Facing a 6-foot-10 giant with a serve to match his stature on a court recently renovated to increase its surface speed couldn’t have been the scenario that James Blake had hoped for in the second round of the SAP Open.
Despite all the adverse conditions, Blake still had plenty of chances to advance, but in the end he fell in a heartbreaker to the hard-hitting Croatian Ivo Karlovic 6-7 (4), 7-6 (11), 6-4.
Blake broke Karlovic just once on the night, but it came while he was up 4-3 in the second set, giving him a chance to put the match away with his serve. However, despite being down love-30, Karlovic rallied to tie the game to pull within 4-5, then subsequently forced a tiebreaker session, which in turn featured plenty of drama.
Karlovic jumped ahead 4-2 in the second-set tiebreak, but Blake responded by taking the next three points. The two traded off serving points and Blake, already up one set to nothing, had a chance to end everything while serving up 6-5 in the tiebreak.
Again, Blake couldn’t finish the job, and Karlovic eked out a lengthy 13-11 victory in the tiebreak. Blake was presented with five match points in the tiebreaker, but was unable to convert on any of them.
In the third set, a clearly dejected Blake gavelittle resistance to Karlovic’s booming serves, which regularly topped out at 140 miles per hour.
"It’s disappointing to lose, especially a match I felt I had plenty of chances to win," said Blake, who entered the tournament as the world’s sixth ranked player. "I didn’t take advantage and that’s no one’s fault but my own. I’m going to be down for a little while, but I’ll have to get ready for next weekend."
Karlovic, who piled up 29 aces on the night, including 12 in the third set, will face American Mardy Fish in the quarterfinals this afternoon.
Fish had to rally himself in his second-round matchup against Sacramento native and Stanford graduate Sam Warburg.
Playing just a few miles from where he starred at in college, Warburg jumped all over Fish in the first set, cruising to a 6-2 win that lasted just 24 minutes.
Fish, the event’s fifth-seeded player, finally got his powerful serve in line and pulled out a 6-4 second set win, then parlayed the momentum from that triumph into a seamless 6-2 third-set victory.
Warburg, who is looking to make the jump from the Challenger circuit into full-time status on the ATP Tour, was pleased with his performance, despite his defeat.
"Being on the court and in a point with him and knowing that it’s really not any different than what you’re doing, it’s just he has a better serve — it’s very good for my confidence," Warburg said.
SAP OPEN SCHEDULE
Singles: No. 5 Mardy Fish, No. 6 Benjamin Becker, No. 7 Lee Hyung-taik, No. 8 Vince Spadea, Ivo Karlovic
Doubles: Scott Lipsky-David Martin, Eric Butorac-Jamie Murray
Beginning at 1 p.m.
» No. 5 Mardy Fish vs. Ivo Karlovic
» No. 6 Benjamin Becker vs. Marat Safin
» Teimuraz Gabashvili-Marat Safin vs. Chris Haggard-Rainer Schuettler
Beginning at 7 p.m.
» Andy Roddick-Sam Querrey vs. No. 8 Vince Spadea
» Andy Murray vs. Hyung-taik Lee
» Amer Delic-Brian Kendrick vs. Sam Querrey-Vince Spadea