ANDY Murray has declared himself ready to face Ivo Karlovic in today’s Wimbledon fourth round after a specially devised training drill designed to help him cope with the big-serving Croat.
The Scot has recovered from a niggling shoulder complaint that saw him take a medical time-out during his victory over Andreas Seppi on Saturday night.
Murray faces the 6ft 11in Karlovic on Centre Court this afternoon, having survived a scare against Seppi. He lost the third set 6-1 while at times clutching his shoulder in anguish.
But Murray has shrugged off the injury as “not a major concern” as he bids to reach the quarter-finals at Wimbledon for an eighth successive year.
Murray practised for more than an hour at Aorangi Park yesterday, focusing on the threat of Karlovic’s powerful serve.
“Clearly he can hit angles on the court that I’m unable to hit on the serve because he’s probably got an extra foot, foot and a half of height there with the length of his arm and the racquet,” said Murray. “So that makes it difficult to return.”
Murray instructed coach Jonas Bjorkman to stand just behind the service line yesterday and aim to match the power and “kick” of a Karlovic serve that has reached a record speed of 156 mph.
The 36-year-old Croat hit a record 45 aces past Thomas Berdych in just three sets in Halle recently and has already clocked up 136 in his first three matches at Wimbledon this year.
Although he has never lost against Karlovic in five meetings, Murray is leaving nothing to chance. “Normally I get the coach or whoever I am hitting with to just stand just behind the service line, and then basically try to slam aces at me for 10-15 minutes,” he said yesterday, when asked about preparations for facing someone with such a potent serve. “That’s what I do. I don’t want to know where [the coach] is going to serve. That’s what I have done, before I played the big servers.
“Obviously he has served extremely well this tournament,” added Murray. “There’s a couple matches here where he served over 40 aces. In Halle, as well, he served, I think, the record for three sets with his match with Berdych. It’s an extremely tough match.
‘I’ll need to be very sharp on my returns and, you know, try and find a way to get as many of his serves back in play as possible and see what happens. But it’s obviously a very, very tricky match.”
Murray hopes to seal a place in the last eight for the 18th time in a row in all Grand Slam tournaments. In addition to Karlovic, he has noted the number of tall, big-hitting rivals left in the draw.
“In the top half you’ve got Novak [Djokovic] and Stan [Wawrinka] and [Marian] Cilic still in there, Kevin Anderson’s a very good grass court player,” he said.
“Roger [Federer] is in the bottom half, and around where I am there’s a bunch of guys that are 6ft… I mean Karlovic is huge but Pospisil and Troicki are both 6ft 4in, pretty big guys, so there’s a lot of big guys with big serves still around.”
Murray needs to be at his peak physically in order to counteract these powerful threats. He has quelled concerns about his fitness amid suggestions that his medical time-out on Saturday was a pragmatic ploy to disrupt Seppi’s momentum.
“It’s something I had the last two, three days,” Murray said of the injury to his shoulder. “I only really feel it when I was serving. But it’s not something that’s of major concern to me.”
Seppi had himself benefited from a break for medical attention, whereupon Murray lost five games in a row. Murray later denied accusations of gamesmanship. “I really take very few medical time-outs during my entire career,” he said. “One of the fewest, I would imagine, on the whole tour.”