Thompson’s Tough Task: Tackling Tennis’ Towers
Some players look at their draws, and others don’t pay much attention to it. But for Jordan Thompson, his New York Open draw was tough to miss, literally and figuratively. The World No. 63 beat 6’11” Ivo Karlovic on Tuesday 6-3, 7-6(2) and next, he will face 6’10” John Isner, the top seed.
“When I saw the draw I was like ‘Oof, that’s a tough one,’” Thompson told ATPTour.com. “It’s pretty funny when you play a guy 6’11″ and then play a guy 6’10″. It doesn’t happen too often.”
Karlovic and Isner are No. 1 and No. 2 in career aces, respectively. So inevitably, Thompson knew that it would be tough to earn many breaks. He earned five break points against Karlovic, and converted once in his win.
“Serve and return are the biggest parts of tennis, so when you’re playing someone that big, I think you focus just a little bit harder just because it’s the best part of their game and you’ve got to try to diffuse it,” Thompson said. “Against those sort of guys, I’m just trying to focus on making them play and trying to build pressure because building pressure against those types of guys is incredibly tough. So just try to make as many balls as possible… any return in is a good one.”
The obvious challenge is trying to find a way into the service games of players like Karlovic and Isner. But Thompson said that knowing he won’t get many opportunities also adds a small burden during his own service games.
“When you play those sorts of guys you do feel a little bit more pressure because they can race through service games and I’m about a foot smaller than those boys, so I guess there’s a little bit of pressure,” Thompson said. “I’m an all-around player, so I don’t put too much pressure on my own serve because I can try to win points other ways.”
Just because Karlovic and Isner lead the ATP Tour in career aces doesn’t mean they play exactly similar games. According to Thompson, outside of the serve, those men use different strategies.
“Ivo is more of a serve-and-volleyer. John tries to stay back and hunt for forehands. I’d say John is better from the back of the court,” Thompson said. “Both have got a great serve. John is a little bit younger. I don’t know what the difference is between them. I’d say between the serve and volleying and staying back, that’s the only difference.
“It’s coming down from such a height, they’re basically the same height. They’re close to seven-feet tall. I don’t really know if there’s that much of a difference. Maybe Isner has a little bit more spin on his. They’re both pretty similar.”
Thompson will hope that his win against Karlovic will help propel him to victory against Isner, who defeated him in last year’s New York Open. In the quarter-finals, the American struck 16 aces en route to a 6-4, 6-1 triumph against the Aussie.
“I had a pretty tough day at the office because it is indoors and there’s no outside factors that can [affect anything],” Thompson said. “Maybe if there’s a bit of wind it’s a little bit harder to serve but there’s none of that in here. It’s perfect conditions in here, so I guess it’s a little bit tougher to break serve.”