When Ivanisevic has to live with death threats
28 June 2004
By Mark Hodgkinson
It was hardly the wacky ending that Goran Ivanisevic had billed, but when he pulled on a red-checked Croatian football shirt, totally against the all-white clothing rules, there was an emotional resonance that few could have guessed at. Ivanisevic's "passion" for his country led to several death threats at Wimbledon during his career, his former coach revealed yesterday.
Australian Bob Brett, who worked with Ivanisevic during the early Nineties and remains a close friend, said that the sinister phone calls may have prevented the player from producing his best tennis here. "It certainly had an effect on him," Brett said. "Goran is actually quite a sensitive guy.
"People think that he's not a sensitive guy, but the calls that came through shook him up."
The death threats were related to the stance that Ivanisevic took during the break-up of Yugoslavia. Ivanisevic did not shrink from bringing rough politics into tennis's garden party. He asked the ATP Tour to list him as Croatian rather than Yugoslavian, and started to wear political slogans across his clothes, demanding a stop to "aggression against Croatia". Thus, the shirt-wearing was a neat fit.
Ivanisevic did not shift from his position after the threats. "Those sort of things were not easy for him to deal with, but Goran is an incredibly loyal man," said Brett, who is in town commentating for BBC Radio Five Live.
"He has such a passion for his country that, regardless of the risk to himself, he took a position and stayed with it. When Goran got a death threat, he didn't change a thing."