Goran Ivanisevic Article

Ivanisevic alone with his memories
The Times
From Alix Ramsay, Tennis Correspondent in Dubai
26 February 2002

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THERE is just so much a Wimbledon title can do for a man. The happy memories of a remarkable fortnight last summer may have given Goran Ivanisevic a new lease of life and brought a sense of fun and fulfilment back into his game, but it cannot do much to lift his spirits when he plays like a complete chump. As the Dubai Championships eased into life yesterday, Ivanisevic managed to do that which even he had not done before - he lost to Nicolas Kiefer, 6-3, 6-4.

It was something of a first for Kiefer, too. While he had never beaten the tall and unpredictable Croat in three previous attempts, he was rather more concerned by the fact that he had not won a match all year. Just a couple of weeks ago, Ivanisevic had beaten him in straight sets as Croatia and Germany played their Davis Cup world group tie. Then again, Ivanisevic playing for his country is a very different prospect from Ivanisevic playing for himself.

It was not so much an error-strewn match as 72 minutes of errors lightly dusted with some tennis. 'Call Emergency, Goran,' came the cry from the crowd but there was no reply. Ivanisevic was on his own out there and, as his shots sprayed far and wide, Kiefer had only to keep the ball in court and the match was his.

'I donít have any idea what Iím doing,' Ivanisevic said. 'I donít know when to stay back or when to come in. Iím playing without too much confidence and I donít know why.' The thought that he had gone through this before provided little by way of comfort, either.

By the end of 2000, he could barely string two matches together as his serving shoulder seized up and he went on to lose in the first round of qualifying at the Australian Open a couple of months later. Yet six months on and he was the king of SW19 as he beat Pat Rafter in the Wimbledon final.

'Yeah, but Iím scared,' he said. 'This is the last time it can happen. If it happens again like before, Iím not going to try to come back.'

What is keeping him going at the moment is the thought of walking through the gates of the All England Club as the champion and opening proceedings on Centre Court at 1pm precisely on the first Monday.

Even if he has to play with his left arm in a sling, he is determined to keep that particular appointment. 'Iím already nervous about it,' he said. What happens after that is anyoneís guess. The combination of willpower and painkillers should keep his shoulder going until the end of the year but if his form and his confidence does not improve, he may call it a day before then. 'I know I can hit the ball well,' he said.

'I did that in Davis Cup. This is a bad time but hopefully not like two years ago.'

Meanwhile, Tim Henman was making his way to the Middle East where he begins his campaign tonight against Omar Bahrouzyan, the local hope.