Green grass of home stirs happy memories for Goran
LONDON (Reuters) - Every time Goran Ivanisevic looks out of the window of his Croatian home and sees the grass, it reminds him of the unforgettable day he finally won Wimbledon.
But, strangely, he does not relive that glory day 11 years ago too often. He loves to beat himself up watching tapes of matches he lost, especially to his nemesis Pete Sampras.
Ivanisevic was a true original on court with a blistering serve that matched his fiery temperament.
Off court he would bare his soul to the delight of reporters at Wimbledon in 2001 when he became the first wildcard to win the tournament. Three times before he had been runner-up.
He always said he feared for his sanity if he had lost that final against Australian Pat Rafter but he triumphed and is now gloriously at ease with himself.
"It is peaceful for me because I know I won," he told Reuters in an interview organized by Wimbledon sponsors Lavazza.
"Every time I see grass in front of my home in Croatia, I remember Wimbledon."
But the lanky, bearded Croat is not one for wallowing in nostalgia. Intriguingly, he has a masochistic streak when reviewing the highs and lows of his career.
"I have so many tapes I watch. I had so many matches with Sampras. I watch them and I cannot believe I lost," he said, shrugging his shoulders in astonishment all these years later.
He is still infuriated with himself for the way he succumbed to the American seven-times Wimbledon champion.
"I watch more the losing ones. I didn't have that problem with (Andre) Agassi, (Boris) Becker, (Ivan) Lendl, not with any player. I needed to play something special with him," Ivanisevic said.
"At one stage in one match I was 5-0 up against him and I didn't win another game after that. He wasn't like the others."
The year he won Wimbledon truly was a tennis fairytale that stretched over 15 rain-soaked days, including a pulsating nerve-wracking, three-day semi-final against Britain's Tim Henman.
That would never happen now as Wimbledon's Centre Court has a roof to keep out the ever unpredictable British weather.
That means nothing to Goran.
"Yeah, it was destiny. Roof, no roof, that was my Wimbledon," he said.
Ivanisevic's mightiest weapon was his magnificent serve. But that, he argues, was never enough to reach grand slam heights.
"You definitely need one big weapon but to be up there, you need more things," he said. "To have everything solid is not enough, When I had my rhythm, everything was working. The serve is the most difficult shot in tennis by far. People just think you throw the ball up and hit an ace."
Twenty-eight of the last 29 grand slams have been won by just three players - Novak Djokovic, Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer. It is a far cry from Ivanisevic's day.
"There were more guys who could make damage and win grand slams. You could have different styles. You could have Agassi and Sampras. The guy serves and volleys and comes to the net and you have Agassi who doesn't come up. So it was great to watch. Today they all play the same, you can't come to the net," he said.
So, is tennis today boringly predictable to watch?
"No, it is not boring, just different. You have some unbelievable matches like the Australian Open final (when Djokovic beat Nadal). After six hours they hit the ball like they had just started warming up."
(Editing by Ed Osmond)
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