Goran Ivanisevic tells of surprise Wimbledon win

A disappointed Tim Henman, left, congratulates Goran Ivanisevic after their rain-delayed Wimbledon semi-final in 2001. Picture: Getty
A disappointed Tim Henman, left, congratulates Goran Ivanisevic after their rain-delayed Wimbledon semi-final in 2001. Picture: Getty
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When Goran Ivanisevic turns off Raeburn Place and walks into Edinburgh Accies rugby club this June, he will immediately be reminded of his 2001 Wimbledon singles triumph.

The Croatian’s gaze will stray from the covered court specially erected to house the Brodies Champions of Tennis event also featuring – so far – John McEnroe and Tim Henman and on to the lush sward that normally hosts the team who have just finished the Capital’s top Premiership rugby side.

“Every time I see grass I think of that (Wimbledon) final,” he said during a visit to SW19 last year.

To win Wimbledon after three runners-up spots (losing to Sampras, twice, and Agassi) he not only had to come through a semi-final with Tim Henman spread over three days due to rain (no Centre Court roof back then), but he was also the first player to succeed after being granted a wildcard.

Also, nobody as low as 125 in the rankings, as he was then, had ever leapt to the top.

And what an atmosphere. Held over until the Monday – yes, rain again – the final attracted thousands of Croatians and Aussies there to support countryman Pat Rafter.

“I have no idea how I won Wimbledon. It was probably meant to be. Probably someone up there was controlling things,” said Goran who 
believed a favourite racket re-surfaced in his collection at just the right time.

Referring to stringing which told him just how well he was hitting the ball, this fanatical West Bromwich Albion football fan with the bullet serve insisted: “I played a racket specifically for sound and found it after three years. It was a love story and I thought ‘something big is going to happen. I knew that after the second round. The feeling has never worn off.

“The best feeling is when I hold the trophy (because) I have three plates. But you don’t want to hold the plates. They are for second place.”

Ivanisevic memorably claimed that if he hadn’t won a Wimbledon final at the fourth attempt he would have “gone to live in Alaska forever”.

Thankfully that hasn’t come to pass and Edinburgh fans will reap the benefit according to David Law, media director of the Champions Tour.

Newly returned from Miami where he commentated on Andy Murray’s latest Masters success, Law says: “The three players announced so far are the ones I had in mind as having the most appeal in Scotland.

“These players really do keep themselves in brilliant shape. John McEnroe is well into his 50s, but I have seen him beat players 15 years younger. I’ve also seen him play two tie-breaks with Goran, who is 17 years younger.

“Mac has a tennis academy in New York and he is practising with juniors all the time.

“As for Tim and Goran, I don’t think Wimbledon ever saw a better semi-final than the one they produced.

“I have asked Tim if he sees Goran nowadays and feels 

“The answer was ‘not in the slightest, although maybe if it hadn’t rain I’d have won the semi – or maybe not’!”

Maybe, too, Henman thinks wistfully of former rival Ivanesivic’s “alternative” career and ponders what might have 
happened had fate cast him in a different employment.

Appearing on a Croatian reality TV show, he exchanged jobs with a street cleaner and had to get up at 4am to sweep the roads in Zagreb.

Goran said it was the hardest work of his life, which further endeared him to the people of Croatia, who have pronounced him the country’s greatest-ever sportsman.