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Brit boys conquer Silicon Valley

Brothers Murray sweep the leg

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SAP Open Just 19 years old, Andy Murray has turned into a veteran slayer of Silicon Valley. The Scotsman on Sunday defeated Croatian giant Ivo Karlovic in three gripping sets to capture his second SAP Open tennis title in as many years.

Murray figured the six foot ten Karlovic would prove a huge challenge, particularly on a super fast HP Pavilion court. True to forecast, Karlovic came out booming with 12 aces during the first set, which he took 7-6 (3). Murray, however, countered Karlovic's bombs in the two subsequent sets, claiming the second 6-4 and the third 7-6 (2).

In a banner day for the Murray family, Andy's brother Jamie and partner Eric Butorac (USA) grabbed the SAP Open doubles title over German Rainer Schuettler and South African Chris Haggard.

"It's so tough against Ivo," Murray said after the match. "He has the best serve in the game no question."

Little more than skin and bone, Karlovic comes off as the pro tour's prime circus freak. He launches serves at 142 mph that spring up at sharp angles near his opponent's head. Other heavy bombers such as Andy Roddick and Mark Philippoussis can match Karlovic's pace but not his strange ball placement.

Karlovic has struggled throughout his career to back up this mighty serve. He's one of the worst professional players off the baseline and mediocre at net. But he enjoyed a great run this week in San Jose and came close to downing Murray tonight.

Karlovic cruised to the first set tiebreaker, facing just one break point – a backhand volley that Murray dumped into the net.

Murray managed to stay with Karlovic during the breaker until they hit 3-3. Then, with chats of "EE-VO, EE-VO" come from a vocal Croat contingent, Karlovic closed out the match. He celebrated the victory with a fist pump over legs spread wide enough to pass a redwood.

Imbued with Croat pride, Karlovic broke Murray's serve to being the second set. Many in the crowd, including Karlovic, thought that might be all she wrote for the Brit.

"I felt relieved (at that point)," Karlovic said, after the match. "And, honestly, I thought I was going to win."

Instead, Murray came back with a pair of breaks in the set – Karlovic had been broken just once all tournament – and took the second 6-4 in a most convincing fashion.

In the third set, Murray applied constant pressure to Karlovic's second serve and then forced the tiebreaker which he won with relative ease.

Karlovic felt his performance good enough to counter critics that pitch him as a one-hit wonder.

"I don't think that is true," he said. "I showed today that I can volley, for example, and I broke him."

More than anything, Karlovic enjoyed the opportunity to capture his first ATP tour title in front of the spirited Croat crowd.

"It was unbelievable," he said. "I enjoyed every point out there."

Murray seemed to enjoy himself as well, although more so after the match than during competition. While on court, he suffered through a number of horrendous line calls and turned time and again to coach Brad Gilbert for encouragement.

But, throughout the tournament, it was Murray's calm that served him best. The Brit has tremendous poise for his age and comes off as a genuinely nice chap.

We'd hoped to interview Murray, although ATP flack Pete Holtermann blocked our advances. Lord knows men's tennis could use some promotional help, but Holtermann decided it better to keep Murray away from out 5 million readers. (God forbid Brits have a chance to learn more about their new tennis hero.)

The rest of the SAP Open officials and SAP itself were far more welcoming.

The SAP Open stands as one of the smoothest running and enjoyable tennis tournaments that you'll come across. Silicon Valley residents should book their 2008 tickets now.

On Thursday, SAP treated customers such as Intel, Maxim and others to a free dinner and endless drinks, during an exclusive event. The company also convinced the likes of Mardy Fish and Murray to speak with the customers and then handed out choice tickets to the night session matches. SAP knows how to take care of its favored clients.

Murray was just the right man to drag in front of the customers. He clobbered Roddick and Karlovic on lighting concrete that benefited their games far more than his counter-punching style. SAP may well need similar toughness to takedown Oracle in a quickly consolidating software market.

Ah, a technology angle after all. ®

Check out Murray's post-match press conference

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