Reuters, 13 May 2004
Having spent years hobbling from one injury to the next, Goran Ivanisevic could well be expected to donate his body to medical science one day.
His list of niggles, knocks and ailments reads like a lexicon of complaints but the Croatian is not ready to quit the courts just yet — not for two more months anyway.
Nurturing one final dream, the 32-year-old is playing on borrowed time and he knows it. But the lure of Wimbledon is too great.
The 2001 Wimbledon champion unveiled his plans for the English summer on Tuesday.
That he has chosen to warm up for the grasscourt Grand Slam at an exclusive English country club with a Hollywood pedigree is apt for a player who has always written his own scripts, the more outrageous the better.
The James Bond film Goldfinger was filmed at Stoke Park Club more than 35 years ago.
Then it was Sean Connery who took centre stage deep in the Buckinghamshire countryside.
In June it will be Ivanisevic.
“I am looking forward to prepare for my 2004 Wimbledon campaign at Stoke Park Club,” the player said on Tuesday.
“It will allow me to play against excellent players in a very relaxed atmosphere,” he added mysteriously.
How relaxed the former wild man of tennis is, remains to be seen. Ivanisevic was once forced to retire from a tournament after smashing all his rackets.
“It’s me you know — unique,” he smiled at the time. “Once I’ve finished playing tennis, they’re going to remember me for something at least. The guy that never won Wimbledon...the guy who had to retire because he didn’t have any more racquets.”
That was in 2000 and Ivanisevic had lost three Wimbledon finals. Not even he dared dream he would claim the coveted crown but just over seven months later he won Wimbledon as a wildcard in arguably the greatest shock in the history of professional tennis.
Soon after, however, his shoulder gave way and Ivanisevic has not hit a ball at the All England Club since.
That is why he is soldiering on.“I’m playing because I want to play Wimbledon and there are two options — to stay home and practise for two months, which I don’t want to do, because I don’t have fun practising anymore, or just be on the Tour and play,” Ivanisevic said in Rome last week after yet another first-round exit.
“My shoulder is better when I play. Like an engine — when you stop, then it needs time to go on again. Every time I wake up, I don’t know if I can serve or not.”
Divine providence may be at work for Ivanisevic who famously made a pact with God that fortnight in 2001, praying that he would not care if he never played again if only he could win a Wimbledon crown.
“You cannot argue with God,” he said last week. “You ask him one thing, he give me what I want, and I want more.
Since Ivanisevic returned from his latest injury in February, he has yet to make it past the second round in eight tournaments, losing eight of the ten matches he has played.
His official ranking has dropped to 418 and he is reliant on wildcards to get into top events. Last time Wimbledon gave him a wildcard he thanked them by winning the event. This time to simply step on to Centre Court one more time would be a dream come true. (Reuters)