LONDON: Goran Ivanisevic made a pact with God for “one more chance” to win a coveted Wimbledon crown but it now appears that the “guy upstairs” has had enough of the Croatian’s demanding wish list.
One of the greatest characters ever to pick up a tennis racket, the big-serving Croatian was granted his dream when he became the first wildcard to triumph at the All England Club in 2001.
Two years on from that surreal July summer’s day, when Ivanisevic held aloft the Wimbledon trophy with tears glistening in his eyes, the 31-year-old cuts a despondent figure on court.
Once feared for his lethal serves, he is now overweight, short of match practice and struggling to come to terms with the fact that his ace-firing machine is no longer the weapon it once was.
Having gone under the knife to repair his overworked left shoulder last May, Ivanisevic was cruelly denied from defending his grand slam crown in 2002.
Twelve months on and the Croatian was hoping to have a last hurrah at his favourite event, but has once again been forced to admit defeat after picking up a knee injury in practice earlier this week. “When I came in 2001 as a wildcard and won the tournament I said to God, ‘just let me win this and I don’t care if I never play tennis again’” Ivanisevic said after his first round defeat at the Stella Artois Championships earlier this week.
“I kept asking God to give me one more chance.”
“Probably he heard me and he is thinking ‘what are you doing here... go home’.
“It is not so easy to negotiate with the guy upstairs, he is non-negotiable.”
With Ivanisevic’s world ranking having plummeted to 681 during his absence from the ATP tour, he was once again at the mercy of the Wimbledon committee to hand him an invite.
While it is unlikely that would have posed a problem, his form has.
After losing at Queen’s, Ivanisevic raised doubts about his Wimbledon prospects as he was unhappy with his level of fitness.
“I don’t want to go there and crawl like a pig on Centre Court,” Ivanisevic said.
“If I can not serve, then there is not much for me to do on the grass... perhaps I can cut it or help draw the lines.
“Or even serve some strawberries.”
Three-times a Wimbledon runner-up in the 1990s, Ivanisevic’s belief in destiny carried him all the way to the 2001 title.
Having entered the draw by virtue of a wildcard from the organisers, he buried all his demons in an action-packed five-set victory over Australia’s Pat Rafter.
A runner-up to Andre Agassi in 1992 and to Pete Sampras in 1994 and 1998, Ivanisevic had said from the start of the championships that it was his destiny to land the world’s most prestigious tennis title.
“When they opened the gates on Monday, something was shining, something special happened,” he said.
“I think God was so sick of me asking him all the time he said ‘okay, here is one last chance let’s see if you can win it this time’.”
But Ivanisevic’s pact with God appears to be over. It seems that was his “last chance”. – Reuters