Goran Ivanisevic Article

Wimbledon Final
5 July 1992


He who lives by the serve dies by the serve, and the serve that held Goran Ivanisevic to his first Wimbledon final and to a fifth set, finally wilted by tossing in double faults, getting passed, and whiffing a volley into the net to give Andre Agassi his first Grand Slam title in four attempts.

Those who say that Goran only has the serve may seem vindicated by this match. He threw in over 200 aces for the tournament, and nearly forty in this match alone. Anytime Agassi would get break points -- boom! An ace! And another. It looked like Goran averaged some 2 to 3 aces or service winners per game. However, as good as Goran looked on holding serve, he went to a bizarre strategy of rallying with Agassi, who, along with Courier, could be considered one of the best backcourt players playing the game today. Time and again, Goran would hit wide, or long, or out, and only occasionally did we see flashes of power with his forehand and two-handed backhand.

Goran isn't exactly just a server. His volleys were adequate if not superb. His groundstrokes were all right, and occassionally he could hit with power. He wan't handcuffed with the return of serve, and Agassi had to work to hold serve though most of the times Goran was no challenge.

Still, with Goran serving as he did, who needs the rest of the game? It's been said that Agassi was the one with the experience but that he might choke away the match as he did with Gomez or Courier, or that he might be overwhelmed by Ivanisevic, but experience did pay off. He knew that Ivanisevic was going to ace him and ace him a lot. Andre would have to wait for good second serves, and most of all he would have to keep Goran from breaking his serve.

In the first set, both men did exactly what they had to do -- hold serve. Goran had the easier time, but Agassi's groundstrokes kept Goran fumbling. When tiebreaker hit, though, Goran came through, again pounding good first serve after good first serve. However, it seems that Agassi likes falling back that initial set as he had done with Becker. He came back to break the first games of both the second and third set, and as many aces as Goran served, Agassi kept his mind about the business of holding his own serve and not getting dejected. Several times in the third set, he came close to breaking serve for a second time only to have Goran serve yet another ace.

Goran, meanwhile, was not serving so well those two sets, and yet he really didn't have to. He was still posing little threat to Agassi on his serve and that disturbed him. By the fourth set, Agassi's concentration lapsed a little, and Goran was twice able to break Agassi's serve, and at that point, Agassi made the decision not to try to come back in the set, and basically take his chances in the fifth. If he had known that Goran had not lost a fifth set at Wimbledon, and that Goran had an 8-2 record in fifth set matches, he might have changed his mind.

Instead, considering how often Agassi was breaking his serve, Agassi felt that it would have been wasted effort trying to come back. He almost paid for it. At a point early in the fifth, he fell down break points, and were it not for some judicious approaches to the net -- a side of Agassi which he put on display more often than he is known to -- he might have regretted the choice. Yet, he held of the break, still waiting for the opening that would allow him to break Goran. It must have seemed frustrating to Agassi that Goran was making so many errors and should have been heavily penalized for it, and yet he could always serve another ace or another service winner, and basically force Agassi to have to hit good shots when he had the chance. And yet Agassi wasn't frustrated.

Finally, with Goran serving down 4-5, and attempting to tie the set, he served, not one, but two double faults to go down 0-30. A good serve pulled him to 15-30. Another serve was returned to his feet and the ensuing drop volley was run down by Agassi and passed for a winner. Then, with the final point, Goran served, Agassi returned down the middle, and Goran netted the ball. The monkey off his back, Agassi fell to his knees at finally silencing his critics, and doing it in the place that no one would have suspected him to succeed -- Wimbledon. For all the talk about image being everything, Agassi knew that it was not. Just when it seemed like a baseliner could not win Wimbledon, just when it looked like another serve and volleyer would ace his way to championships, just when it looked like Agassi might fail once again, he shows that there is substance behind the style, that to try, try again is his credo, and that the best returner of the game could still beat the best server -- even on grass. It was a sweet Wimbledon indeed.