Courtesy of the ATP World Tour
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.