- 12 Jun 2020
What happened exactly on that day
On this day, the 12th of June 2005, Andy Roddick edged the tallest player on the tour, Ivo Karlovic, to claim his third consecutive title at the Queen’s Club. He was only the third player to achieve this feat, after John McEnroe (1979-1981) and Lleyton Hewitt (2000-2002). With his nemesis Roger Federer winning another grass-court tournament in Halle at the same time, it was a reminder that their rivalry on grass was still on: Federer had edged Roddick in the last two editions of Wimbledon, in the semi-final in 2003, and in the 2004 final.
Andy Roddick, the head of American tennis
Andy Roddick, from the United States, was born in 1982. He had his breakthrough year in 2001 at the age of 19, when he claimed his first three titles on the tour, reached a Grand Slam quarter-final for the first time at the US Open (lost to Lleyton Hewitt) and finished the season as world No 14. That year, Roddick also set a record in Roland-Garros during his five-set win against Michael Chang, serving 37 aces during the match. Roddick’s peak year was 2003, when he reached world No 1 with a milestone victory at the US Open where he defeated Spaniard Juan Carlos Ferrero in the final (6-3 7-6 6-3). To this day, Roddick remains the last American male to claim a Grand Slam singles title.
With the rise of Roger Federer as the new leader on the tour, Roddick could not enjoy the No 1 spot for very long. In June 2005, he was still No 4 in the world, and had started the season with a promising semi-final at the Australian Open (lost to Lleyton Hewitt, 3-6 7-6 7-6 6-1), before a disappointing loss in the second round at Roland-Garros. His biggest weapon was undoubtedly his massive serve: he was then holding the record for the fastest serve in tennis history after he had fired a 155-mph bomb on Alex Voltchkov in a Davis Cup tie in 2004. He also had a powerful forehand and displayed great athleticism and fighting spirit on court.
His serve made him particularly dangerous on the grass: he had reached the final at Wimbledon in 2004 (lost to Roger Federer) and was the double defending champion at the Queen’s Club.
Ivo Karlovic, the late bloomer
Ivo Karlovic was born in 1979 and he was the tallest player that had ever played on the ATP Tour, standing at 6’11 (2,11m). His unusual height helped him develop a lethal serve, but at the start of his career, his groundstrokes were not consistent enough, and Karlovic had to struggle on the tour before emerging as a late bloomer. He entered the top 100 for the first time in 2003, aged 24, after he shocked world No 2 Lleyton Hewitt in the first round of Wimbledon. It was Karlovic’s first appearance in a Grand Slam main draw. In June 2005, he was ranked No 77, not far from his career-best of 51.
The Queen’s Club, founded in 1886, was the first multi-sport complex ever built. Its main activity was tennis, and it was owned by the British Lawn Tennis Association from 1953 to 2007. The Queen’s Club Championships had been held there since 1890. Considered the second main grass court event next to Wimbledon, numerous tennis legends lifted its trophy through the years. Prior to June 2005, six times the Wimbledon champion had triumphed at Queen’s Club just a few weeks before: John McEnroe did it twice (1981, 1984), followed by Jimmy Connors (1982), Boris Becker (1985), Pete Sampras in 1999 and Lleyton Hewitt in 2002. It explains why the Queen’s final was always watched closely and valued so highly by the pundits.
Although his impressive size was a clue that he could be hard to break on grass, Ivo Karlovic was not expected in the final of the Queen’s Championships in 2005. At No.77 in the world, he had just lost in the final of a Challenger the week before, against world no.142 Daniele Bracciali (6-7 7-6 7-6). At the Queen’s Club, he defeated Fernando Gonzalez in the second round (6-3 7-6) but his main feat was to shock world No 2 Lleyton Hewitt a second time, in the quarter finals (7-6 6-3).
Andy Roddick, then world No 4, was one of the three best grass-court players in the world at the time, along with Roger Federer and Lleyton Hewitt. He had claimed the Queen’s Championships twice in a row, in 2003 and 2004, and he aimed at a third consecutive title that would give him confidence before Wimbledon.
With the two players toting massive serves, the crowd did not expect many long rallies as the match started on the 6500-seat Center Court, on the 12th of June.
Karlovic was playing his first final on the tour, and the pressure almost forced him to lose his serve right from the start. Karlovic, who had not been broken the entire week, faced three break points in the very first game. Sharpening his serve, he saved them all and the rest of the set was, as expected, a battle of serves with no other break points to be had. In the tiebreak, Roddick proved to have more technical options and more solid nerves to win 9-7, on his fourth set point.
In the second set, none of the twelve games before the tie-break went to deuce. Both players were serving well and thus, not so much as sniffing a break. Once again, Roddick prevailed in the tie-break, 7-4.
Andy Roddick had joined McEnroe and Hewitt in the Queen’s Championships history, claiming his third of three consecutive titles. Federer was warned not to count him out at Wimbledon.
Andy Roddick would not manage to join the five players who won Queen’s and Wimbledon the same year. His rocket serve would take him as far as the final, where he would be defeated once again by his longtime nemesis Roger Federer, 6-2 7-6 6-4. After that final, he would reflect on his loss with his typical sense of humour:
“I went in on his forehand and he passed me; I went in on his backhand and he passed me; I stayed back and he passed me even though I was at the baseline.”
Andy Roddick would never claim another Grand Slam title. Roger Federer would defeat him in the last of his three Wimbledon finals, in 2009, after an epic five-set battle (5-7 7-6 7-6 3-6 16-14). He would conquer a fourth crown at the Queen’s Championships, in 2007, after saving a match point to Nicolas Mahut in the final (4-6 7-6 7-6).
Ivo Karlovic would go on to have a long, successful career. Still a member of the top 100 at the end 2019, aged 40, he would reach his best ranking, world no.14, in 2008. He would claim a total of eight titles in his career, three of them in 2007, on three different surfaces. Only once would he reach the quarter finals of a Grand Slam tournament, in 2009, at Wimbledon (defeated by Roger Federer, 6-3 7-5 7-6). Thanks to his serve, he would own several single-match ace records; for the ATP Tour (45), Australian Open (75), Roland Garros (55), US Open (61) and Davis Cup (career-high 78). Eventually, he would hold the record of 13,599 aces served in his entire career.
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