Ivanisevic's beach paddle adds to a bizarre catalogue of injuries

John Roberts,Florida
Friday 21 March 2003 01:00

There are many hazards on the road to Wimbledon. Trust Goran Ivanisevic to find a new one. The 2001 All England Club champion went for a paddle after taking a stroll on a Miami beach and cut his left foot on a jagged piece of rock. So ended the 31-year-old Croat's latest attempt to get his game together before it is too late.

Limping into the tournament office at the Nasdaq-100 Open here, Ivanisevic, currently ranked No 633, smiled ruefully and said: "Maybe I should retire." He did not mean it. He has vowed to return to Wimbledon next June if there is breath in his body. Moreover, Ivanisevic is accustomed to mishaps on and off the court.

Many people were surprised that Ivanisevic decided to make a comeback after surgery to repair the left shoulder that had fortunately held together during his glorious Wimbledon campaign. The fact is he has only managed to complete one match on the mainstream ATP Tour during the past 13 months.

In Dubai last month, in his first match for 11 months, Ivanisevic collapsed in agony after injuring his left knee after 44 minutes of a contest against Andrei Stoliarov, a Russian qualifier. "I was running and I said to myself: 'Don't run, don't slide,' because I thought it was too far," Ivanisevic recounted. "But then, stuff it, I did it anyway." Almost doing the splits, Ivanisevic was relieved to be told after being taken to hospital that the damage was not more than a strained ligament.

Yesterday, while the organisers at the Nasdaq told Flavio Saretta that he would replace Ivanisevic as a lucky loser – the Brazilian was beaten in the qualifying in spite of having three match points against Michael Llodra, of France – those who have observed Ivanisevic down the years traded stories about some of his more bizarre injuries.

For example, while partnering Australia's Mark Philippoussis in a doubles match in Toronto in the late 1990s, Ivanisevic decided to head the ball over the net. He arrived at the same time as Philippoussis, running forward to play a conventional shot, and their heads banged together. Ivanisevic required stitches and Philippoussis was concussed.

Another time, Ivanisevic left his apartment in Monte Carlo to go to the practice courts and realised he had forgotten his rackets. He tried to rush back inside, but the door closed and broke several of his fingers.

Aside from hurricanes or rainstorms, visiting tennis reporters tend not to mention the weather too much. This week, however, it has been unseasonably hot. Nicolas Escudé, of France, who plays Tim Henman, the British No 1, in the second round today, had the worst of the heat so far during his three-sets win in the first round against Dominik Hrbaty, of Slovakia, on Wednesday.

Henman, given a first round bye, avoided the 90F temperature (the only hotter South Florida day in March was 92F in 1977). "I have played many years in every possible country, and I have never felt so bad on the court," Escudé said.

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