Like Countrymen, Ivanisevic Puts His Best Foot Forward
1 July 1998
By LISA DILLMAN, Times Staff Writer
WIMBLEDON, England--The clock was taunting Goran Ivanisevic on Tuesday at Wimbledon.
"It's a big clock, so when I look to the left, you always see that clock--2, 2:30, 3, 3:20--and I'm still playing," Ivanisevic said.
And that was only one of his relentless foes, Todd Martin being the other. The better Martin played in their fourth-round match, the more time Ivanisevic spent on the court. And the more anxious he became about watching his beloved Croatia against Romania in the World Cup soccer tournament.
As the fourth-set tiebreaker started, the Croatian national anthem was playing in Bordeaux, France. And as Ivanisevic won the match, 7-6 (7-5), 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (7-2), the Croatians were in the third minute.
And there still was the press conference before Ivanisevic could settle in with the soccer game. Told then that Croatia was leading, 1-0, Ivanisevic did his best Beavis imitation, saying, "Good . . . hey, hey, hey.
"I have to play tomorrow [against Jan Siemerink of the Netherlands], so I will be too nervous," Ivanisevic said. "If they win, 1-0, it's easier."
Croatia held that lead, beating Romania, so for Ivanisevic, disaster was averted on two fronts.
Ivanisevic is intensely patriotic. When he won the first medal for newly independent Croatia at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Spain, he said, "This is a very important match for all of Croatia, not only for me."
Now, he believes he is playing better than when he reached two Wimbledon finals.
"I'm volleying much better," he said. "Sometimes I rely too much on my serve and the volley comes and it goes everywhere. Now, I know I can volley very good, and I don't panic when the volley comes."