L'Equipe - 6 January 2000
'THE IVANISEVIC - BUG'' (translated from French)
by Romain Lefebvre
He looks like an ATP Tour zombie, wandering from one court to the next with no apparent goal. His head sunk into his shoulders, a blank look in his eyes, Goran Ivanisevic ambles with his distinctive rolling gait into the perils of each tournament. Yesterday, whilst playing on the centre court of the Khalifa Stadium in Doha, the tournament at which, on his first appearance in 1993, he made it through to the final, only to be beaten by Becker, he was merely a shadow of the champion who featured in the Top 10 rankings throughout the nineties. Beaten 7-6, 6-4 by Mikael Tillstrom, Ivanisevic joined the other seeded players Arazi, Mantilla and Novak out in the first round.
The tall Croat, finishing 1999 by withdrawing during his match against Byron Black in Moscow, made it the worst year of his career, not counting 1988, his first year as a professional player. To sum up: his first tennis season since 1989 without any career titles, his worst record of victories-defeats (22-26) since 1988, the loss of the aces record which he had held since 1997. Only one final (at Roland Garros, with Tarango in the Doubles) lights up this dull picture.
Paradoxically, his second loss of the year 2000 (following that with Kiefer in the Doha Doubles) didn't seem to put him into a bad mood. "Today, I played tennis," he explains. "I had some chances but we both played well. During 1999 I couldn't be bothered – I became used to losing. But today, I felt that I was there. The defeat is not important – I enjoyed it."
It's hard to know whether his words were prompted by the "Coué method" or from renewed motivation but, with 8 aces, 5 double faults and 56% of first serves, Ivanisevic never even came close to the explosive game he used to play. "In 1999 I held the record for double faults and the worst service return record of the top 100," he points out. This time it was different; contrary to last year, I didn't panic and I didn't rush. He just didn't miss much, that's all." At 28 years old, Ivanisevic seems determined to attack his 13th tennis season with the same motivation as when he started. "I was training for ten days in Munich with Niki Pilic and I arrived here in Doha one week before the start of the tournament, in order to prepare myself. As long as I'm enjoying it, I want to continue playing tennis." Yesterday, one set away from defeat, the spectacular launch of his racquet to the far side of the net seemed more a sign of frustration than enjoyment.