Doha: Day-4 Dr. Ivo does it again

Last year, Ivo Karlovic came into the Qatar ExxonMobil Open unseeded, ranked #78 on the ATP World Tour, and eliminated Tomas Berdych in the first round. While he lost to Dustin Brown in the second, Ivo would go on to have one of the most consistent seasons he’s seen in seven years. 2014 saw him reach four finals: Memphis, Dusseldorf, Newport and Bogota. Most importantly, at 35 years old, he remained healthy. Through hard-work and results, he watched his ranking climb.

Doha15-IvoPetarThis year, Ivo came into Doha ranked 27th in the world, earning the #7-seed in the draw. He posted routine wins over Lukas Rosol and Nikoloz Basilashvili to reach the quarters, where he delivered tonight’s mammoth win over World #1, Novak Djokovic: 6-7(2), 7-6(6), 6-4.

Honestly, Thursday’s quarterfinal left no room for error. Not only was Ivo facing the #1 player in the world, the conditions were incredibly difficult. With the arrival of a cold front came the dust…tons of dust. It covered everything. The courts were slick, the air quality poor, and winds continued to gust and swirl through the entire match. During play, you could actually see puffs of dust kick-up with each bounce.

Despite the conditions, both delivered high-quality tennis: The tour’s best serve against the game’s best return. While Karlovic pounded aces, Novak crafted points to keep the big man off-balance. Deadlocked at 6-all in the first set, Ivo was the first to hiccup in the tie-break, flubbing a volley that he should’ve let go. Djokovic would earn it 7-2.

Set-2 was a repeat of the first. However, with a break opportunity in the 7th game, Djokovic couldn’t convert, and took out his frustration on his racket. Karlovic maintained focus, sensing his opportunity would come; which it did…in another tie-break. Agressive, giving Novak unexpected looks by coming to the net, Ivo delivered fans a 3rd set with an 8-6 win.

Novak loses his cool...
Novak loses his cool…

In the third, it all came down to who would blink first. By all appearances we were headed for another tie-break. With Djokovic serving at 30-40 in the 7th game, Ivo painted the sideline with a forehand winner that would deliver the match’s only service break…AND deliver Ivo his first win over a World #1 since 2008, when he defeated Roger Federer in Cincinnati.

Ivo, in our on-court interview after the match: “It was unbelievable. When I arrived here, I didn’t expect that one. He wasn’t able to show his full range because it was windy. I just focused on my game and in the end I was a little luckier.” Next up for Karlovic – David Ferrer, who had little trouble with Dustin Brown on Thursday. This will be David and Ivo’s fourth encounter since 2007. David is 3-1 against Karlovic, and won their most recent clash in Vienna last year.

In the other quarters, Tomas Berdych says this is the most confident he’s felt at the beginning of the season in years. He easily eliminated 2013 champion Richard Gasquet while Italian Andreas Seppi reached his first ATP World Tour semifinal in over a year, defeating Ivan Dodig. After a tough 2014, Seppi admitted that he’s hungry to earn his fourth career title.

After his loss to Karlovic, Novak Djokovic hit the doubles court with partner Filip Krajinovic to take on Juan Monaco and Rafael Nadal. Oddly enough, that doubles semifinal will probably turn out to be the most popular match of this year’s tournament…played on a packed Court-1. Pico and Rafa would win in two sets, as did Julian Knowle and Phillipp Oswald over Fernando Verdasco and David Marrero. On Friday, Rafa will compete for his fourth career Doha doubles title. He won here with Marc Lopez in 2011 and 2009, and with Albert Costa in 2005.

Full Results – Quarterfinal Singles Matches
[7] I Karlovic (CRO) d [1] N Djokovic (SRB) 67(2) 76(6) 64
[3] T Berdych (CZE) d [6] R Gasquet (FRA) 62 61
[4] D Ferrer (ESP) d D Brown (GER) 62 62
A Seppi (ITA) d I Dodig (CRO) 75 64

Full Results – Semifinal Doubles Matches
J Monaco (ARG) / R Nadal (ESP) d [WC] N Djokovic (SRB) / F Krajinovic (SRB) 76(3) 61
J Knowle (AUT) / P Oswald (AUT) d D Marrero (ESP) / F Verdasco (ESP) 76(4) 75

Order of play for tomorrow: 9 January 2015

CENTER COURT start 3:30 pm
[7] I Karlovic (CRO) vs [4] D Ferrer (ESP)
[3] T Berdych (CZE) vs A Seppi (ITA)
J Monaco (ARG) / R Nadal (ESP) vs J Knowle (AUT) / P Oswald (AUT)