A Croat In Crisis - 1999
HAMBURG, Germany, May 4 (AFP) - Goran Ivanisevic is a Croat in crisis. Usually only a fool would try to guess the outcome of any match involving the eccentric and unpredictable world number 17. Except now his matches are easy to predict. He's going to lose.
He added to his growing list of catastrophes on Tuesday when he was despatched in straight sets by Germany's Rainer Schuttler. It was his fourth straight opening round defeat, and he has not won a match since early March.
Just twice in nine tournaments has he even reached the third round. The reason? He's mislaid his serve.
"I'm completely without confidence and don't know a way I can win a match at the moment," said Ivanisevic after his latest setback. "I don't know what's happening. My best weapon is not there. I'm like (Anna) Kournikova hitting 20 double-faults a match. "Every second serve is a disaster. I don't know if to hit hard my first serve or to hit slow. If I hit slow it goes in the bottom of the net. I hit and I'm happy if it's in.
"Five years in a row I hit over one thousand aces, and this year I'm going to hit over one thousand double-faults. I'm scared to hit a second serve right from the first game."
Ivanisevic has been through bleak periods in his career before, and as he vents his frustration on the court he has drawn sympathy from a wide section of the crowd. His behaviour has made him a sentimental favourite on many occasions, none more so than when he contested his third Wimbledon final last year but still came away empty handed.
"It was similar situation last year," he said. "I lost French Open first round, Rome first round, Monte Carlo first round, here quarters and then at Wimbledon I played the final. But I think it's much worse this year, these double-faults. "It's really tough to think what to do. I'm practising hard and playing good at the practise. I played with Richard (Krajicek) unbelievable, but 24 hours later it's different story. I don't know what to do. It's double-fault, double-fault. So many double-faults. Perhaps there are two of me and this bad guy kicks in."
Ivanisevic, who has been ranked as high as two in the world, insists he has not lost any motivation for the game. Just his serve.
"My mind is on tennis, but it's very frustrating," he said. "As soon as my serve is working all my other shots are pretty much there and I'm confident, but right now I'd be happy only to win one round. "I don't think with this tennis I can qualify anywhere. I don't know how I'm going to win. Maybe if someone breaks an ankle or something like that."
Things have become so desperate that on his way to Prague last week he dropped in to consult a psychologist.
"I was in Split last week and went to a woman and talked a little bit," he revealed. "She's not a sports psychologist. She's a normal psychologist. We had a nice talk, but nothing happened. Same story. Maybe I should go to jail for a couple of weeks and maybe something clicks."
She suggested he take a break from the game, but he's already tried that. "I didn't play Australian Open, and nothing happened, he said. "I took a break after Key Biscayne and nothing happened. I don't know what good a break can do for me. I need to win matches."
A chicken and egg situation. To win, he needs matches. To get matches, he needs to win. His solution would be not to serve at all in any of his matches. "Now I'm happy when I'm not serving, to be honest," he said. "It's like woman's tour, you know, they're more happy when they don't serve. That's me now. I'd rather give the other guy to serve all the match but it's not possible."
On top of his on-court problems, tournament manager Peter Kovarcik is refusing to pay Ivanisevic, or Yevgeny Kafelnikov, after their first round defeats in Prague last week. Both their prize money, and appearance fees of a rumoured 100,000 dollars, are being withheld.
"I came there and played my match and he says he's not going to pay us our money," said Ivanisevic. "It's not like we came there to lose first round. We are going through bad times. "Kafelnikov is number one in the world so he's going through better times than me, but he lost six first rounds in a row. I have four so I still have to catch him. But like this I'm going to catch him pretty soon."