Goran Wants to End his Career at Wimbledon
By Mike Donovan
Goran Ivanisevic, the 2001 Men’s Singles Champion, wants to finish his career on Centre Court, after missing his opportunity to defend his crown because of injury.
The left shoulder operation he underwent last year has not completely cured the problem but Ivanisevic is desperate for at least one last hurrah at the world's most famous tennis tournament.
He said: "If I could choose my last point, ace, breaking racket, match it would be on the Centre Court at Wimbledon.
“If I have one wish in life that would be it. I could say I've had a great career and my last match was on the best court in tennis history in the world in front of a great crowd. I'd be happy. I wouldn't have to play again."
Ivanisevic has always had an affinity with the tournament.
He said: "As a kid of eight I watched Wimbledon, The final was between John McEnroe, a hero and another lefty who liked throwing his racket around, and Connors. It was the biggest tennis tournament for me, there was something about the grass. It was my dream to go there on day.
"When I first went in 1988 I was alone with no coach and not much money and I was too shy to ask anyone to warm up with me.
"I sneaked into Centre Court for a look, I didn't have a ticket. But I was already happy to have achieved my goal to step on a Wimbledon court by qualifying and being in the changing room with all the big names.
"I played my first match on Centre Court against Boris Becker in the semi finals two years later. I told myself to relax, don't worry. I lost the match but it was a greatest feeling ever when I first stepped on to that court."
That's when his love affair with British tennis fans blossomed.
"Me and English crowd get on well. The English are temperamental, look at the football supporters going wild. They like me because I am temperamental, different.
"Like McEnroe, if someone is beating me he is my enemy and I have to do something like throw my racket, get a warning, talk to umpire, talk to the the crowd. I don't like to lose. I have to find something that works for me, although sometimes I hurt myself. But I can't help the way I become aggressive, crazy. I can't keep everything inside me and the crowd give me great support. They cheer for me."
Ivanisevic is grateful for the way in which Wimbledon victory changed his life.
"I haven't changed but everything around me has. It is as if I hadn't played all those years before. Everything is about Wimbledon, Wimbledon, Wimbledon. People recognise your face as Wimbledon champion. I'm told 'be careful what you do because you're Wimbledon champion'. I am a club member now. That is a great thing. In the future I can bring my kids to the club and they will be proud of me for what I have done at Wimbledon."
The memories of his victory remain fresh and unforgettable, especially the extra Monday that saw him overcome Pat Rafter in the final played in an atmosphere pumped full of emotion..
"It was the most magical 15 days of my life. I'd lost three finals and had been losing many first rounds including Queen's when I played so bad. I was like a ghost. No one was talking about me but I kept winning. When I played Tim Henman in the semi finals he had all the pressure about being the first Briton since Fred Perry to win Wimbledon. Henman was up and rain came at the right time for me and I told myself it wasn't over.
"I beat Patrick on my fourth match point in my fourth final. It was the perfect scenario.
"I'd said If I ever win Wimbledon I would have to go up into the guests' box like Pat Cash. what he did was cool. But when I did I didn't know what to do. But my legs took me up and I followed! Everybody was so happy"
Ivanisevic accepts nothing will better it. He said: "I want to come back to Wimbledon even if I have to walk to London. It killed me I couldn't defend my title last year and I didn't want to return without a racket in my hand.
"But I don't think it would be as special as two years ago. It is something you can expect just once in your life.
"All those years I was supposed to win and didn't and then everyone saying my chance had gone. Then I win and come home and 150,000 people welcome me. It was a great party for me, two days of celebrations, unbelievable. I don't think it can be as good again, although I'd be a very happy man to celebrate once more!"
Ivanisevic is one of tennis’ most passionate players and it is unsurprising that he has been motivated by highly charged emotional forces throughout his career.
"All my life I've played for someone else. First, my sister was very sick so I played for her. War came in my country and that was great motivation for me. After that I was empty with no one to play for. Then I decided to play for myself. I deserved it. I owed it to myself and I won Wimbledon.
“Now, I have daughter pretty soon before Wimbledon so I think I would play for her."
He thinks his cause might be strengthened as a wild card. "I needed one when I won. Maybe they can give me another one and I'll win again!"
Ivanisevic would also demand the same parking spot and repeats of ‘Teletubbies’, a children's programme, on television so he can re-enact his routines of 2001.
"I've always been superstitious, especially at Wimbledon. I've done some crazy things. If I don't do one of these seven, eight things I've picked I'm going to lose the match. I panicked two hours before my final in 2001. I couldn't get into the car park I'd used every day. When I got in someone was parked under the tree I'd parked every day and the rest of the car park was empty! I managed to squeeze under it and only then could I practice."
Ivanisevic, bashful as he spoke, will take his eccentric ways, charisma, humour and huge serves away from the public arena sooner rather than later. At 31, time is running out fast on his career. Plagued with persistent shoulder injuries for the past two seasons, it’s likely that the forthcoming Championships will be his last chance at reclaiming his Wimbledon title. ”I'm slowly falling apart," he admitted. "I don't know how long my shoulder is going to survive,"
He has already made a most unexpected comeback from being a serial first round loser to Wimbledon champion. But a second journey to the summit might be beyond him if his persistent shoulder problem forces him to postpone his return to The Championships in June. He is yet to commit.
Ivanisevic said: "I'll do everything to get there but I'm not going to say ‘100 per cent I'll come to Wimbledon’ because last time I said I'd come, I didn't. Say 70 per cent, so I can leave 30 for not coming."