LJUBO THE SAINT
CROATIA IN DAVIS CUP FINAL - an inspiration to CROATIAN JUNIORS
By Katarina Tepesh
New York, September 26, 2005 – Ivan Ljubicic, ranked 15 best tennis player in the world, has taken Croatia to the Davis Cup final almost single-handedly. “I do realize that winning nine points out of nine is fantastic. I just want to bring Davis Cup to Croatia. We’ve got one more match to go against Slovakia in December and I hope we won’t stop here because the road has been very long and very rough,” said Ljubicic.
His five-set victory over Andy Roddick in California during March gave Croatia a 3-1 lead in that tie, while against Romania he came to the rescue by beating Victor Hanescu after Ancic had been beaten in five-sets by Andrei Pavel. This weekend, Ljubicic beat powerful Russian team of Mikhail Youzhny to level the tie at 1-1 on Friday after Davydenko had earlier beaten Ancic, then teamed up with Ancic on Saturday to beat Dmitry Tursunov and Igor Andreev.
Ljubicic is the biggest news in Croatia right now. He knocked off from front pages Prime Minister Ivo Sanader, President of Croatia Mesic and Croatian Foreign Affairs and European Integration Minister Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic, who is visiting Washington.
Croatians have been celebrating since Sunday. As soon as Ljubicic won, the 5,000 people in the sports hall in Split, burst out screaming, “Ljubo, Ljubo.” and singing “Veceras je Nasa Festa” and “Necemo Doma do Zore.” Speakers blasted, “We are the Champions.”
Imagine what an inspiration reaching the first Davis Cup Final will be for the Croatian Juniors recently playing at the US Open 2005. One of the boys below will one day took over to carry on historic event. Which one will it be?
The high hopes are on MARIN CILIC, who was born on 9/28/1988 in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Ranked No. 2 among Juniors, Cilic at age 16, provides high quality tennis, already attracting hundreds of spectators. In Boys’ Singles Cilic convincingly defeated McClune in First Round with easy 6-2, 6-2; Spencer in Second Round with 7-6, 6-4 and Kirillov 7-6, 6-4 in Third Round; Cilic lost in Quarterfinals to No. 7 Chardy, in two out of three sets 4-6, 6-4, 6-2.
Cilic did less well in Boy’s Doubles partnering with Tristan Farron. They lost in the Second Round, with Cilic having great difficulty keeping the focus on doubles play. He behaved as if he was forced to play doubles. Day before, in preparation for the US Open 2005, Cilic was seen practicing with his mentor and idol, Ivan Ljubicic.
ANTONIO VEIC was born 2/18/1988. He reached Second Round in Singles and First Round in Doubles. Feisty Veic competes with his heart and soul. Since playing last year at the US Open Juniors, 17-year-old Veic suffered an accident during a soccer game. He broke his left leg in two places.
LUKA BELIC was born 10/14/1988. A latecomer to US Open 2005, who at age 16 did not submit any personal info or a photo, Luka is coached by former tennis player and FED CUP Croatian coach Goran Prpic. In Boys’ Singles, Luka managed to reach the Second Round, while in Boys’ Doubles Luka partnered with Antonio Veic and lost in First Round.
NIKOLA MEKTIC lost in the First Round in Boys’ Singles, but played exceptionally well in Boys’ Doubles with his partner, 17-year-old Ivan Sergeyev from Ukraine. The two managed to reach the Quarterfinals.
PETAR JELENIC, was born 6/13/1987 and is ranked No. 11 among Juniors. He lost in the First Round in Boys’ Singles to Vitulli 6-4, 1-6, 6-1, due to anger and bad temper. Grabbing his private parts and shouting obscenities is not the way to play gentlemen’s tennis. 18-year-old Jelenic displayed total disrespect towards tennis officials as well as making hateful remarks towards his white opponent from Kenya, who had an enthusiastic support from a large group of mostly black boys and girls.
The status in Croatia for Junior Girls’ tennis players is pretty good. But that is on paper only! In reality, the training and financial support is at its worst for girls. No Croatian Junior girls participated at the US Open 2005.
Favoritism, politics and who is your daddy still plays a large part in Croatian tennis. For example, Ivan Ljubicic and Marin Cilic, both born in Bosnia & Herzegovina requested and received tremendous financial support as well as training. Even Mario Ancic, whose father owns a chain of supermarkets, received all out support. Whereas, Zagreb born Ivo Karlovic, Karolina Sprem from Varazdin and Ivana Lisjak from Cakovec, have not received any financial support from the Croatian tennis association or Croatian government. Their tennis career is financed privately, mostly from their families.
Case in point is MARINA ERAKOVIC who was born on 3/6/1988 in Split, Croatia. When Marina was four years old, her family, father Mladen and mother Ljiljana, moved to New Zealand. Marina, now 17 years old, lives in Auckland and represents New Zealand. She has one sister Djurdjica Julia. Marina plays right-handed with double handed backhand. She began playing tennis at age 6 and is coached by Chris Lewis. Marina’s ambition in tennis is to be No. 1. She adores tennis player Monica Seles and her hobbies include reading and soccer. At the US Open 2005, Marina was ranked No. 6 in Girls’ Singles. She successfully competed and won in Quarterfinals. During Semifinals against Victoria Azarenka ranked No.1, Marina was forced to retire due to an injury. She also played Girls’ Doubles with Victoria. They won until Semifinals, when medical assistance was called and the game stopped.