Goran provides firepower and laughs
The Australian Open
19 January 2000
MELBOURNE: Three-time Wimbledon finalist Goran Ivanisevic provided the firepower on court to beat 13th-seeded Frenchman Cedric Pioline at the Australian Open on Tuesday, and then supplied the laughs off it.
Ivanisevic, hoping to put his career back on track after his worst year in a decade, took exactly three hours to send Pioline packing 6-4, 2-6, 7-5, 1-6, 9-7 and move into the second round at the season-opening Grand Slam.
The charismatic Croat is known for his big-serving game and wacky sense of humour. After tumbling out of the top 20 for the first time in a decade last year as his normally-potent game misfired, Ivanisevic was short on both.
He finished 1999 ranked 62 in the world, down from 12 the previous year, after having failed to win a tournament for the first time since 1989.
But the 28-year-old lefthander is aiming to put things right at the start of the new millennium.
'It was just a bad year,'' said Ivanisevic, who missed last year's Australian Open with a back problem. "It would be very tough to repeat that year. If I repeat it I should get an award.'
'I was just losing. Every week was worse and worse. It's tough when you lose five, six weeks first round.'
Against Pioline he was at his enigmatic best. He fired down 32 aces, but mixed it with 14 double faults and managed to convert just 47 per cent of first serves. He also made 53 unforced errors.
Pioline, who finished last year ranked number 13, left the court exasperated by his play and admitted it was always a difficult assignment facing Ivanisevic, who has now won six of their eight clashes.
'You never know with Goran, tomorrow he can lose to his mum,' the Frenchman told reporters. 'I mean, he can go to a final or serve like 100 double faults.'
Ivanisevic thought the assessment a little tough. "I can lose,' he said, 'but not to my mum, she has never played tennis. (but) I can lose to some pretty bad guys.
'I can beat anybody when I play good, but I lost that kind of feeling. When I come on court I am struggling too much. When I don't have my mind there and I don't believe I can beat anybody, then it's tough.'
Ivanisevic has arrived in Melbourne in a relaxed frame of mind and determined to start afresh.
'I just said, 'Okay, you can relax here. It's a nice, sunny grand slam and we will see what's going to happen', and it's happening. I won a match with Pioline, who is 13th seed, and it's great.'
Ivanisevic next faces Spaniard Francisco Clavet but believes the faster courts and conditions this year will favour him.
'I just need to get my confidence back, ranking back,' said the Croat, who sports a tattoo of a shark, cross and rose on his right shoulder.
'I just think I still belong up there somewhere (in the rankings) and I still can play good tennis. Hopefully, I can prove that.' (Reuter)