Radu Albot is adept at chopping down trees. Last year at the inaugural New York Open he defeated John Isner, the 6-10 American. On Wednesday he defeated 6-11 Ivo Karlovic in the second edition of the New York Open.
Albot is all of 5-9 and from the tiny country of Moldova, squeezed between Ukraine and Romania and close to Croatia from where Karlovic hails.
The diminutive Albot found the tiniest of openings to eke out a 6-7 (4), 7-6 (4), 7-6 (5) win over Karlovic in a first-round match at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum.
Just think. Karlovic never lost his serve, never faced a break point, won 120 total points to Albot’s 114. Karlovic served 37 aces and got in 81 percent of his first serves, numbers that would have seemed overwhelming.
But the key for Albot was holding his own serve and waiting for the light to come through the crack in the door. He saved both break points he faced and served 77 percent himself, which made the serve-and-volley Karlovic get into rallies at which he’s not particularly effective.
So, how does Albot go up against players that are literally heads above him?
“The secret is very easy. You just need to return and somehow hopefully you win the point,” he said with a smile. “You cannot do much. You cannot do strategy, planning something because it’s almost impossible to return the ball on the court. You try you best to hustle and try to put the racket where the ball bounces back.”
After the losing the first set, Albot’s first ray of light came when Karlovic double-faulted on his first serve of the second-set tiebreak. Albot ran out to a 3-0 lead and held his serve to take the set. In the third-set tie break, Albot held his first service point and continued to hold. With Karlovic serving at 4-5, Albot got in a return and when Karlovic came to net, Albot ripped a forehand passing shot by him. That earned Albot two match points. Karlovic saved the first, but on Albot’s serve on the 12th point, Karlovic returned long and Albot let out a guttural shout of achievement.
The 29-year-old Albot turned pro in 2008 and has never won a tournament at the ATP level. He had a nice run at the Open Sud de France last week, losing in the semifinals. He doesn’t look at that as proof of progress.
“I cannot say that it was a success, it was just one tournament,” Albot said. “Success I would say is when you win the tournament, and [the New York Open would] be not bad. I just practice, improve my game. I also have different tactics against different players and it’s helping.”
He plays Sam Querrey, who’s 6-7, next. That’s one tree he hasn't been able to fell, losing twice to him.
Notes & quotes: Veteran Paolo Lorenzi, the 37-year-old Italian coming off a down season with a broken foot, won his second-round match over American Ryan Harrison, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 . . . Two young Americans were eliminated when Denis Istomin defeated Mackenzie McDonald, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, and Jordan Thompson beat Christopher Eubanks, 4-6, 6-1, 6-4.