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(E) A Maverick, an Entertainer, a Class Act
By Nenad N. Bach | Published  09/1/2003 | Sports | Unrated
(E) A Maverick, an Entertainer, a Class Act


A Maverick, an Entertainer, a Class Act


The media never ran short of adjectives when it came to describing Goran Ivanisevic in his heydays. His on-court mannerisms and media interviews were as captivating as the aces he rained on the lush green turf at Wimbledon where he played for 14 years in a row from 1988 before finally emerging champion in 2001.

With news trickling in from his agent in New York that the Split personality - that's where he hails from in Croatia -  is going to call it a day, there is that tinge of sadness for all Goran fans.

Make no mistake, Ivanisevic was no Pete Sampras, who walked away from the scene just  a week back. But if you are talking of genuine entertainers, Goran was a class act. People loved Goran and people also loved to hate him, simply because he had all that, which made him so unpredictable.

There were several tennis players who could win matches from losing positions. But Goran was quite the opposite. He could and would actually lose matches from winning positions and then tell us later, "Maybe I tanked!" Come on, was this a streak of madness in him or was Goran genuinely telling us he was a maverick. A maverick who chose to  write his own script and played havoc with those who put money on him.

To be sure, when Croatia came to play India in the Davis Cup World Group playoff in September 1995, Goran was tipped to win both his singles matches. Well, the pundits had perhaps forgotten what goes through Goran's mind. What a match it turned out to be on the third day of the tie when Goran lost that classic five-setter to Leander Paes in the reverse singles.

Form, fortune, fitness, everything fluctuated in that one memorable match where the crowd's involvement was so intense. The heat and humidity at the NSCI court in the Capital was killing. Come on, even if you happened to be cheering Leander for all his adrenaline-felted stuff against Goran, you could not forget that the Croatian could turn it around.

One is not sure whether it was pressure, heat, or the running battle with his father Srdjan Ivanisevic on the sidelines which resulted in the star losing to Leander. All the fans knew was they got to see the Goran they wanted - unpredictable and perhaps undependable, since this was Davis Cup where one plays for nation.

A few even dared to write the next day that Goran had thrown the match. But that was being uncharitable simply because Leander had shown he could raise his level of play when needed. Besides, midway through the tie you knew Goran had 'lost it', as he felt the fans behaved like "zoo animals."

When Goran lost three Wimbledon finals, everyone proclaimed him the biggest choker. And when he lost in 1998 to Pete Sampras, the emotions were on display. "I want to kill myself," said Goran. The Croatian had begun to think this was perhaps his last chance on the famous lawns of SW19.

For a man with his kind of talent, 22 ATP Tour singles title wins is nothing much really. But, if he did not win more it did not have everything to do with his temperament alone but also his frequent breakdowns. Injuries haunted him. And when the All England Club gave him a wild card in 2001, the 'choker' was delighted. First week when Goran sailed through, not many took notice. But all of a sudden when he was face to face with Pat Rafter in the final, it seemed unbelievable.

Well, if you asked Goran, he'd call  it "Unbeeleevabul," a word which he uttered so often. With rain playing havoc on the second Sunday, the final extended to Monday. They call it People's Monday, and in the end  when the People's Champion won, it was once again a reminder that Goran was not a choker.

It was not just the rhythmic aces or the volleys which helped him win his lone Grand Slam title that day. It was his willingness to add a few more dimensions to his game and the burning desire to succeed which mattered. Goran wanted to savour the feeling of returning to the Centre Court as defending champion. It never happened and maybe that will be Goran's biggest regret. Still, it turned out much better than never having won the Wimbledon.

Goodbye Goran, you were truly great. You belonged to that rare breed where everything you did was so natural, be it winning or losing or  keeping the crowds guessing till the end.


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