Talented Ancic the new Split personality

Mario Ancic, for some reason, has grown to be known as "Baby Goran". This is odd because he has also grown to be an inch taller than the man who first established the Adriatic port of Split as a breeding ground for tall, nationalistic serve-and-volleyers.

Mario Ancic, for some reason, has grown to be known as "Baby Goran". This is odd because he has also grown to be an inch taller than the man who first established the Adriatic port of Split as a breeding ground for tall, nationalistic serve-and-volleyers.

Goran Ivanisevic, the 2001 Wimbledon champion, bid farewell to the championships on Centre Court on Friday after a third-round defeat to Lleyton Hewitt. The Croatian mantle was on the peg for just five days as Ancic can now claim to the "New Goran".

The two men are no strangers. Ancic was once a ball boy to his predecessor, in a Davis Cup tie, and later came into the competitive realm of the man who was to become a national hero. Ancic began playing aged seven and the game almost came to him. The 20-year-old lives on a road called Put Firula, at No 39. The local tennis club is at No 34.

Ancic practised there with Ivanisevic from the age of 10. He is different in that he is right-handed, but has picked up several of his mentor's movements and mannerisms. In the 2000 Sydney Olympics they were a doubles team.

Ivanisevic now believes they can also come together in terms of achievement. "I think he can be a great player," he said. "I don't know how good stories he's going to tell you in the press conference, but he is a funny guy. He's a nice guy and he's still young, but he is going to learn. He can be the next future star."

It was three years ago that Tim Henman suffered his first Croatian grilling in the glare of Wimbledon's latter rounds. In a semi-final against Ivanisevic which started on the Friday, Henman won the third set 6-0 to take a 2-1 lead when rain intervened. By Sunday, though, the home favourite was out in five sets. Ivanisevic went on to beat Pat Rafter in the final on People's Monday.

It is not a passage they will forget in Croatia. "I was watching," Ancic remembers. "It was just remarkable. Everybody just waiting the next day. And then the whole town was silent. There was nobody doing anything, nobody working, just watching Goran. That was the biggest happening of the day. I mean quarter-final, semi-final and final, the place was just focusing on one thing. We were all really nervous cheering for him.

"You have to remember we are a small country," he added. "He's one of our ambassadors, not only for a game, just ambassador for Croatia. After he won, half of Croatia cried. I was happy that I knew him and I went to welcome him when he arrived in Split.

"He's just a great character. People don't appreciate him only for tennis, they appreciate him also because, in time of war, he was carrying [the] Croatian flag. Also, he was just staying so normal even when he won so many titles. He's still huge. People recognise him a lot.

"I'll be really lucky if that momentum from when he was playing can also happen if I play. That means tennis in Croatia is popular and lots of people are going to try to take a racket and start. You know, that's a great thing."

There are, of course, differences in the Split personalities, but there are similarities too, especially as Ivanisevic has been moulding his protégé for over a decade now. "Goran is Goran. Not me," Ancic said. "[But] we are both Split. We are typical. That's our character. We are not too much different with our temperament.

"When I was small - 15, 16 - I was playing more from the baseline. And he was saying, 'Keep on improving that volley game, keep on going to the net'. He also said when I was 12, 'You know, keep on breaking rackets'."

BUY WIMBLEDON TICKETS

Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen