is the serve which is his defining feature. In his 21 (mainly best-of-three) matches in 2012 it has delivered 305 aces, which is a lot of free points.
But he is only 59 in the world and loses more often than he wins, against players of lesser calibre than Murray. This has led him to a sardonic accommodation with the vagaries of a pro’s life, which he often expresses with humour via his Twitter account.
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Upon losing in the first round last month at Roland Garros, he tweeted of his Paris experience: ‘I came, I saw, I iced my shoulder, I ate croissant, I called the travel agency.’
Karlovic, who battles a considerable stammer, speaks in few words and when asked who in the game has best returned his serve smiled: ‘I aced everybody.’
His quickest ever was recorded at 156 mph. He will be happy if the roof is pulled over, entirely possible, so the elements do not interfere with his service delivery.
‘Everything should be indoors,’ he pronounced.
Ward must have a realistic chance of springing an upset, at least more of a chance than the massive ranking deficit he faces against Fish would suggest.
Bringing down the giant: Murray faces Ivo Karlovic
The world No 173, who lives across the road from Euston station, takes on the all-American ranked 12, but Fish’s recent health issues and lack of matches give the London cabbie’s son a chance of making a real name for himself.
Fish’s first-round win was his first since April, due to the time he has spent having a heart condition treated.
The 30-year-old Californian initially feared he might die when his heart started beating wildly as he tried to go to sleep. He was found to have arrhythmia, treatable with an operation, and this is his first tournament back.
When he missed his obligatory post-match media duties following the first round there were fears he had suffered a reaction, though he explained yesterday that this was due to an adverse stomach reaction to painkillers he had been taking for his shoulder.
Tall order: Ivo Karlovic stands in the way of Murray and a place in the third round
He admitted that he is still anxious about his condition: ‘During the day I don’t have any issues. It’s just when I don’t feel perfect and don’t feel exactly the way I like to be feeling, that’s when I get into a little bit of trouble.
‘It’s the confidence part, me convincing myself that everything is fine.’
This is probably not the best way to enter a best-of-five set match, but the biggest physical disadvantage he might have is purely the lack of mileage in his legs and the absence of recent match experience.
Ward is coming in on the back of a victory over world No 36 Pablo Andujar and has shown before that he can do damage on grass, notably last year when he reached the semi-finals of the AEGON Championships at Queen’s Club.
There he beat the likes of Stanislas Wawrinka, but has been unable to build upon that and make the longed-for move up into the top 100. If he could snatch the first set and ensure that proceedings will be stretched out then he might really be in business.