In the final game, after four tie-breaks and a pulsating four hours and 25 minutes, the 27-year-old Bedene struck a crosscourt forehand return winner, then a backhand return winner down the line past No. 21 seed Ivo Karlovic for the lone break of the match – and his 14th win of the season.
Bedene maintained his perfect record (4-0) against Karlovic with a 6-7(5), 7-6(6), 6-7(7), 7-6(7), 8-6 victory on No. 3 Court in fading light at the All England Club. It is the first time a match at Wimbledon has reached 6-6 in the fifth set without a break of serve.
“Every five-set win probably feels the best,” said Bedene. “I know when you lose either in four or five sets – although I have never lost in five – you come down and you feel bad. Sometimes it’s easier to lose in three. It was a five-set win with only one break of serve, so it feels good.
“It wasn’t easy to see because he was actually getting tired. Basically the only thing he could do at the end was serve. I was still okay. I wouldn’t say I was fresh, but I felt good on the court. I was hoping we were going to finish today, end the match. The feeling at the end was really good.”
Karlovic struck 44 aces and won 89 of his 128 serve and volley points in comparison to Bedene’s 28 aces. The Briton made only two forays to the net (1/2), wary of Karlovic’s power, particularly off the forehand.
From his first Wimbledon victory over then World No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt in the 2003 first round to today’s loss, Karlovic has played 50 tie-breaks (22-26) in 28 career matches at the grass-court major. The giant Croatian’s ace tally for 2017 now stands at 500 aces.