Here is a list of facts I know about Ivan Dodig:
1) He is from Croatia.
2) His first name is Ivan.
3) His surname is... wait for it, drumroll please... Dodig.
4) He is humanoid. (Probably. I assume.)
5) He plays tennis.
6) He is pretty good at playing tennis. (I think.)
Seriously, had anyone heard of Ivan Dodig before this year? I have totally never heard of him. The first time he popped into my frame of vision was at the Australian Open this year when he played that epic late night match against Karlovic. I could have stopped by and seen a little bit - I was in Rod Laver Arena that night - the night that Djokovic beat Granollers - and that session finished before this outside court epic.
But I didn't stop by. Me and Ivan Dodig missed each other again.
Dodig lost in the second round of the Australian Open (there is another fact I can add to my list!) which seems pretty unremarkable, until you consider who he lost to. You might have heard of him. His name is Novak Djokovic and he's been doing pretty okay recently.
So okay, in fact, that he only dropped one set in the whole tournament. He played a bunch of awesome guys - Federer, Murray, Berdych. But that one set he lost to was to some guy named Ivan Dodig. Of whom I had never heard.
I didn't see the match. I missed Ivan Dodig. Of course.
But clearly his set-winning was a sign, because Ivan Dodig, of whom I have never heard, just went and won himself a title at Zagreb. He's also got a pretty good 2011 record - he's won seven matches and lost twice, or so the ATP website tells me. And those two losses came to Djokovic at the Australian Open and Berdych in Chennai, so he's not exactly losing to Mickey Mouse opponents here. Ivan Dodig - whoever he is - has very suddenly made the big time.
Zagreb had a couple of local hopes in there who were real chances at the title. Marin Cilic was one. Ivan Ljubicic was another. If either of these dudes had taken out the title, then it wouldn't have been surprising. But this Dodig guy? He's the homegrown hero that no one expected. Because as far as I can tell, he just popped into existence this year.
I wish I could say something more meaningful about him, but you've seen all I know about him in my awesome List of Ivan Dodig Facts. (To which I can add this, courtesy of the ATP website - he is coached by a dude called Martin Stepanek. Any relation, do you think?) What it really proves - once again - is the depth of the field. I think I'm pretty knowledgeable when it comes to, you know, knowing tennis players exist and stuff. Put me in front of a Challenger draw and I'll recognise a bunch of the names. But before this year, Ivan Dodig wouldn't have been one of them. And now he's gone and won not a Challenger title, but a full tour title.
That is a major-ass achievement. There is a whole ton of tennis players out there - very successful ones - who have never won a title. Never come close. Look at Janko Tipsarevic, for example. We all know who he is, but he's never won a title. Same with Potito Starace. Rendy Lu. But this Dodig dude has. He's smashed through the wall that these dudes never have.
And all I can tell you about him is that he is humanoid (probably). Tennis can always surprise you.
4 weeks ago