Goran Returns to Centre Court in Style
21 June 2004
By Ron Atkin
Goran Ivanisevic stepped onto his beloved Centre Court for what he thought might be the last time and one hour 27 minutes later - if you don't count the two long rain delays he had to sit through - the Croatian left-hander emerged a delighted straight sets winner over the 31st seed Mikhail Youzhny of Russia, 6-3, 7-6, 6-2.
On the longest day of the year, Ivanisevic made short work of an opponent who is a stalwart in the Russian Davis Cup squad. Youzhny is eleven years the junior of the 32-year-old Ivanisevic and was expected to terminate the Croatian's career.
Goran had not stepped onto Centre Court since he won the title here so memorably three years ago, when he was a wild card ranked 125 in the world. His planned defence of the title in 2002 had to be abandoned because his left shoulder had not healed sufficiently after an operation. Then last year he could not play because of a foot infection suffered when he stepped on a sea shell on Miami South Beach. This, he insisted, was to be his farewell to tennis.
Ivanisevic still suffered pain from the shoulder whenever he plays, but he turned on a magnificent display to subdue Youzhny, taking advantage of the Russian's early nerves to break for a 3-0 lead and capturing the opening set in 24 minutes.
Though the sore shoulder meant that he hit the modest total of 13 aces, Goran's serving was impeccable, his positional play excellent and his use of angles, lobs and drop shots totally confusing to his opponent. After an hour's delay because of rain, Ivanisevic came back to win the second set tiebreak convincingly and then simply ran away with the final set after breaking serve to lead 3-1.
Luck was with him every inch of the way when it came to net cords and balls which hit the lines. One of his volleys came off the frame of the racket, hit the tape and toppled over the net, at which he knelt and gave thanks to the heavens. No wonder the crowd gave him a standing reception. It was thoroughly deserved. The planned retirement is on hold for the time being.