He towers over all of his opponents and has become an invasive species in recent years, but does not yet know what it is to look down on his rivals from atop the ATP rankings. Although sometimes mocked for his pachyderm's mobility, nobody enjoys finding themselves up against him and his favourite weapon: the serve that comes from on high. Very high. Meet the members of the two-metre club...
1 / Ivo Karlovic (6ft 10in – 2.08m)
When you have a meteorologist for a father, you are bound to be a little closer to the clouds than everyone else. Tennis found its Everest on a sunny day in June 2003 on the Centre Court of Wimbledon. Fresh out of the qualifiers, the Croatian player struck down the title holder, Lleyton Hewitt. At the press conference, Karlovic revealed, despite his best efforts, another particularity: a stammer. However, on his service, Ivo is not looking for words. With the Zagreb’s giant, tennis is just one tiebreak after another. To face Karlovic (world #14 at his best in 2008) can often to be very frustrating. It has nearly cost some their sanity. You may love or hate his unsubtle game, but the man in question prefers to dismiss the naysayers with sarcastic humour on Twitter: “If you don’t like the style of someone, change the channel.”
2/ John Isner (6ft 9in – 2.06m)
If one of our giants is to go all the way at a Grand Slam one day, it is very likely the name engraved on the trophy will be that of John Isner. Seventeen years after Marc Rosset, he became the second giant to break into the top 10 (with a high of 9th on the 16th of April 2012). More powerful, than and not as stiff as Karlovic, Isner is starting to impress on the tour. The ace machine also knows how to play tennis and is reaching maturity. “I’ve always been a bit slow to get going,” he admits. “But for a tall player, getting one’s game together takes more time.” A detachment and lucidity which owe much to his academic past. "Going to college first took a lot of pressure off when I decided to turn pro. I knew that I had a degree.” The ideal way to keep growing…
3/ Kevin Anderson (6ft 8in – 2.03m)
Number two in the current “giants” rankings behind Isner, the South-African also went to an American university (Illinois) before trying his luck on the tour. Anderson (current world number 38) is part of that group of players whose name with a name we recognize on the draw-sheet and in the rankings without really knowing the man hiding behind it. Often finding himself the number 32 seed at Grand Slams, the South African is also very discreet. About him, we know only that he enjoys reading, walking, the name of his wife – Kelsey – and his size: 6ft 8in – 2.03m
4/ Albano Olivetti (6ft 8in – 2.03m)
“This guy is even stronger than Karlovic and Isner.” The tribute, dating from last February, came direct from Mardy Fish, so it’s not being said lightly. During that game in the last 16 of the Marseille tournament, the American had the “good fortune” to meet Albano Olivetti and his service. At the time floundering at 388th place in the ATP rankings, the Frenchman shot down the world number 8. For a few months already, a few insiders had been talking about this prodigy, able to reach 155mph on his first serve. After this feat, this great prospect, guided by the French Tennis Federation, is taking a bit of time to confirm his talent, with an under-developed mental strength compared to his prodigious height. In French Tennis, more accustomed to small formats (Santoro, Grosjean or Clément), the Alsace-born player feels a bit out of place, but is coming to terms with it: “I can feel the curious glances towards me. Some people look at me from head to toe, wondering if I’m not standing on a chair!”
5 / Kenny de Schepper (6ft 8in – 2.03m)
Born to a Belgian, former squash-playing father, Kenny de Schepper is actually French (and not Dutch as is often reported.) In the shadow of Olivetti despite a similar size, the 25 year-old from Bordeaux is making his way around the Challenger circuit, waiting for better days. Indeed, last July, he reached the second round at Wimbledon where he was no match for the 5ft 9in frame of David Ferrer.
6 / Jerzy Janowicz (6ft 8in – 2.03m)
The Polish player is the last of our giants ranked in the top 100. Not very bulky (75 kilos only), Janowicz took his time to confirm the promise he’d shown as a junior (runner-up at Roland Garros in 2008 and at the US Open in 2007). But for the past few months, his career seems to be back on track, as proven by his 75th place in the latest ATP rankings. John Isner was right: Tall people are a little slow to get going.
7 / Dick Norman (6ft 8in – 2.03m)
Yet another 6ft 8in skyscraper… On tour since 1991, the Belgian lost his place as the tallest player after the arrival of players like Isner and Karlovic. Today a doubles specialist, Norman can claim to have beaten Stefan Edberg in the second round of Wimbledon in 1995.
8/ Thomas Schoorel (6ft 7.5in – 2.02m)
Three major elements in the short biography of this Dutch player: his size (6ft 7.5in – 2.02m), his best ranking (98th) and the name of his school (The Johan Cruyff College), which is by far our favourite detail.
9/ Marc Rosset (6ft 7in - 2m)
The first giant to find a place in the top 10 (hitting 9th place on the 11th September 1995), the Swiss player is as much a morphological case as a psychological case. Branded “wanker”, Rosset admits that doubts have always plagued him throughout his career: “When I would enter a tennis court, I wasn’t playing against an opponent but I was playing against myself. During my entire career, there are many men who beat me because I scuttled my own ship.” However, such doubts didn’t prevent this Harley aficionado from becoming Olympic champion in Barcelona in 1992. Rosset is also the man who took a young lad called Roger Federer under his wing. He quickly saw the potential of the Basel native: “We were both fans of a racing game on the PlayStation. After the first training, I came back to my room and he was there, playing on my console. He was at ease. And that’s what high level sport is. It’s all about confidence.” Tennis according to Marc Rosset.
10/ Juan-Martin Del Potro (6ft 7in - 2m…with shoes)
Ok we might be cheating a little. Del Potro is “only” 1m98. But when you have him in front of you, you can give a few extra inches to the man who’s the tallest Grand Slam winner of all time following his victory at the 2009 US Open. And when your nickname is the “the tower of Tandil”, you deserve to be in this company.
By Alexandre Pedro