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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The tallest player serves the fastest – Ivo Karlovic of Croatia.

Amidst the rumbles of World cup cricket, there are other sporting events as well.  This article is all about the achievement of beanstalk – at 6' 10” considered to be the tallest player in the pro circuit who unleashes power in his strokes.  Tennis is a captivating sport with simpler rules and is easy to follow. 

In the tough Davis Cup World group first round, India handicapped by the absence of its star players went down fighting 1-4 to Serbia, the defending champions.  At Novi Sad, Serbia :  Janko Tipsarevic (Serbia) beat Karan Rastogi (India) 6-0 6-1 ; Viktor Troicki (Serbia) beat Somdev Devvarman (India) 6-4 6-2 7-5.  In the Doubles  Ilija Bozoljac/Nenad Zimonjic (Serbia) beat Rohan Bopanna/Somdev Devvarman (India) 4-6 6-3 6-4 7-6(10).  Somdev brought some honour by beating  Janko Tipsarevic (Serbia) 7-5 7-5 7-6(3) and in the final match -  Viktor Troicki (Serbia) beat Rohan Bopanna (India) 6-3 6-3 5-7 3-6 6-3.

The 2010 Davis Cup sponsored by BNP Paribas  was the 99th edition of the annual tournament between Nations in Men’s and was won by Serbia which defeated France 3-2 to get its first title.   With 125 nations vying, it is the largest annual international team competition.  For the uninformed, Davis Cup, the premier event is run by International Tennis Federation (ITF) and is contested between teams of players from competing countries in a knock-out format. It has a long history dating back to 1900s.  United States have had most successes winning 32 and losing finalists 2 times, closely followed by Australia with 28 wins.  Federation Cup is the women’s equivalent to this.  The women's equivalent of the Davis Cup is the Fed Cup.

Presently, Davis Cup is structured with a 16-nation World Group, contested over four weekends during the year. The remaining countries are then divided into three regional Zones depending on their location. The eight nations that win their World Group first round ties progress to play in the quarterfinals, semifinals and subsequent final, at which the winning team is crowned champion.

The volleys would be treat to watch but it is the serve that gets the points easier.  It is the shot starting the point.  A player begins a serve by tossing the ball on the air and hitting it to the diagonally opposite service box without touching the net.  To complicate a little bit, ball touching the net on a return or on a volley is legal. Service touching the net is not legal but also not a fault.  It there are two faults in sequence, a point is given to the opponent.  A legal service which could not be returned, is called an Ace.  This is obtained either by sheer speed or by angle or by spin. 

Even the spongy bright coloured tennis ball of 6.7cm dia weighing around 56 g will travel so fast when served ferociously.  Of course the cricket balls weighs more @ close to 160 grams. Richard Krajicek, Goran Ivanisevic, Marc Rosset, Mark Philippoussis, Greg Rusedski, Andy Roddick are some of the big servers of the game. 

Till recently, Andy Roddick held the fastest serve record @ 155 mph  (249.4 km/h)  served during a Davis Cup semi-final match against Vladimir Voltchkov in 2004.  It was an improvement over his onw service @ 152 mph (244 km/h) achieved earlier.  Roscoe Tanner of US had served @ 153 mph in 1978 and Karlovic had 153  in 2007. 

Bill Tilden had a serve timed at 163.3 mph (262.8 km/h) in 1931. but this is not accurate owing to the limited technology in vogue at that time. 

In the recent Davis Cup match, Ivo Karlovic of Croatia served at 15 mph (251 kmph).  Partnering Ivan Doding, he produced this serve in the 4th set of their match against Philipp Petzschner and Christopher Kas [of Germany], which they lost. 

Karlovic stands 2.08 tall and considered the tallest player in the circuit. The speed has been confirmed by ITF .  For women's tennis, the fastest serve is jointly held by Brenda Schultz-McCarthy and Venus Williams at 209 km/h (130 mph)

He has had his problems, staying away from the Davis cup campaigns due to a dispute on distribution of money.  He was also accused to staying from Olympic tournament in Beijing communicating his decision through SMS.  These apart, he is known to be a big fast server dishing out aces at will.  In 2007 alone he served 1000 aces in a season.  In Sept 2009 he recorded 78 aces against  Radek Štěpánek; earlier he had served 51 in 2005 Wimbledon match and  55 (against Lleyton Hewitt in the 2009 French Open).  It is also recorded that he did not send any ace only once in his entire ATP career, that was in 2008  Monte Carlo Masters against Frenchman Gaël Monfils.  Even 78 aces is no longer a record as John Isner hit 113 and Nicolas Mahut hit 103  in the longest match in tennis history at the first round of 2010 Wimbledon Championships. 

He represents Croatia, a country in Central Europe, bordering Slovenia to the north, Italy to the west, Hungary to the northeast, Bosnia and Herzegovina to the southeast, Serbia to the east, and Montenegro to the southeast.  On 25 June 1991, Croatia declared independence and became a sovereign state.

Unlike other technologies in other sports, the speed measurement is most authentic in tennis as it is done by radars by IBM gun. The speed is detected the moment the ball is struck by the player and the information is flashed up on the court’s side screens.

Small country, tall player and lofty achievement indeed.

Regards – S. Sampathkumar.

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