Exit the showman: Goran calls it a day

PTI | ByAllan Kelly (AFP), London
Jun 26, 2004 11:31 AM IST

Goran Ivanisevic got to go out the way he wanted ? before his Wimbledon Centre Court faithful and with a twinkle in his eye.

Goran got to go out the way he wanted — before his Wimbledon Centre Court faithful and with a twinkle in his eye.

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Ivanisevic's colourful 15-year-career was all about the Centre Court — the good times and the bad times.

The bad times came in 1992, 1994 and 1998 when he lost three finals to Andre Agassi and twice to Pete Sampras.

The good times came in 2001 when he finally realised his lifelong dream of winning Wimbledon by defeating Australian Pat Rafter in an emotional five-setter.

He departed Wimbledon for the last time Friday on a losing note, having little to offer against another Australian Lleyton Hewitt, other than the occasional trademark booming serve.

But the 32-year-old from the Adriatic coastal town of Split was in no mood for a funeral.

"Everything was perfect," he told the last of his post-match press conferences, occasions that have become as exhuberant and unpredictable as his matches.

"The weather, the crowd, the court. I just enjoyed myself.

"I'm happy and I'm sad, I'm sad that I have to leave, but I'm happy that it's no more practicing.

"I knew it was going to be the last one as soon as I came here, but I wanted to play on Centre Court and I wanted to show myself that I can still win matches."

Showman to the last, Ivanisevic slipped off his white shirt at the end of the Hewitt match and donned a red-and-white chequered Croatian football strip with the No.10 on the back as he lapped up the adulation.

He was always a crowd-pleaser at the tradition-entrenched All England club since he made his first appearance as a 16-year-old in 1988.

Ivanisevic wore his heart on his sleeve like few players before him, despairing and cursing the gods one moment, charming and wise-cracking the next.

He once made it to No.2 in the world rankings, and according to such a shrewd tennis commentator as Mats Wilander, he could have been even better had he not built his game solely around his extraordinary big, booming left-handed serve.

But for Ivanisevic it was less about bare results and more abut playing with panache and entertaining.

"I'm proud of everything I did in my career," he said.

"I played with all the generations, you know, McEnroe, Connors, with these young guys, with Pete (Sampras), with Andre (Agassi). So it's great."

What next then for the big man?

"I'm going home tomorrow and I don't know what I will do next. Who knows?

"Maybe I become Davis Cup captain. I will play some exhibitions, senior tour, who knows. But right now I want to relax.

"When I wake up, no more therapy, no more exercises, no more painkillers, no more nothing. I just want to enjoy and be proud of myself, everything I did in the last 15 years."

It will be a well-merited retirement and tennis will be all the poorer for his departure.

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