Tuesday, June 24, 2003

Giant plays giant-killer at Wimbledon

6-10 qualifier stuns Hewitt

The Associated Press

WIMBLEDON, England - Forget Big Ben. Now there's Big Ivo, much to Lleyton Hewitt's dismay.

Ivo Karlovic, at 6-foot-10 the tallest player in Wimbledon history, pulled off an upset just as big by beating 2002 champion Hewitt 1-6, 7-6 (5), 6-3, 6-4.

In 117 years of competition at Wimbledon, only two defending men's champions have lost in the first round. The other was Manuel Santana, beaten by Charlie Pasarell in 1967.

"If someone was to tell me you had to win the tournament once and lose the next year in the first round, I think I'd take it," Hewitt said.

He was beaten Monday on the sport's grandest court by a Croatian qualifier making his Grand Slam debut at age 24. Karlovic grew up - and up and up - idolizing countryman Goran Ivanisevic, who won Wimbledon two years ago.

Ivanisevic is intimidating enough at 6-4, but Karlovic is the tallest player to grace the All England Club by 2 inches.

Karlovic acknowledged that his movement isn't the best, but he nonetheless made repeated charges to the net, where his enormous wingspan made him difficult to pass. He also smacked 18 aces and 41 service winners.

"The guy looked like he was serving out of a tree," said Andy Roddick, who will now be spared a potential quarterfinal matchup against Hewitt.

Roddick must still get past Britain's Greg Rusedski - they meet Wednesday in a second-round shootout and rematch. Rusedski beat Roddick in the third round last year.

Another intriguing second-round pairing pits three-time French Open champion Gustavo Kuerten against 1999 Wimbledon runner-up Todd Martin.

Roddick, seeded fifth, hit 14 aces and 21 service winners to beat Davide Sanguinetti 6-2, 6-3, 6-3. Rusedski smacked 31 aces and needed only one service break to defeat Alexander Waske 7-6 (6), 7-5, 7-6 (7).

Kuerten trailed John Van Lottum 6-2, 2-3 when the Dutchman quit with a back injury. Martin improved to 21-13 in five-set matches by rallying past Fernando Vicente 6-7 (4), 6-4, 2-6, 7-6 (6), 6-4. No. 4 Roger Federer and No. 9 Rainer Schuettler also advanced.

Hewitt was one of four seeded men to lose. No. 29 Gaston Gaudio was beaten by American Mardy Fish 6-2, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3. No. 31 Vince Spadea and No. 33 Nikolay Davydenko also were sidelined.

In women's play, No. 2 Kim Clijsters defeated Rossana Neffa-de los Rios 6-0, 6-0 in 31 minutes. The shutout came on Centre Court after Clijsters' boyfriend, Hewitt, was beaten.

"I'm not shocked," Clijsters said. "As a tennis person you know how hard it is to be out there and play those first rounds - maybe not for me today, but I think on some other occasions I've had pretty tough matches as well."

Two-time champion Venus Williams overcame 10 double faults to sweep qualifier Stanislava Hrozenska 6-2, 6-2 in 50 minutes.

Also advancing were No. 5 Lindsay Davenport, No. 7 Chanda Rubin and No. 9 Daniela Hantuchova. The only seeded players eliminated were No. 20 Patty Schnyder, beaten by Petra Mandula, and No. 25 Anna Pistolesi, who lost to Samantha Reeves.

As the defending champion, Hewitt played the first match on Centre Court, walking onto the immaculate grass side by side with Karlovic - but 11 inches shorter.

Karlovic double-faulted four times in his first two service games and lost them both. But he pulled out the tiebreaker with several big serves to even the match, and when he reached break point for the first time, Hewitt double-faulted.

That left the Australian trailing 3-1 in the third set, and from there Karlovic pulled away.

"He got more and more confident, and he started serving a whole heap better," Hewitt said.

The Croat showed remarkable poise at the finish, breaking Hewitt again and then serving out the final game at love. He raised his long arms, threw a fist and broke out in goose bumps.

"The crowd was cheering me," he said, "and I was unbelievably happy."

A short time later came a phone call from Ivanisevic, who offered congratulations and best wishes for the matches to come. Karlovic next plays fellow qualifier Paul Baccanello.

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