In his third Newport final, Ivo Karlovic won his first title at the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships on Sunday. The 6’11” Croat erased three championship points and came back from a set down against Luxembourg’s Gilles Muller to win 6-7(2), 7-6(5), 7-6(12) in two hours and 56 minutes.
The 37 year old Karlovic takes home his seventh career ATP World Tour title and also becomes the oldest winner in the tournament’s 40-year history. Fabrice Santoro, 35, won the 2008 title. Karlovic, at 37 years, 4 months, also becomes the oldest ATP World Tour singles champion since Marty Riessen (37 years, 9 months) in 1979 (Lafayette, La.).
The big-serving Croat, who was playing in his third consecutive Newport final, took the title with titanic serving. He blasted 27 aces and won almost 90 per cent of his first-serve points (71/80).
But both he and Muller battled nerves to start the match. Karlovic, who had been broken once in Newport heading into the final (36/37), lost his first service game at 15 to give Muller the early break. The 6’4” left-hander then held to lead 3-0. But Karlovic broke back and like that, the two were headed to a predictable first-set tie-break, which Muller dominated to grab the opener.
In the second set tie-break, Muller was a swing away from seeing a match point. At 5/5 in the tie-break, Karlovic tossed up a lob and Muller had a play on it but let it sail over him. The ball bounced in, and Karlovic evened the match on the next point.
Neither player saw a break point again in the third set, and the match between two of the best grass-court servers headed into a final set tie-break. Muller saw the first match point at 6/5 but Karlovic erased it. The two exchanged holds until Muller tapped a volley long to give Karlovic his fifth match point but the first on his racquet.
The win gives Karlovic his first title of the season. The Zagreb native struggled with a left knee injury earlier in the year. He also improves to 7-8 in ATP World Tour finals. Karlovic will bring home 250 Emirates ATP Rankings points and $91,630.
Muller was going for his first ATP World Tour title. The 33 year old has reached five finals, including two this season also (‘s-Hertogenbosch, l. to Mahut). Before this year, his last final was in Atlanta in 2012. The Luxembourg native collects 150 Emirates ATP Rankings points and $48,260.
via ATP World Tour