Like old times, Ivanisevic comes up short - 1998
(AP) - Goran Ivanisevic knew the routine. He shook hands with the Duke and Duchess of Kent, reluctantly accepted his runner-up trophy, gave the crowd a halfhearted wave and then stepped aside for the Wimbledon champion.
Once again, the champion was Pete Sampras.
Ivanisevic came in second at Wimbledon for the third time Sunday, and the latest loss was his toughest yet. Sampras earned his fifth Wimbledon title in a tense three-hour slugfest, 6-7 (2-7), 7-6 (11-9), 6-4, 3-6, 6-2.
Ivanisevic, who possesses both a quick wit and a quick temper, was neither funny nor mad afterward.
He was devastated.
"It feels bad," the 6-foot-4 Croatian said. "I cannot describe it. It's the worst moment in my life.
"I've had some bad moments, you know, when you are sick or when somebody dies, but for me this is the worst thing ever. Nobody died yet, but it's tough."
Even the mention of Croatia's World Cup victory Saturday over Germany failed to brighten his mood.
"I cannot cheer anybody now," he said. "I can only kill myself."
Ivanisevic and Jana Novotna entered the finals trying to shake labels as the most talented active players without a Grand Slam title. Each had been a runner-up at Wimbledon twice previously.
The parallel ended there. Novotna won; Ivanisevic lost.
"At this level, with Goran and me playing the way we do on grass, it's not really much that separates us," Sampras said. "He's going to win this event. His game is too big, and his serve is too big. He has come close three times now."
Ivanisevic lost a five-set final to Andre Agassi in 1992. He lost in straight sets to Sampras in 1994.
Now, the 26-year-old lefty with the booming serve can't be sure whether he'll get another shot at a Wimbledon title -- or whether he'll even try again.
"This doesn't motivate me at all to come back," he said. "It's tough. I have to push myself if I can. I don't know how long it's going to take, but I have to try."
Others have suffered repeated frustrations on the Centre Court grass. Ken Rosewall went 0-for-4 in Wimbledon finals, while Fred Stolle finished second three consecutive years and never won the title.
That was of no consolation to the 1998 runner-up.
Ivanisevic's shaky psyche held up well for most of the match. He broke a racket in anger, complained about calls and chastised himself in a voice audible 30 rows up. But he didn't unravel under pressure the way he's done in the past.
He did, however, come up short at the most important moments, squandering seven of nine break-point chances. His 32 aces weren't enough; his 20 double faults were too many.
Ivanisevic fretted about failing to convert two set points in the second-set tiebreaker, which allowed Sampras to even the match at one set each.
"If I would go up 2-0, that's a different story," Ivanisevic said. "I don't think he would come back. No chance."
Instead, Ivanisevic fell behind, then tired after playing a 15-13 fifth set against Richard Krajicek in Friday's semifinals. He won only three points in the final four games.
"I gave everything in that fourth set, and then it was like somebody hit me," he said. "That last game, I hit three first serves ... like a woman serving."
He sailed a backhand long on match point, then met a jubilant Sampras at the net, shaking his head as they spoke. The conversation was brief.
"What can you say? 'Bad luck?' He doesn't want to hear that," Sampras said. "He just probably wants to be left alone. I'm sure this match will replay in his mind for many months."
The replays began immediately. While waiting to accept the consolation trophy, Ivanisevic sat for a long time in his courtside chair with a towel draped over his head, talking to himself.
Later, he tossed the trophy in his bag, alongside the busted racket. Then he walked slowly off Centre Court, uncertain whether he'll ever be back.