Free of stroke-like sickness,Karlovic returns as a winner

The towering Croatian Ivo Karlovic became the second-oldest champion this year on the ATP Tour on Sunday

Published: July 24, 2013 12:29:19 am

BEN ROTHENBERG

The towering Croatian Ivo Karlovic became the second-oldest champion this year on the ATP Tour on Sunday,winning the Claro Open Colombia in Bogotá with a 6-3,7-6 (4) victory over Alejandro Falla. Ranked 155th in the world,the 6-foot-10 Karlovic dominated the tournament with his high-bouncing serve,hitting 104 aces in five matches. His serve,which has been clocked as fast as 156 miles an hour,rocketed through the thin air of the Colombian capital. He became the second player this year to win a title without dropping his serve,holding all 61 of his service games.

But the numbers do not do justice to Karlovic or his strength he showed this week. Just over two months ago,he was hospitalised for two weeks with viral meningoencephalitis,which led to unbearable headaches and left him numb,convulsing and unable to remember his name.

Karlovic recalled a morning in late April when he suddenly felt ill. “I woke up,and then my arm was numb and I was not really able to talk,” he said. When he continued to slur his speech,Karlovic’s wife,Alsi,called 911. “And then paramedics came and they gave me IV,” he said.

Within hours of the paramedics’ exit,Karlovic’s condition deteriorated. “After they left,I began to vomit,and there was headaches — a lot,” he said. “So my wife took me to E.R.,and then from that point on I was less and less there,you know? I was not able to answer what’s my name; I didn’t know which year was it. And there was headaches — unbelievable.”

Three days later the illness was diagnosed. It causes brain swelling and strokelike symptoms,including slurred speech,confusion,numbness and seizures. Karlovic needed four days in the intensive care before he could remember his name,and five days for the numbness in his right arm and face to subside. His severe headaches stopped after 10 days. “Thankfully I was out of it only for,like,four days,” he said.

Karlovic,who continues to take an anti-seizure medication,was initially too tired to last more than five minutes in practice. He gradually worked up to 10 and then 15 minute sessions,and eventually he entered tournaments again.

“Yeah,it is definitely more fun,” Karlovic said,“because every day it feels like a bonus,because I was ill and I didn’t really know if I would ever be able to be back. But now I’m really happy and just having fun out there.”

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