Goran looks to Repeat Wimbledon Victory
By Mike Donovan
January 22 2002
Goran Ivanisevic clearly believes he can win Wimbledon again this year.
The rejuvenated Croat created one of the most memorable sporting moments of 2001 when he defeated Patrick Rafter to win the most coveted title in tennis last July. He only got into the tournament thanks to a wild card; the three times finalist having spiralled down the world rankings to 125.
But the moment of his unforgettable triumph, amidst the emotional scenes of hugging his father Srdjan and dedications to a late friend, Drazen Petrovic, gave Ivanisevic back his self-belief.
"I now feel I can win every match I play now because of winning Wimbledon last year. It put me back on the track of winning and playing good tennis.
"Winning Wimbledon was a great feeling and it is still a great feeling. It has given me so much confidence. Being confident, I have more variety of shots - I come in, stay back and produce an ace first serve when I'm 15-40 down more easily, when before I was too scared to do it.
"I'm more relaxed. If I'm in a bad mood it gives me so much pleasure when I think about the day I won Wimbledon. It's like when I walk down the street a big stone has been lifted from my back. I don't walk heavy any more.
"Maybe I'd been punishing myself too much because I wanted it so bad and I couldn't get loose. Before it was 'when are you going to win a Grand Slam, Goran?' Now I don't need to answer that question. The fact the other guys look at me differently, with more respect helps me as well."
Ivanisevic was fast losing heart with himself and the game prior to his monumental success at the All England Club. He had lost a string of first round matches and, troubled by injury and lack of self-esteem, retirement talk was on the agenda. Although he went out in the Second Round of the Australian Open, he was still positive about his experience in Melbourne.
"It was so different to the Australian Open last year when I was a long time gone on the first Monday as the main draw started. I left Friday and was at a Challenger in Zagreb on the Saturday.
"I made a big progress from last year. Instead of being on the furthest outside court you can imagine, one I couldn't find for about ten minutes, and then losing in the first round of qualies, I went to the Centre Court of a Grand Slam and won a match in the main draw.
"Now, if I can continue to show I can fight and play well leading up to Wimbledon everything is going to be okay."
Ivansevic has been aided by having contact lenses fitted. "They have made a big difference, they are perfect It is so much better. Now everything is very bright, like somebody has turned a light on for me. I don't mis-ht the ball now!"
Ivanisevic, now 30, is so focussed on defending his title that he would be prepared to miss even the French Open in Paris to ensure it.
"Although I have lots of tournaments on my schedule before it, my main concentration is on Wimbledon this year. "I have had a sore arm and decided against surgery for this year despite the fact it can get really sore. When it is stiff my whole arm gets tired and bothers me. I'm used to it and get through it with pain-killers and massage and surviving day by day.
"But if the problems get too much I will skip the French or any other tournament if it is going to make make me unfit for Wimbledon. I don't want to miss the French, and I hope I don't have to, but I have to be fit for Wimbledon. If I feel my arm is effecting my chances of playing then I will take two or three weeks off.
"Nothing must stop me being fit to be able to step out on that Centre Court on that special Monday at one o'clock to defend my title."
He maintained consistent form in the wake of his Wimbledon triumph, reaching the last 16 at Cincinatti and the semi-finals of Indianapolis before a run to the third round of the US Open and a quarter-final appearance in St Petersburg to end up 13th in the ATP Champions Race at the end of 2001.
"I play good after Wimbledon on the hard courts and proved I was on top of my game The US Open in 2000 was a disaster for me. Last year I did okay. I've stopped having to talk about tthe sad things in my tennis and I don't want to go back to talking about them."
Wimbledon 2000 and the celebrations that followed will forever be the high point of his career.
"It was the happiest day of my life. It came out of nowhere, it was like a dream, a fairytale.. I went back to my home city Split to celebrate and nearly 200,000 out of a city of 350,000 turned up for me. It was unbelievable. We were singing songs and I stripped in front of so many. I'd only ever stripped in front of my girlfriend before that!
"It is strange to think, but I thought I might do well at Wimbledon. It wasn't based on confidence, but on a feeling I had. It was a great scenario because I'd suffered three final defeats If I'd have won Wimbledon before last year it wouldn't have felt so good. It was worth the wait.
"I didn't sleep for three or four days after and my eyes were heavy, but I was hanging in there. Then I took a holiday for ten days and slept a lot."
He has kept the long-running quip of Good Goran and Bad Goran he started at The Championships last summer spinning, his humour still very much in tact. Initially he used the analogy to separate his alter-egos, the negative and positive sides that have dragged him from admitting to 'tanking' matches to lifting the greatest prize in his sport. Now he is happy to put his tongue in his cheek.
"Good Goran and Bad Goran are both enjoying themselves and, with the contact lenses, both can see well."
Ivanisevic has said that adversity had motivated him in the past; like his sister's cancer and the war in his homeland. Yet he denies that the nagging arm injury is another subject to fire him up. It seems he now has no need to look outside of himself to do that and is in the mood to extend the Indian summer of his career an extra year, beginning on Monday, June 24.