I still remember fighting to hold back the tears when Goran lost the 5th set to Agassi in the ‘92 Wimbledon; also remember the straight sets loss to Sampras in ‘94 and then that 5-setter in ‘98 again to Sampras. It was really awful for Goran fans, the man who possessed the most destructive and unreturnable serve in the history of tennis might finish his career as the greatest player never to win a Grand Slam. Then, in 2001 when he beat Pat Rafter of Australia, the whole world heaved a sigh – Goran had finally overcome his greatest enemy – his temperament – and managed to win 7 straight games on the grass of Wimbledon. At the end of the match he said he didn’t care if he never won another match in his life – he was happy, happy like a child who had got his candy, and so were we all, exultant fans rejoicing for Goran.
Goran was never a perfect player, but everyone feared him, from the returning greats like Agassi and Chang to the scud-servers like Becker and Sampras. In fact Sampras has often stated how Goran was one of the toughest opponents he faced due to his astonishing unpredictability. You never know if he was going to play the worst tennis he can play, or win all service games love with that unplayable serve of his. I vaguely remember the 1990 Wimbledon, or it might have been some other grass court tournament, when Goran was down love-40 and on a second serve hit an ace and then 4 more to win the game, and continued on in that vein till he had the match.
Mom always wondered why I should almost break into tears and be totally depressed for a few days whenever he lost. She used to tell me that she couldn’t even pronounce his country – Croatia. I used to tell her that I don’t know why and to be honest I didn’t. Maybe it was because I empathized fully well with Goran’s moods, maybe because I myself am a very temperamental person or so they all tell me, those who know me. 2 days ago I watched with a choking feeling in my throat, as Goran played his last match on Wimbledon and lost to Leyton Hewitt in the third round, on centre court. Everyone bid him an emotional farewell, the crowds, his opponents and the press – including the British press who adored Goran. The press loved Goran, not because of his brilliant sarcasm and humor, not because on his day he could blast off the world’s best, but because he was Goran Ivanisevic. There will never ever be another like Goran in tennis, never ever, because some people are born unique, and it was so with Goran Ivanisevic, the volatile tennis great from Split, Croatia.