Father figure for Ivanisevic

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The Independent Online
Most millionaire players on the circuit rely on a phalanx of trainers, masseurs and minders, but Goran Ivanisevic, the No 4 seed, prefers to go for spiritual sustenance and has brought along his own priest.

The towering Croat lefthander is praying this will be his third time lucky in a Wimbledon final but confessed to having trouble when talking to Father Josip - he has to remember not to swear.

The booming server, once known as Goran the Grouch, has tamed his demons on and off the court. Having Father Josip along at Wimbledon has helped give the superstitious 24-year-old a sense of proportion.

"I am calmer than before," he said. "It makes me focus on something... The priest, you can talk to him about whatever you want but you cannot swear, you know, and it's tough. I have to concentrate when I talk to him," he said.

"When I am home, I go to church every Sunday. I believe in that religion. It is nice to believe in something."

Ivanisevic, who lost to Andre Agassi in the 1992 final and fell at the last hurdle against Pete Sampras in 1994, is hoping for some help from on high this time. "I have prayed a lot of times but it didn't happen yet so I probably did something bad, you know, outside the church."

n Thousands stayed away from Wimbledon yesterday evening to watch England come within a heartbeat of European glory. Official attendance figures were nearly 4,000 down compared to the first Wednesday last year. Crowds thinned out early in the evening, leaving gaps in the audience on Centre Court, and strawberry-and-cream kiosks were practically deserted as tennis fans joined the great rush home in time for the 7.30 kick-off. Crowds have topped 100,000 in the first three days.

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