Ivanisevic hoping Croatia can ruin American Dream
01 March 2005
The Home Depot Center, Carson, Los Angeles, CA, USA
By David Law
Ivanisevic, who led his nation with pride throughout his glorious playing career, is now the team’s assistant coach behind Captain Nikki Pilic.
He will travel with Mario Ancic, Ivan Ljubicic and the rest of his compatriots as they attempt to repeat their 2003 opening round victory over the United States, but this time on American soil.
“The draw is not easy, but if we beat the States somehow, we can win the Davis Cup because we have a good draw after that,” said Ivanisevic, pointing to the fact that Croatia would face Romania or Belarus in the quarterfinals if they get that far.
“I told the team that they can win it all, but first they have to win this match. We could not ask for better first round opponents than the States, so we will see.”
He admitted, however, that the 2005 United States team will be more formidable opposition than that which they faced two years ago.
“First of all they have Roddick this time,” said Ivanisevic, remembering that the 2003 US Open champion had been absent with a wrist injury the last time the two countries met.
Add in Andre Agassi’s return to the Davis Cup fold after a five-year absence, and the presence of the Bryan brothers, who went through 2004 without even dropping a set in Davis Cup play, and the size of the task facing the Croatians is apparent.
However Ivanisevic can still see hope for his team, especially since Ljubicic is one of the tour’s hottest players, standing at No. 4 in the INDESIT ATP 2005 Race having reached four finals this year. This includes runner-up finishes in his last three events coming into the tie, at Marseille, Rotterdam and Dubai.
“Our players can play on any surface. They both like to play against Roddick. Ljubicic even gave Roddick a very tough match the year Roddick won the US Open, so it’s going to be interesting. I’m looking forward to it.”
Ivanisevic joined Ljubicic to defeat James Blake and Mardy Fish in the doubles rubber in Zagreb in 2003, and he admits that sitting on the sidelines is much more difficult than playing.
“It’s fun to be there with the guys, to practice with them, arrange the balls, do this, do that, but when you play you can get some of this nervousness out of your system,” he said.
“When you sit for 7 hours first day, 4 hours second day, it’s not easy. It’s much easier to play.”
Not that it will stop him doing his job. In fact, he hopes to take over from Pillic at some point in the future.
“I’m looking forward to one day being the Captain,” he said. “We have a great team, great guys, with a great future in front of them.”
Since retiring, Ivanisevic has stayed in shape and joined the Delta Tour of Champions where he competes against his old rivals Jim Courier, John McEnroe and Thomas Muster. Is there any chance that he might be tempted out of retirement to help the team in the US if they need him?
“No, I’m going there as assistant coach,” he confirmed.
“I had my dream finish at Wimbledon, no-one gave it to me. They put me on centre court, it was great, I put on my Croatian jersey and it was just how I dreamt. Wimbledon is the biggest. My professional career is over and I’m happy with the way I did it.”
Thanks to Peter Bijvoet Junior for sending in this article!