The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Ivo off centrestage, but head still held high

He may have had Lleyton Hewitt's scalp dangling from what, at 6 feet 10 inches, is comfortably the tallest totem pole in the championships. But while Ivo Karlovic celebrated by relocating from a £ 25-a-night bunk bed in Earls Court to an upper-class hotel room in Kensington, the Wimbledon blazers moved him in the opposite direction Wednesday — downgrading him from the tennis court equivalent of a suite at the Dorchester to a park bench and a bedspread made up of old copies of the Evening Standard.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with Court 14. After all, it’s got lots of grass and painted white lines, and of the approximately 10,000 people who wanted to see if the giant Croatian was something other than a one-match wonder, at least 350 were able to do so. This includes 50 spectators from Court 15, who turned their backs on a routine men’s doubles to watch Karlovic’s four-set 6-4, 7-6 (7-3), 5-7, 6-2 victory next door, and you can also add a few more wandering around outside who were able to get the occasional glimpse of the top of Karlovic’s head.

Court 14 is one of those courts people play on in public parks, where the ball keeps flying over the fence and into the bushes, and the players take it in turns to go and fetch it. This happened quite a lot – the ball flying out of court, that is – mostly when one of Karlovic’s serves caught the outside edge of his opponent’s racket and sent it flying into the next door doubles’ match.

Still only ranked the 203rd best player in the world, Karlovic is a modest chap, who probably doesn’t consider himself the most important person at Wimbledon – unlike the Williams’ sisters father Richard, who spent most of the day wandering up to security personnel without a badge, and launching into a “don’t you know who I am'” kind of performance.

However, he still deserved something better than this, and it’s not only that which makes you wonder whether the powers that be aren’t losing their grip a little bit this year.

The biggest shock of the championship so far is not the departure of Hewitt, but spotting a couple of dandelion weeds on the lawn surrounding Fred Perry’s statue. “Ooh, I say.”

Karlovic might get vertigo every time he looks down to see if his shoelaces are tied up properly, but with his opponent ranked one place below him at 204, it would be stretching things to call it a match of the giants.

Paul Baccanello, from Australia, is no midget at 6 feet, though it would be fair to say that he plays most of his tennis on what you might call the pygmy circuit.

He qualified here after five previous attempts at a Grand Slam place (Karlovic made it after 10) but his two tournaments before Wimbledon were the prestigious Ljubljana Challenger in Slovenia, and the legendary Sassuolo Challenger in Italy. He lost in the first round both times.

Now 24, Baccanello used to be the No. 3 ranked junior player in Australia until his career was temporarily stalled by a back injury, something that all tennis players are in danger of, given the enormous bags they hump on to court with them nowadays. There are Sherpas climbing Everest with less kit on their backs than modern day tennis players.

With Hewitt gone, it would be stretching a point to say that Baccannello was carrying the hopes of Australia on his back.

His parents are Italian, but he’s clearly a pucca Aussie, as we witnessed in the third set when Karlovic was griping about a line call.

“That was a bloody foot in, mate,” said Baccanello, which was the sort of blunt phrase a few more umpires ought to adopt when some of these pampered ninnies start bleating and whingeing.

It certainly ended the argument, as Baccanello might have been giving away a few inches, but he’s about a foot wider, and looks like an Aussie Rules footballer. Baccanello’s other Aussie-ism – “strewth” – was mainly reserved for the Croatian's nuclear serve. With Karlovic’s height, he doesn’t have to do anything very technical, just give it the full frying pan from something like 10-feet above terra firma.

What is surprising, though, is the power he generates from his arms, which are about half the width of a Twiglet.

When he wasn’t being aced, Baccanello was causing panic in the squashed gallery with flying edges off the outside of his racket, and he was also having problems with his footwear.

He spent so much time on his bum that on one occasion, in the third set, he had the chance to make a return from the sitting position, and it so surprised Karlovic when the ball came back that the Croatian dunked it into the net.

The Australian did pinch the third set, and battled hard enough to be able to say – metaphorically speaking at any rate – that he’d at least looked his opponent in the eye.

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