lørdag den 4. juli 2009

Before the Wimbledon final: Goran, Roddick, lots of rambling!

One of my all time favorite moments in sport was Goran Ivanisevic's amazing Wimbledon victory in 2001.

It was his fourth final and at least twice he had been desperately close.

In 1992 where he beat both Edberg and Sampras along the way, he succumbed in a very close 5 setter to Andre Agassi in the final.

With his huge serve and a game seemingly made for this era's game on grass I think most people thought that him winning Wimbledon was only a matter of time. Including probably himself.

In the following years at Wimbledon Ivanisevic did everything from badly underperforming to being the best player on grass not named Pete Sampras.

He was erratic but of course never boring and he was someone you always wanted to watch just to see what would happen.
From probably the most explosive serves ever, his all or nothing service returns, to his epic temper tantrums.

Most famously in a match against Hyung-Taik Lee where he smashed every racket in his bag and as a result had to default!

At that low-point he had slipped far down the rankings and the time where people seriously thought him winning Wimbledon was only a matter of time was far gone.

He was now seen as someone who had missed his chances.

In the 1994 final against Sampras he dropped the first two sets in tiebreaks, then fell completely apart and was humiliated 6-0 in the third.
At this point it was definitely becoming clear who the mentally stronger player was and it wasn't Goran.

Next year Sampras again was the nemesis edging out Goran in the semis in what was a great five set match.

In 1996, the year of the upsets, with both Becker and Agassi going out early and even Sampras losing in the quarters, he could maybe have had a great chance but was upset too, by Jason Stoltenberg of all people, also in the quarters.

Instead it was Richard Krajicek who brilliantly (especially when blowing out Sampras) grabbed the chance and with his powerful grass game beat Malivai Washington, of all people, in the final to win his only grand slam title.

A final probably best remembered for this moment:

The following year once more it was far less happy times for Ivanisivic.

He had been playing great and collecting ATP titles consistently for a while now.
Was the 2nd seed coming in, that was his highest ever, only to be knocked out already in the 2nd round, in an epic match against Magnus Norman. Losing 14-12 in the fifth!

By 1998 he was starting to slip down the rankings.
Wimbledon really seemed to be the only thing he truly cared about at this point, and from the 14th seed spot this time, he was able to reach yet another final.
His 15-13 five set win over Krajicek in the semis was extraordinary and this must have seemed like destiny to Goran.

Against Sampras (who else) in the final he started well and took the first set.
The second was very close and in the tiebreak Ivanisevic had a couple of set points to go up two sets to none.
Sampras being Sampras of course came back and took it 11-9 and eventually the whole match in five, for his, at that point, fifth Wimbledon title.

I remember feeling pretty bad for Ivanisevic after the match.
This was also the period were I was still always rooting against Sampras. Later there would be a dramatic turnaround. And I wasn't sure if I'd ever seen anyone so devastated following a tennis match.
He really looked like someone on suicide watch and I guess this old SI article, I found just now, from back then confirms it:

Ivanisevic, who possesses both a quick wit and a quick temper, was neither funny nor mad afterward.

He was devastated.

"It feels bad," the 6-foot-4 Croatian said. "I cannot describe it. It's the worst moment in my life.

"I've had some bad moments, you know, when you are sick or when somebody dies, but for me this is the worst thing ever. Nobody died yet, but it's tough."

Even the mention of Croatia's World Cup victory Saturday over Germany failed to brighten his mood.

"I cannot cheer anybody now," he said. "I can only kill myself."


It was probably at this point actually that I started seriously rooting for Ivanisevic but in the following years he kept slipping and was almost constantly struggling with finding form or with various nagging injuries.

What then happened at Wimbledon 2001 is of course legendary.
He needed a wild card to even play and when he ended up winning he was the first wild card entry to ever do so.

Generally my impression of him that year was that he wasn't the player he used to be.

His movement clearly was worse which of course is huge, but the touch was there and of course that incredible serve.
And I don't know if it's even correct but I remember my thinking at the time was that he was also going for his 2nd serve a lot more than he had in the past.
Out of need almost.
Recognizing that other parts of his game weren't what they used to be and now he had to maximize his one dominating strenght. The serve.
At times he was serving two first serves!
That's how I remember it anyway.

He beat both Roddick and Safin along the way. I don't really remember that much from those matches other than him serving incredible and coming up with those powerful service returns, just enough times in order to win.

The semi-final against Henman is of course now remembered as Henman's big lost opportunity and how rain interrupted when it seemed Henman had turned a very back and forth match into his favour.
Their shared nemesis now 7 time champion Sampras had of course already been knocked out by future Wimbledon ruler Roger Federer, who had then lost to Henman in the quarters.
So this was no doubt both men's golden opportunity and tremendous credit to Ivanisevic for being the one to take it, come back when the match once again was restarted, play great and turn everything around.

This time it definitely felt like destiny.

From another article from back then:
Goran Ivanisevic has crushed Tim Henman's dream of a place in the Wimbledon final by battling back from two sets to one down to win in five sets.

Henman had appeared on the brink of the final on Friday when he came from a set down to lead with some dazzling tennis.

But the rain delays which caused the semi-final to be played over the course of three days broke Henman's rhythm and worked to Ivanisevic's advantage.

After his win, Ivanisevic said: "This is destiny.

"God wanted me to win this game - he sent the rains."

And it was Ivanisevic's patience which was rewarded as he secured a fairytale fourth Wimbledon final appearance.

"I don't want to lose again - that would kill me," said Ivanisevic.

"Tomorrow's the biggest day of my life, I don't want to get that plate for a fourth time."

Asked about his opponent in the final, the Croat said: "He's a great friend and a great player - it's going to be tough."

I actually caught a replay of the final the other day and predictably ended up sitting through the whole thing and it was still very intense as well as still very moving in the end.

Both before he won, when he was struggling so immensely with his emotions and how much this meant to him clearly was there for all the world to see, as well as the pure joy in the end when he finally had done the seemingly impossible and achieved his lifelong dream.

The last game alone was incredible drama and throughout really, helped by the best atmosphere ever, cause it was monday and everyone could get tickets, the match was so close and so back and forth that you were nonstop at the edge of your seat.

After Goran, Rafter was probably the player I most wanted to see win Wimbledon and he was severely missed when he reitred, but for this one I was solely on the Ivanisevic side of things and him ending all the suffering and doing it from the most unlikely stage, rock bottom, of his career was just too great of a story not to root for.

Enter Andy Roddick:

Now I'm not saying it's the same. The stories are very different.

But even though I love Federer and I think he is the best ever, tomorrow I'll be rooting for the great upset. The "better" story.

Roddick has never been down and out like Ivanisevic was. He already has a major, even if that win seems like forever ago at this point.
But like I talked about in the Roddick-Murray post a few days ago, he is certainly someone who has been counted out. He has been much maligned and made fun of.
Been called the worst good player and stuff like that.
He will also probably, if he doesn't win another grand slam, be seen as a great underachiever.
Yet with him being surpassed by other more talented players in recent years, no one expected him to even reach finals anymore.

With his 2 wins out of 20 record against the best player ever, he will be a monumental underdog but he will also be the greater story and to win would without a doubt mean the the world to him.

Federer he just confirmed his all time greatness by winning the French.
He doesn't NEED this. If anything he needs to beat Nadal at Wimbledon not poor Roddick one more time!

He very likely will of course, and I'll be left with some degree of disappointment.

What would help that though would be, and the rumours are flying, if Sampras shows up and presents Federer the trophy.
Actually him showing up and then ending up presenting it to Roddick wouldn't be too bad of a moment either...

But he has said in the past that he would like to be there whenever Federer would break his record, and THAT would certainly be a great moment.

Even greater than that!

2 kommentarer:

PP sagde ...

I remember much of that 2001 Wimbledon, and your point about Goran's second serve never struck me at the time, but it might be right.

I do remember he beat Greg Rusedski in the early rounds, and Greg said that if Goran served like that he'd could win it - beating "Pete, Andre anyone". I didn't believe Greg at the time, putting it down to another poor performance from his at Wimbledon - but he spotted it coming before anyone.

Stefan sagde ...

Thanks for your comment.

Another example of it that I think I remember?
And I'm more confident in this one than what I may or may not remember about Goran's second serve that year at Wimbledon, (so I'd hate it if it wasn't true :( )

Sampras last hurrah at the 02 US Open where I definitely remember thinking, wow the guy has two first serves now!

And while his 2nd serve was always great. I think some call it the greatest. And at select times he WOULD go for it. Becker is another one who I think did this even more at the end of his career.
I don't remember it being as powerful ever as it was in that, his last, tournament.