Ivanisevic, Woodforde exchange best volleys after match - 1998
By Jim Morganthaler Senior Editor
FLUSHING, NEW YORK -- Goran Ivanisevic and Mark Woodforde saved their best volleys for after today's first-round match at the U.S. Open.
Woodforde was on the defensive throughout Ivanisevic's 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 victory in the opening match on Arthur Ashe Stadium, but he came out attacking in the post-match interview.
"He just won with his serve," Woodforde said of the 14th-seeded Croatian. "That was all. Goran has his serve and not much else. He wins with his serve. It is not much else that he wins with."
The serve was all Ivanisevic needed today. He fired 23 aces and 31 service winners, did not face a break point and capitalized on the three break-point opportunities he had against Woodforde.
"Once the points extended past a double fault or an ace or a missed return, I felt like I was doing OK," said Woodforde, an unseeded Australian who ranks as one of the top doubles players of all time. "But he just served me off the court. He was serving up in the 120s (mph) and I had no idea where it was going."
Unable to return Ivanisevic's serve, Woodforde resorted to a little gamesmanship, something he has learned in his 14 years on tour.
"You just sort of walk back and forth and try to get him to think," the 32-year-old said. "I don't think he really thinks too much out there."
Informed of Woodforde's comments, Ivanisevic at first tried to be diplomatic.
"I hit backhands and forehands. I've won matches against top-10 players when my serve hasn't been there," said Ivanisevic, who is into the second round of the U.S. Open for only the second time in five years. "It's not just my serve."
Eventually, Ivanisevic let loose a verbal attack on Woodforde, one that hit the mark as quickly and accurately as the 132 mph ace he served earlier in the day.
"It's time for him to retire," said Ivanisevic. "From singles. In doubles he is still good because he can still cover half the court. He's pretty old, can't move and with that (crappy) backhand you can't beat anybody."
"If you have a son, just show a Woodforde picture and say 'You can't play tennis like him.'"
Ivanisevic and Woodforde have faced each other a total of eight times since Ivanisevic joined the pro tour in 1988 and, including today's victory, Ivanisevic holds the series lead, 6-2. But based upon their comments, the rivalry has to stem from something other than a win-loss record.
"He doesn't like me too much," Ivanisevic admitted. "He wanted to hit me today with the ball. Actually, he hit me and he didn't say sorry. He had a smash, I turned my back and he hit me. So he hates me. But I hit an ace after that and that kills him."
For Ivanisevic, it appears to be a matter of respect.
"He said once that he's a better player than me, but I don't see how," snapped Ivanisevic. "The way his game is, man, it is very tough to watch. He always talks bad about me. I can't be too bad to be No. 2 in the world (July, 1994) and top 10 six years in a row."
For Woodforde, an "old school" player, it's Ivanisevic's style.
"If I was watching tennis, I wouldn't go and watch a guy like him play because what does he do? He doesn't do anything except serve," Woodforde reiterated. "It's a beautiful serve to watch, but if I was paying money to come to the U.S. Open, I wouldn't go and sit by his court."
Like it or not, Woodforde has to accept the fact that Ivanisevic will move on in search of his first Grand Slam title. But he expects the big serve to take Ivanisevic only so far.
"I think he is a contender to be alive late in the second week, but I just think the occasion might outweight his chances of winning," said Woodforde in a veiled reference to Ivanisevic's three losses in as many Wimbledon finals. "There is the fact that he has never won a Grand Slam, that he wants to win one and, if he is still alive, the pressure of having to come up with great serve after great serve."
Continuing to discuss Ivanisevic's chances in the later rounds, Woodforde said, "There are better opponents than me that might be able to return better, that might be a little bit insurmountable for him."
You can be sure Ivanisevic is in agreement with the first part of that statement.