Funny and hard working Goran
Goran Ivanisevic is famous. A national hero in Croatia and a popular ex-player in the rest of the world. Many passionate tennis fans will remember the crying Goran when he won his fourth Wimbledon final beating Patrick Rafter. Making him the long dreamed of Wimbledon Champion. With nine ATP double titles and 22 single titles the former number two of the world truly is a great champion. Known for his interesting personality, that used to exist out of three Gorans (the good, the mad and the emergency Goran) he now tells us that there is only one Goran left, which is way easier to travel with.
The best father possible
The 42 years old Ivanisevic retired as a professional tennis player in 2004. His life is now about two things: his family and tennis. “My family and kids are really important to me. I love to have fun with them and want to be the best father possible. I try to raise them well, try to teach them something, to put them on the right track.” What he wants to learn them? “Manners, how to behave, how to be polite to other people. How to believe in themselves and how to try to be the best in what they are doing.They will have my support and that of my wife.Though being the best father possible is never going to be easy. These kids are different than I was. Now they already have the television, internet, games and all that. I just have to deal with that.”
Still enjoying every match
Goran plays on the ATP Champions Tour, coaches Marin Cilic and is involved with the Umag Tennis Academy. We first dive into his adventures on the veteran Tour. At the AFAS Tennis Classics in the Netherlands he reached the semi-finals, after winning of Rafter and loosing of another Wimbledon champion Krajicek. Does the Croat with the big serve ever train for these tournaments? “Well, I currently work with Cilic, so I do practice a lot of tennis lately”, he tells us laughing. The passionate Goran confirms he still enjoys every match he plays. “Of course. I mean, I don’t like to practice a lot, but I like to play. OK and I don’t enjoy it when I loose. But I am not going to lock myself in the room anymore and start to cry. Times have changed.” Also on court, things have changed for him now. The ‘golden oldies’ make a lot of jokes during the matches. The funny Goran entertains the crowd by switches places with the line empire and the ball boy. How does he see the balance between having fun on court and the will to win the match? “You have to find a good balance. We can be friends off court and quite competitive during the match. If you have to much fun, than it is tough to play seriously. So, in the end it is more serious, because you do come here to win. All my live I have been a competitive tennis player. I want to win.” Goran who takes the time for this interview tells us that it is not hard to be in the spotlight. “It is only about once a month, that is not too intense. Talking to the people, talking to the press and promoting the tour, it is great to this work.”
Dramatically good – dramatically bad
2001 was a crazy year for the Croat with a funny, but also complex character. It was a dramatically good and bad year at the same time. He felt back to the 128th place on the ATP rankings and he had to play Challengers again. He also became the lowest ranked player (125) ever to win ‘his’ Wimbledon. As Goran played with a left shoulder injury most of the year (and underwent a left rotator cuff surgery in 2002, followed by left shoulder, elbow and right knee problems in 2003) it is logical to assumed these injuries formed the most important reason for his fell back in 2001. Though, when asking him how he dealt with injuries during his career, he unexpectedly answers: “Actually I didn’t have so much injuries. I was a very lucky guy. Yes, I played Challengers again, but not because of my injuries. It was because of my shit tennis, because I was playing really bad. A brain injury may be, a very tough one.”
Out of the misery
What do you do when you are a passionate tennis pro, but just do not seem able to get your game right on court? How do you keep motivated and bring your game back to a higher level? “Such a period is extremely frustrating. At that time I lost twelve first rounds in a row. That is not good! You play on Monday, you practice till Sunday. You play on Monday, you practice till Sunday. So in almost three months you do not win one single match. You play good in practice and you just can’t play a match.” How he got out of this misery? “I don’t know. Actually, I tried everything. You try to talk to other people, you try to talk to yourself. You try to practice a little less, a little more. You try everything and in the end nothing was working. And then somehow something changed. I don’t know how, but it did and somehow I won Wimbledon.”
During those two magical weeks at London Goran had quite some surprising rituals that needed to be done the same way every day. Every day? “Yes, yes, every day.” Goran made sure he used the same shower every day, enjoyed his meals at the same restaurant and of course watched the Teletubbies every day. “Yes, because the first day I woke up and there was nothing on TV and I was watching these Teletubbies for ten minutes. I was laughing like crazy. I never saw it before. And then I thought, ‘why not? Let’s watch them every day?’.” Jacco Eltingh (five times Grand Slam winner in the doubles and at that time present as press) also became part of funny Goran’s day program. “He interviewed me on the first day and somehow I felt confident about it, so I wanted to repeat that. Those things only take a few minutes and make me happy. As I believed that if I would not do one such a thing I might lose the match, it was best to just do them. It relaxed me.” As you can expect anything of the passionate Goran, did he also watch Teletubbies and used the same shower at other tournaments? “No, it was just during this Wimbledon.”
The ‘Goran way’
What it is with Croatian tennis players (Ivanisevic, Ancic, Karlovic, Ljublicic, Cilic) and hard services is some kind of a mystery. Of course they are tall men, but even the serve of the 1.85m long Coric forms an important weapon in his game. Did Goran actually have a second serve or did he always serve the ‘Goran way’? By this we mean, always hitting as hard as possible and when hitting one ace out of four, you are at least equal with your opponent. “ ‘The Goran way’, I like that, It sounds good! Well, people think it is easy to hit the bal. But when a match gets tight, some guys just push the ball. I could not push, I had to hit hard. Me and Sampras are guys that went for the big serve. A lot of time I hit aces and sometimes double faults on the big points. It is fifty-fifty and risky. I just said to myself ‘no way that your are going to miss’. Out of ten times, perhaps I missed once. I just believed that I could do it, just hitting harder, harder and harder.” So indeed, the holder of the world record in number of aces (1.477 aces in 1996) does it the ‘Goran way’, always hit as hard as possible.
What is it that this hard-hitter loves about tennis? “I love to compete. I love to hit an ace, to win the point, to win the match. I love to see the guys, I love to watch tennis and to see how tennis changed in the past ten years.” Of course the game has become faster nowadays. Are there also other aspects that have changed in your opinion? “Yes, the guys are stronger and are hitting the ball hard. Technically they are not better, but physically they are better. Also the courts are slower.”
The Umag Tennis Academy
Currently Goran is also involved with the Umag Tennis Academy. “Tennis gave me everything, so I think I should give something back. Especially to the talented kids practicing in Croatia. We have a junior number one man and girl in the world, so we are very good. I think I can practice with them and prepare them for the future.” This Academy with 26 courts in a beautiful surrounding was opened in 2013 in the presence of Dolgopolov, Seppi and Gasquet. During the summer Goran Ivanisevic organizes here a six week PRO camp where he will closely supervise its activities, participate in trainings, drills and on-the-court-tactical development of the tennis talents. Here you can read more about this academy and Goran’s involvement.
Goran the coach
Apart from working with young talents, Goran also travels with the current number 22 of the world Marin Cilic for twenty weeks of the year. The Grand Slams are the most important to focus on. “I know him since he was fourteen and a half. I am in touch with him all this years. I did not agree with the way he played. I think he should play more aggressive.” Is Cilic the kind of guy that is open to these kind of advices? “Yes, I think right now he has to change some things. His game brought him where he is right now. But he is not yet able to win of the number five of the world for example. He has to improve his serve even further, play more aggressive and come to the net. He should really go for his shots. At this level you level you can’t expect the other to miss. Nadal or Djokovic, how are they ever going to miss? Cilic has the weapons to play the necessary game to beat these top players in the future.”
Just one Goran left
The craziest thing Goran ever did, apart from winning Wimbledon entering with a wild card? “Well, I did a lot of crazy things, but you don’t want to know about that,” he jokes. So, we will stick to the Wimbledon story. The three Gorans of the past (the good, the mad and the emergency Goran when he had to take control of himself again) are gone. There is just one Goran left nowadays. “It’s easier to travel with one. He is a simple guy, he likes to play, to have fun and to talk to the people.” And so he does. A many sided and nice guy to meet. Serious when he has to, funny when possible and overall very relaxed.