What We Learn from Ivo Karlovic’s 156 mph Serve!

By Shlomo Maital


Ivo Karlovic, serving

    If you like tennis, and perhaps even if you don’t,  you can learn a lot from a Croatian pro tennis player named Ivo Karlovic. 

     Karlovic was a 15-year-old  teenager living in Zagreb,  Yugoslavia, during its bitter civil war.  He practiced his tennis daily at the Salata tennis club, but could find no-one to play with him. (Tennis balls hurt when they hit you, but bullets hurt a lot more). 

    So he gathered 200 balls and practiced his serves, for hours,  imitating his role model, the Croatian pro Goran Ivanisevic.  He would serve 200 times, go to the opposite court, and serve again 200 times… to no-one.

      Ivanisevic holds the world record for “aces” (serves that win a point outright, without being returned), at 10,183.   Karlovic is getting close.  He has 10,004 aces and will soon break the record.

      Karlovic is 6 feet 11 inches tall, the tallest pro player on the tennis circuit.  His serve comes from 11 feet high, screams across the net at speeds averaging 132 mph,  and is clocked at times at 156 mph.  So – try hitting that!    His big serve enables him to win 96 per cent of his service games.  And though he’s in his mid 30’s,  he is getting better, rising in the pro ranks. 

      What can we learn from Ivo?    Leverage your advantages (his height).   Accept your constraints (practicing during civil war).  Make the best of what you have.  Practice hard.  And excel. 

      Thanks to David Waldstein for his excellent profile of Karlovic in the New York Times.