Goran Ivanisevic is without a doubt one of the greatest star in the history of tennis. At first he became famous for his fiery temper and strong serve, but in 2001. this tall Croatian impressed even his strongest critics as the first wildcard entry ever to win Wimbledon Grand Slam, after being three-time runner-up!
Goran was born on September 13th in 1971. in Croatian town Split. He began to play tennis at age of 7, turning to professional at age of 17. In 1988., Ivanisevic was ranked No. 351, but two years later he was already ranked World No. 9. He caught the attention of tennis fans during the French Open in 1990, defeating Boris Becker in the first round and going on to reach the quarterfinals.
In the next 8 years Goran played three Wimbledon finals, each time failing to win this precious Grand Slam Trophy. In 1992, when he reached his first Wimbledon singles final, he came really close, but Andre Agassi was better in five sets. In 1994. Ivanisevic lost another final at All-England Club, this time to defending-champion Pete Sampras in straight sets. However, later that year Goran reached his career-high singles ranking of World No. 2. He got the third chance to win Wimbledon in 1998., again facing Sampras, but lost in five sets after being in a winning position.
At the time it seemed he ran out of luck. Adding to that his fiery temper which caused him trouble on tennis court many times – like smashing his rackets or swearing in his native language when he lost the point. ‘The trouble with me is that every match I play against five opponents: umpire, crowd, ball boys, court and myself’, he admitted.
In June of 2001, Goran’s luck began to change. He was now ranked No. 125, but All-England Club decided to give him a wildcard. Determined to succeed this time, he beat Andy Roddick, Marat Safin and faced Tim Henman in semifinals. This incredible match against ‘last English hope’ took three days due to a rain interruptions, but Goran won in 5 sets.
The final match against Patrick Rafter was held on Monday, allowing thousands of Croatian and Australian fans to buy tickets on the gate and enthusiasticly support their favourite players. In one of the most memorable final in Grand Slam history, 29 year old Goran Ivanisevic finally won Wimbledon on his 14th try, defeating Rafter 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 2-6, 9-7. It was a close shave. Goran was so nervous he missed three championship points, but finally, on the fourth point, he slapped a service winner and the title was his. Emotionally drained, he threw himself on the grass and burst into tears, just like the rest of us who were cheering for him!
Celebration of his title took place in Goran’s hometown Split, where more than 150.000 people gathered to welcome their beloved champion. Taking off his T-shirt after each victory at that year’s Wimbledon became his trademark, and there at Split’s boardwalk he didn’t disappoint his fans (especially female) – crazy as he was, he even stripped to his underpants, threwing his clothes into euphoric crowd!
In 2004, three years after winning this last title, Ivanisevic retired. He won 22 ATP single titles in total. The biggest Goran’s regret remained that he never made it to number one in the world. How could he? Another tennis genius, Pete Sampras, was at the peak of his career at the time, so it turned out to be ‘mission impossible’ for Goran.
Nowadays he’s playing at the ATP Champions tour, often participating in charity matches such as the one against John McEnroe which was held in Dubrovnik in July this year. Privately, Goran enjoys spending time with his wife, ex model Tanja Dragovic, and their two childern Amber Maria and Emanuel. But even now, every time he’s at the tennis court, audience doesn’t expect to see an ordinary match. They expect spectacular game and great entertainment. After all, as Goran once said: ‘In every game I play there are three players in me that could surface anytime, Good Goran, Bad Goran and Crazy Goran! They can all serve aces.’