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------------------------------------------------<br />How Goran came from nowhere to win Wimbledon<br />Source: The Scotsman <br />Publication date: 2001-12-24

<br />THE Wimbledon triumph of Goran Ivanisevic was not just the highlight of this year, it was also one of the most remarkable sporting achievements ever. Before dismissing that as hyperbole, try to think of another example of a team or individual who won a major tournament after being completely written off. <br />There have been astonishing comebacks before, of course, but they do tend to be from a position of strength. When Manchester United won the European Cup in 1999, for instance, they showed incredible self- belief to score the two last-gasp goals. But everyone knew they were a good team: that was why they were in the final.

As for individuals, there is no denying that Tiger Woods, to name the obvious example, has done far more than Ivanisevic. If he is to match the feat performed between 25 June and 9 July, though, he will have to do nothing for a few years, fall out of golf's top 100, pick up more than a few injuries - and then come back and blast away his competitors one more time.

Come to think of it, even then it would not be as good as Goran's greatest fortnight. For Woods has been over the course time and time again. He knows what it is like to be a winner at the highest level, whereas before this summer, all that Ivanisevic had experience of was losing Grand Slam finals.

Still not convinced? Well, maybe you just had to be there day after day as the bandwagon got rolling and it slowly dawned on everyone that this crackpot from Croatia actually had a chance of becoming the men's singles champion.

Not that it was particularly foolish for anyone to be sceptical about his chances. A three-time loser in the final, Ivanisevic was well past his best. He was only in the main draw at all thanks to the charity of the All-England Club, which had offered him a wild card as a recognition of his past stature in the game. It all seemed a bit sad at first, watching this once-formidable competitor get ready for the tournament.

True, he had matured mentally and had grown out of the sullen machismo that he had exhibited for most of the Nineties, yet even that appeared to be evidence of his decline.

His humorous asides to the crowd during his early matches and his goofy little TV chats with a fawning Sue Barker - both surely showed that he could no longer even take himself seriously. Around the courts after matches you could see people staring at him in puzzled fashion, as if asking themselves: didn't that man use to be Goran Ivanisevic?

He was the Ghost of Goran, or so we thought, and he really should have shuffled off to his next life instead of hanging around his old haunts. But he insisted on attempting one last shot at redemption, despite the years of failure, despite the flaky temperament, despite having a shoulder that was on its last legs, and legs which were noticeably slower than in 1992, '94 and '98, when he lost first to Andre Agassi and then - twice - to Pete Sampras.

And he came with a certain appetite. As a renowned carnivore, he was asked just before Wimbledon if he had not been deterred from coming to Britain by the foot-and-mouth epidemic. "I can't survive without meat," he replied with a hint of the engaging humour for which he would soon be celebrated. "If I die, I die like a man - eating meat."

THE early rounds gave little indication of what was to come. First he beat an unknown Swede, Fredrik Jonsson, in three sets, and then Carlos Moya, the claycourt specialist from Spain, in four. American teen sensation Andy Roddick was next to go, also in a four-setter, and Goran was through to a last-16 meeting with Britain's Greg Rusedski. It was billed as the battle of the heavy artillery, but it turned out to be almost a walkover. Rusedski's resistance was limited and Ivanisevic blasted his way into the last eight in straight sets.

Everyone was paying attention now. He had done his good-Goran-bad- Goran interview on the BBC - a cute piece that neatly illustrated the two sides to his tennis personality. He then introduced us to a third side - Emergency Goran, or 911, the one called upon in the direst of situations, to stop Good and Bad falling out with each other and restore some order. There was no emergency in the quarter-final. Ivanisevic's opponent, No4 seed Marat Safin, was in the match just briefly, when he took the third set. Otherwise it was Goran all the way and afterwards, for the first time in public, he allowed himself to dream a little.

"This year I'm playing the best tennis ever I played at Wimbledon," he said. "Now I've come so far, to stop will be a big disappointment. So I don't want to stop.

I don't believe I'm going to lose. I strongly believe maybe this is the year. After three finals, nobody believed - even I didn't believe. I said: 'OK man, you're finished'. Now I believe that I can do it. Who knows, you know. Strange things happen."

They certainly did in the semi-final, which stretched out over three days because of rain, and forced the tournament into a third Monday. It was an epic, exhausting match - and that was just for the spectators - but at the end, after five enthralling sets, British hope Tim Henman was beaten, and Goran was in his fourth final.

There were at best mixed emotions among the crowd, most of whom had hoped that Henman would make it through. But the victor was generous at the end, saying his opponent had the game to win Wimbledon and one year - maybe the next, maybe the one after - he would surely have a great chance. For Goran himself, though, destiny lay just a day away.

The final was mental. Centre Court, normally the hushed preserve of the English ruling class and their flunkeys, had been turned over to the riffraff.

The usual audience prepares for a match by sipping Pimms and humming Pomp and Circumstance to itself. This lot, many of whom had queued all night, had been drinking anything they could lay their hands on and were not about to be sedated.

The Australian fans of Pat Rafter outnumbered Goran's barmy army, but this was not really an adversarial occasion. Supposedly separated by their allegiances, the crowd were in fact united by the sheer excitement of being there, of having taken over tennis's inner sanctum for a few hours.

IVANISEVIC, whose shoulder had kept functioning throughout the fortnight only thanks to painkillers, slowly gained the upper hand over Rafter. The first three sets went 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 in the Croat's favour, and the title looked like it was in his grasp.

But then Rafter hit back, as Ivanisevic allowed the old doubts to set in. Serving at 3-2 down, Goran lost his composure after two controversial moments - the first a foot fault called by an "ugly, ugly lady", as he indelicately described her later, the second a line call from "a guy who looks like a ****** little bit, you know".

Rafter took that game, then won the fourth set 6-2. The old Goran would have collapsed into a sulk at that point, but this one was determined to keep his date with destiny.

The fifth set went on and on. Three times Ivanisevic had championship points: three times he squandered them. On the fourth occasion, though, he made no mistake, sending down a strong second serve, which Rafter could only put into the net. He had won the fifth set 9-7, and he had won the title nine years after first reaching the final.

This time Goran did collapse - but out of relief and exhaustion rather than despair. His resurrection was complete. He could hardly believe it. We could hardly believe it. A wild card in every sense of the word, Goran Ivanisevic was Wimbledon champion at last.


Best of the best: the magic moments that lit up the sporting world in 2001 ; Ivanisevic wins Wimbledon<br />Source: Independent - London <br />Publication date: 2001-12-24

<br />BUD COLLINS, the flamboyant but perceptive tennis writer of the Boston Globe broke a press box taboo at the Centre Court last summer when he rose to his feet and applauded Pete Sampras after the great American had surrendered his title. Collins was unrepentant. "I know we should be detached," he said, "but I just admire the guy so damned much." <br />A few days later in the same press box, Collins' departure from professional convention seemed like a small lapse indeed. The place was pandemonium. Goran Ivanisevic, having conquered an attack of nerves that had produced two double faults at the point of victory over Pat Rafter, steadied himself and then claimed the title that had haunted him so profoundly since his defeat in the final by Andre Agassi eight years earlier. What followed could only be described as contagious bliss.

It wasn't so much a triumph to be admired as embraced. It was a wonderment of joy and eccentric glory, and the emotions it produced were so strong, so uplifting, there was an overpowering sense that a tennis lawn could never again produce quite such an intensity of fulfilled ambition. The arena punctuated for so long by the sighs of Dan Maskell had been turned into a cockpit and in it Ivanisevic had justified his sporting life. His eyes popped and blazed as he leaped onto a chair, his smile was a beacon. His torment was over and no winner ever embraced his audience so warmly. It was his victory, but no one had shared a triumph so generously, so wittily, so engagingly.

Ranked 128th in the entry list, a wild card of despairing hope, Ivanisevic's world of broken rackets and shattered dreams, seemed to be ending in a final bout of angst in the second round. On an outside court, he dropped the first set of his second round match against the Spanish clay court ace Carlos Moya on a tie-breaker, and one remembers walking back through the grounds thinking of the cruelties that big-time sport can reserve for even the most talented of stars.

Three times Ivanisevic had got within touching distance of the great prize of Wimbledon, once against Agassi, twice against Sampras, but now, trailing Moya and his spirit smouldering again, the man from Split must have felt that the goal had never seemed so far away. But he beat Moya, then the hot young American Andy Roddick, then Greg Rusedski, then Marat Safin - "of course Goran can win this thing, I know how to play this game you know," said the Muscovite - and then Tim Henman, in the most extraordinary set of circumstances.

When he beat Henman, after unravelling towards what seemed like certain defeat until rain brought deliverance, there was a growing sense that the Croat was being carried by a superior force. It might have been his alter ego, "the controller guy," who separated the good Goran from the bad one at the moments of extreme tension, it might have been some mystical release of the most maligant demons. Who could know when confronted with the wild-eyed character who one moment took you to the epi-centre of a competitor's passion, then reported, straight-faced, his addiction to the Teletubbies?

It said so much about the force of his ambition, and the wacky charm with which it was accompanied, that all but the strong Australian presence cheered against the hopes of the splendid Rafter. The Aussie, twice a winner of the US Open, was also riding a dream as a chronic shoulder injury pushed him towards retirement. He too was desperate to win tennis's most prestigious bauble at possibly the last opportunity. Ivanisevic won 6- 3, 3-6, 6-3, 2-6, 9-7. The match lasted three hours, one minute. The last set threatened to go on if not for ever at least dangerously beyond the emotional threshold of the crowd. Someone counted, with astonishing diligence, the number of times the umpire called "quiet please," to the crowd. It was 116 times. He must have felt like the Dutch boy with his finger in the wall of the ****.

You could no more quieten the crowd than catch the wind. It blew, in the end, unstoppably for the Croat who, in his excitement at being inducted into his nation's army the other day, recalled how he kept volunteering to pick up a rifle only to be told, go away and win tennis tournaments. Finally, he won the biggest of them all, and said, "At the moment when I won all my life went through my head, from the first moments of it until three Wimbledon finals, everything like flashbacks in my head. I just couldn't believe it happened. I didn't know where to go. I went to my father, I went to my coach. I mean, I could have gone all day and night on that Centre Court. No one could have taken me out. Everything was going on in my head."

So much had gone on in that head, but now he was at peace. Long after the crowds had cleared, he could be seen throwing tennis balls down to a knot of countrymen who had gathered beneath a balcony. He was draped in the flag of his infant state but few individual sportsmen had been so warmly embraced by the world. He had played brilliantly, but much more than that, he had played from his soul. It was some performance, some soul.

Publication date: 2001-12-24<br />© 2001, YellowBrix, Inc.

Premium Member
182,359 Posts
thanx Becca <img src="smile.gif" border="0">

7,401 Posts
not when she discovered that Goran is marrying her girlfriend. <img src="wink.gif" border="0"> <img src="graemlins/angel.gif" border="0" alt="[Angel]" />

25,581 Posts
thanks a lot, Becca <img src="biggrin.gif" border="0"> . I love Goran forever <img src="wink.gif" border="0">
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