An email conversation with Goran Ivanisevic: 'Talking of Split, there are still three Gorans?'
Friday's Davis Cup final - I'm ready; Andy Murray's Wimbledon chances; Stress of following West Bromwich Albion; Sleepless nights and the joy of 'Teletubbies'
Monday 28 November 2005
At 34, you're coming out of retirement from top-level tennis to be part of Croatia's Davis Cup final team to face Slovakia at the weekend. How likely is it that you'll play? What's your involvement besides playing? How's the training going? And who's going to win? Probably. If they pick me to play in one of the matches, I'll be ready. I don't want to go there as a decoration, or as a reward because I did a lot for Croatian tennis. I'm training every day, doing stretches and exercises that I've not done for about six years - basketball, drills, everything. I'm playing much better tennis now than when I reached the third round at Wimbledon last year - serving relaxed and my shoulder is not hurting. It's very tough to beat me when I play like this, even for guys on the regular tour. The match is away from home, which is in their favour, but we have Ivan Ljubicic, who is almost unbeatable in Davis Cup, and Mario Ancic, who is capable of an upset. I think it is 60-40 in our favour. Off the court I'm good for the atmosphere. Without me it can be a little heavy, a little too serious.
Your team-mates, Ljubicic, Ancic and Ivo Karlovic have all said they're playing tennis because you inspired them. Which single figure inspired you? I had lots of heroes - John McEnroe was my hero in tennis. He is a genius, and I played against him in his last professional match. Now I get to play him on the Champions' Tour. My sporting hero was Drazen Petrovic, the NBA basketball player, who was killed in a car accident in 1993. He was a good friend, an unbelievable player, and I dedicated my Wimbledon win to him.
Your involvement in the Davis Cup final means you'll be missing the Albert Hall Masters event this week. Who is going to win that in your absence? That's tough to say. There are so many great players. I was very surprised when I joined the Delta Tour of Champions to find that they are all still in such great shape. All the players say they're not practising and yet they're all playing unbelievable tennis! John McEnroe really surprised me. I already knew that he was a genius, but he's 46 and last year he played a close match against Mario [Ancic], who is 21 and ranked 22 in the world! That is unbelievable. John gets so pumped and wants to win so badly. The other players like Jim Courier, Pat Cash and Thomas Muster are also in great shape. I'm only sorry I can't play because I heard what a beautiful venue it is and how great the atmosphere is. But the chance to play in the Davis Cup final is a one-time opportunity that I can't turn down. I will be there in London next year for sure.
What do you see yourself doing in 10 years' time? Davis Cup captain? Coach? Head of the LTA's development programme? Head of the Split tourist board? No one knows what I'm going to do, not even me. I must be the only player in the world who ever injured himself for a tournament by stepping on a shell on the beach. I don't know what I'm going to do. Since retiring I have spent a lot of time with my family, on my boat, and playing football. One day I would definitely like to be the Davis Cup captain of Croatia, but that is harder than playing. When you play you can get some of the nervousness out of your system. When you sit for seven hours on the side of the court watching your team play, it's not easy. It can drive you crazy. I'm looking forward to one day being the captain, though. We have a great team, great guys, with a great future.
Talking of Split, or rather split, how many Gorans are there these days? And which one do you spend most time with? There are still three - Good Goran, Bad Goran and Emergency Goran. Since I retired they are all more relaxed, there are not so many fights as there used to be when I would play at Wimbledon. These days, Emergency Goran can sit back and relax, the other two have everything under control. Occasionally he still needs to come out of retirement to calm the others down, but not too much.
What do you think of Andy Murray - good enough to be top 10? And to win Wimbledon one day? He is very good and he handles pressure situations well. It's good to have players who show emotion and are not scared. He is good enough to be a top player, but who knows if he will win Wimbledon? You can't win it just by showing up, it isn't easy. Murray will have to handle a lot.
You said recently that if you had not won the Wimbledon title on that incredible People's Monday against Pat Rafter, you'd have moved to the North Pole or strung yourself from a bridge. Is that what you'd advise Tim Henman to do if he never wins in SW19? No, Tim Henman is a hero for what he has done - there should be a statue of him at Wimbledon - but he still just gets shit. I would like to see Tim winning Wimbledon because he deserves to win Wimbledon, and it would make everyone leave him alone. He has a good game to win it, he will always have a chance, but it gets tougher every year.
Your hobbies include football, reading and cinema. What's the best match you've seen, the best book you've read and the best film, this year? I don't know about the best match, but the best goal was by Darren Carter for West Bromwich Albion against Arsenal. It was an unbelievable goal, for sure the best of the Premiership this season. I really liked the film Wedding Crashers this year, that was really funny, but my favourite film ever is Gladiator. The best book I read this year was The Da Vinci Code.
Y ou're a big football fan, and a supporter of West Bromwich Albion. Why oh why? If someone had told me two years ago that I would be a supporter of West Brom I would have said that they were crazy, but I am. There is this guy, David Law, who works on the Champions' Tour. He is a West Bromwich Albion freak, and he was always talking about them, complaining, moaning that they were not doing very well last season. So I started to follow their results, to support them, and as soon as I did they stayed up! The last day of the season I couldn't believe how nervous I was - following the results on teletext, switching channels like a freak. I saw the survival DVD afterwards - The Great Escape - and the scenes of the fans were unbelievable - it was like they had won the Premiership! I am one of them now, I have the club jersey, and I really want to go to the home ground to watch them play. I love the passion and enthusiasm they have. I'm hoping the team are going to start doing better soon so that it is less stressful. I don't want to be watching The Great Escape Part 2.
You've got a young daughter. Is she a Teletubbies fan? Do you regale her with stories about how watching Teletubbies daily helped you win Wimbledon? She likes Teletubbies almost as much as me. It's nice not to have to watch it any more, though. Now I can watch if I want, but not for superstition. Being a dad is great but there's one problem. She doesn't sleep. At night it's like she turns into a vampire. She wakes up every night five or 10 times, asking for things, singing, calling. If it's only five times in a night it's like I've won the lottery. I've tried to yell, but if I yell it gets even worse, she starts to cry and scream even more, so I just give her whatever she wants. Maybe in 10 years she will sleep the whole night.
You're throwing a dinner party for six guests, from any era in history. Who? Why? Where? And what do you eat and drink? Angelina Jolie, Sharon Stone and Catherine Zeta Jones. That would be enough. We would eat Croatian fish and drink whatever they want.
Roger Federer has already been called the best player, the most naturally talented player, who ever lived. Do you agree? Maybe, yes. It's tough to compare eras, but Roger will definitely be one of the top players of all time. Even Pete Sampras never dominated tennis like Federer is at the moment. Pete always struggled in the first few rounds of tournaments - even when he won Wimbledon he wasn't winning early matches easily, although when he got into the second week he was cruising. It was tougher for Pete at that time - he had seven or eight guys who could beat him - Jim Courier, Richard Krajicek, Andre Agassi, me, Wayne Ferreira, Todd Martin, Thomas Muster, Boris Becker, Michael Stich - there was more competition, so it was much tougher. Right now Federer has nobody to beat him - maybe Marat Safin, but that depends on how he wakes up. If he wakes up OK maybe he can beat him; if not, he won't. Federer might give you one chance - if you don't take it, you don't win.
Goran Ivanisevic now plays on The Delta Tour of Champions, which culminates in The Masters at the Royal Albert Hall, London, starting tomorrow. Tickets are available on 0870 458 3661 or you can buy them online at www.themasterstennis.com
Attachment: The Goran Ivanisevic lowdown
* Born: 13 September 1971, in Split (then Yugoslavia, now Croatia)
* Turned pro: 1988
First tour singles title: 1990 (Stuttgart)
Total tour singles titles: 22 Doubles titles: 9
* Highest singles ranking: No 2 in the world, behind Pete Sampras, in 1994
* Wimbledon winner: 2001 (as a wild card)
Won BBC Sports Personality of the Year Overseas Personality Award in 2001
Wimbledon runner-up: 1992 (losing to Agassi), 1994 and 1998 (losing on both occasions to Sampras)
* Olympic bronze medallist:
1992 (singles and doubles)
* 1996: Set tour record of serving 1,477 aces in one season
* Other interests: football (Ivanisevic has played for Hajduk Split and supports West Bromwich Albion), reading, cinema
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