Ivanisevic battles back from dead in Graveyard
25 June 2004
By Andrew Baker
They call it the Graveyard of Champions and the Order of Play committee clearly felt that Court No 2 would be an appropriate place for Goran Ivanisevic's Wimbledon career to be laid to rest. But everyone's favourite Croatian failed to take the hint, and battled dismal form and a talented opponent to beat Italy's Filippo Volandri in five nerve-racking sets.
Goran Ivanisevic: battled his way through over five sets The win sets up a mouth-watering third-round match with another former champion, Lleyton Hewitt, which - unless the aforementioned committee take leave of their senses - should be a showpiece encounter on Centre Court. If Ivanisevic has to lose, that would be a fitting place.
That is not to disparage either Court No 2 or Volandri. The arena has a certain claustrophobic charm and has an advantage over the main show courts in that it is packed with genuine tennis fans rather than corporate lunchers. The Italian is rising fast in the rankings and showed up yesterday with every intention of continuing his ascent.
Ivanisevic was on far-from-legendary form in the opening set. Where in his opening match against Mikhail Youzhny he could do no wrong, here he could do nothing right. His serve was awry - fewer than half of his first deliveries landing in the court - and his ground-strokes and volleys were not much better.
The Croatian, a man more given to soliloquy than Hamlet, paced the court muttering to himself and occasionally addressing the heavens for good measure.
"I was telling myself how bad I was," he said after the match. Gradually, the self-beration started to work. It was not pretty but Ivanisevic hauled back the breaks he had surrendered in the second set and saved a set-point in the tie-break to bring the match level.
The agony for his legions of supporters was not over. On a day when Tim Henman was not playing, Ivanisevic was easily the most popular man at Wimbledon, and those who could not squeeze on to Court No 2 crowded around scoreboards all over the grounds to monitor his progress.
Such as it was. Volandri steamed through the third set 6-1, Ivanisevic looked to be on his way out of the tournament for the last time. And then it rained. Rain at Wimbledon is Goran's friend. It saved him from defeat in the semi-final against Henman in 2001, the year he won his title, and it saved him again here.
"In the break I was talking with Michael Stich," Ivanisevic said. "He told me, 'I'm commentating on your match for the television what are you playing at?' And I thought, hey, if Michael Stich is commentating on my match I'd better do something special."
He did. The sun came out, and Ivanisevic's multiple personalities sorted themselves out. Good Goran replaced Bad Goran, and Emergency Goran stood down. He won the fourth set 6-3, and the fifth - not without one or two alarms - 6-4.
The celebration was something to see. The racket flew in the air, as did the shirt. "I was happy," he explained. "I wanted to throw the umpire and his chair in the air."
Goran Ivanisevic. We're going to miss him when he's gone.