Goran Wimbledon Champion In The Making?
Tennis World - June 1992
By Mike Donovan
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Goran Ivanisevic believes he can become Wimbledon champion.
There is no doubt he has the game. His bullet? 130mph serves and improved volleys testify to that.
But another reason for his increased confidence is his Mohican haircut!
'It makes me a lot faster around the court,' said the 20-year old who was unseeded when he reached the semi-final of The Championships two years ago.
'Things were going wrong for me earlier this year and I was losing game.
'I remember I was in Brussels and I lost to Ivan Lendl. So I thought to myself 'I must make a change'
'So I decided to have a haircut. My brother-in-law shave a bit more off for me and I like it. I feel good with it.'
So what chance a Mohican winning at Wimbledon this year?
'I am capable of winning Wimbledon. It's a strange surface because it is so hard to play three good sets in a row on.'
'But I can serve good and on grass that is really difficult to play against.'
Ivanisevic has the backing of Boris Becker, three-times All England King who edged him out in the 1990 semis. The German says, 'It is VERY probable he can be Wimbledon champion.'
Certainly, Ivanisevic's form has improved this year.
He showed that when winning the prestigious Stuttgart tournament in February when he beat the top two players in the world within seven days.
That sort of thing does not happen too often. In fact when he stunned Jim Courier and double Wimbledon champion Stefan Edberg that week it was only the seventh time in over four years that feat had been achieved.
The suspect temperament of the volatile Ivanisevic had cast a huge question mark over his ability to make it right to the No.1 spot and to dominate the Grand Slams.
Even his own father thought it was a big weakness.
'Sometimes he's like a grown up man, sometimes like a teenager,' said Srdjan of his son's passionate nature.
And Ivanisevic admitted he would go 'crazy' during matches.
It led him to admitting to 'tanking' matches and coming close to defaulting with antics right out of John McEnroe's reportoire. The 6' 4" left-handed beanpole makes an intimidating figure as he shout at officials, abuses his racket and sulks on his stool, threatening to strike.
Now he is slowly learning to curb those excesses. His hotheadedness is cooling.
He says, 'I've got a fresh attitude. I'm enjoying it more. Before, I would go crazy. And when I was throwing my rackets and talking to the umpire it was breaking my concentration. It made it difficult to come back but I think I am improving, I'm much better.'
His new found maturity on and off the court is impressing many and diluting the controversial image he has carried with him since turning professional four years ago.
A speech following a triumph in Australian in Adelaide this year concerning his war-torn nation of Croatia earned him praise. And his decision not to take part in the World Team Cup this year because Croatia had not been recognised was treated with respect rather than disapproval.
'It is a very bad what is happening in my country,' he says, 'It's very sad,'
Several big names have complimented the new Ivanisevic on his court demeanour, not least Stefan Edberg.
'Goran seems to be concentrating much more,' he says, 'His lapses appear to be getting fewer.'
If that change can be put down to one man it is Bob Brett, who took over coaching duties from Balazs Taroczy in February last year.
Brett parted with Boris Becker after a fruitful association which brought Grand Slam triumphs, including Wimbledon, with the German superstar saying: 'Bob needs a new challenge.'
And the diminutive Australian got exactly that with Ivanisevic.
The giant Slave had progressed close to the speed of light. He first hit the headlines when he knocked Becker, seeded two, out of the French Open in 1990. He swept from nowhere to 13 in the world in four weeks and kept it going through the rest of the rest of the year and throughout 1991.
'Instead of first round defeats it was all semi-finals or finals,' he says. 'Everything was so fast.'
It was too much, too soon because his development as a person couldn't keep pace with his progress as a tennis player. But the quiet, efficient and unflappable Brett managed to instil more patience into his charge. And it is transforming Ivanisevic's career.
Besides winning titles in Stuttgart and Adelaide, Ivanisevic, under Brett, won the Manchester Open on grass, reached the final of New Haven on hard courts, and was a semi-finalist in the Australian Indoor Championships and Tokyo and Swiss Opens at Gstaad.
In his German triumph, he managed 105 aces. And hapless Edberg saw 32 flying by him in the final.
'When he serves like that you cannot get to the ball,' said the Swede.
'And it's not just the pace of the serves that does it, it's also the fact they go so close to the line.'
Ivanisevic, touted as having an all-court, grass game, likes to remind people that he is more than just a big server.
'I think I have proved I can play on all surfaces.' he says. 'People say I've got the best serve in the world and that if I don't serve well I cannot win matches.
'That's not true because I've won many of my matches when I couldn't hit my serve in court.'
But with the big serves dominating so much on grass, Ivanisevic has an outstanding chance to take the Wimbledon singles title with a game naturally suited to the surface.
In fact, the power and effectiveness of Ivanisevic's serve and the rest of the other 'bombers' like David Wheaton, is provoking attempts to change the rules and lesson their dominance.
Some want softer balls or smaller frames to ensure rallies can still exist on the quickest surface of them all.
Ivanisevic and Co. naturally argue that it is unfair to alter regulations as it would interfere with the natural development of the game.
The outcome of that debate will take a while to sort out. In the mean time, if he so desires, Ivanisevic can exploit the green, green grass of SW19 to its fullest advantage.
And this year might be his best chance because he can keep one step ahead of the 'slow it down' lobby. Then he can head for other Grand Slam victories and eventually that coveted No.1 spot.
'I can do it,' he says. We will see.
Thanks to Jenny for submitting this article.