Ivanisevic shows power to recall old times
From Neil Harman, Tennis Correspondent, in Key Biscayne, Florida
25 March 2004
AFTER two hours and three minutes, Goran Ivanisevic drew a deep breath, rested on his haunches for a second and summoned the energy to launch himself at a forehand winner that recalled all the warrior tendencies of old. Ivanisevic may be 32, but when he reaches down deep, there is still plenty of fire in the Croat belly.
When Ivanisevic was handed a wild-card entry into the Nasdaq-100 Open, few suspected that he would actually win a match, let alone one against a player of Nicolas Escudé’s quality.
Were it not for a hip injury that seriously curtailed his contribution in 2003, Escudé would be a whole lot better off than his present ranking of No 66. Ivanisevic, who has lurched between retirement and hanging in on the tour, is down at No 592 these days.
The big man is approaching tennis antiquity and it is not as if this venue has been especially kind to him. It was on the beach here two years ago that Ivanisevic dipped his foot into the water and cut it so badly on a jagged shell that he did not reappear that year.
The foot was not the whole problem; the former Wimbledon champion’s famed serving shoulder had been giving him enormous problems and, after a career-saving operation in May of that year, there were dark times when he did not think he would play again.
There were some vintage elements in Ivanisevic’s 6-4, 5-7, 7-6 victory. It did help that Escudé’s double-fisted backhand down the line, normally such a decisive stroke, failed him time and again.
There are not many players in the world who can serve four double faults in one game, all of them on game points, and still come through. Few men’s matches include six breaks of service in one set, as happened in the second yesterday. Ivanisevic served for the match at 5-4 and was broken.
When Escudé took the second set, few would have thought Ivanisevic could recover. Yet again he broke first, was broken back but held sway in the tie-break, cementing his win on its sixteenth point with the first mini-break, swooping on a second serve to force a backhand volley that he could nail for the winner. Now, he meets the 17-year Spaniard, Rafael Nadal.
Tim Henman, who has a first-round bye, will play Jürgen Melzer, a left-hander from Austria, in the second round.
Thanks to Ana for the article.