Getting to know Goran Ivanisevic
21 December 2011
TH: Can you tell me a bit more about your background, the type of upbringing you had?
Tennishead had a chance to catch up with the ellesse brand ambassador to talk about his childhood, Wimbledon and how he unwinds.
GI: I was born in Split, a long time ago now, and it was Yugoslavia back then when I was born. I was meant to play football as football is the biggest sport in Europe. My father took me to tennis and you know, I just started to like it and I think I chose the right sport, in the end.
TH: As you mentioned, there was that break-up of former Yugoslavia when you had just started your career, what was it like playing on the tour when all that was going on back home?
GI: It was not easy, it was very tough, when you cannot speak with your family, when you know that your parents are there and all your friends are fighting and you are playing but still it gave me great motivation to play for my country, to show every time that I stepped on the court it was for Croatia. It was great that I had a voice, you know, there were a lot of cameras around me, a lot of people asking me questions so I had the opportunities to speak and the more matches I won the more I could speak about my country. I was like an ambassador. I had the chance to promote my country so it was tough times but it was very proud times for Croatia.
TH: I know you said a few times that your racket was your gun. I suppose you ignited that Croatian patriotism in a way.
GI: Yes. We Croatians are very proud people, we have been through a lot of tough times and for me always my name was associated with Croatia. Every time I would say 'Goran Ivanisevic from Croatia', that was a big thing for me because they know who I am and what my country is going through and in the end everything came as a winner. But in the war there are always no winners. So many innocent people and kids died for nothing. But hopefully everything now is good. We have our own country.
TH: How have things been since you retired from the game? Have you been living in Croatia?
GI: Yes, most of the time I live in Croatia. I spent one year in the States but most of the time I am living in Croatia trying to raise my two kids. Now I know how I was to my father. I was not easy as a kid and now I understand why he was yelling at me sometimes. They can drive you crazy and you try to do your best but they still don’t understand, they don’t want to understand so to put them on the right track is probably the biggest goal in life.
TH: And do they play tennis?
GI: They are very young. My son is 4, he likes everything with a ball but my daughter is not into sports, she just doesn’t like it.
TH: What do you do in your down time, what’s your idea of relaxing? We heard a rumour that you might have a boat or a yacht?
GI: Yes a boat but that’s for the summer time because we have a beautiful coast with a lot of islands, which is getting very popular. But usually I enjoy spending time with my family. While my kids are in school or in kindergarten I just have time for myself so I stay with my wife or I go play football with my friends or play some tennis or go to the gym just to stay in shape. Because even now when we play these [ATP Champions] tournaments we say, ‘ok we are older but you need to be fit otherwise you will get injured’ and I like to play. I don’t like to play a lot of tennis but I like to compete, it’s fun still to hit aces and to hit the ball hard so you need to be in good shape.
TH: Is it difficult to motivate yourself to play tennis now?
GI: No, no, no. Because there are not so many tournaments and it is nice to see the guys again. I have been with these guys almost half of my life so they are kind of like family.
TH: Obviously the main highlight of your career was winning Wimbledon, how did life change for you after you beat Rafter?
GI: Actually it changed a lot because then I realised what it means to be first and second. People unfortunately don’t care about second place. They tell you, ‘you played great, don’t worry next time’ but then they forget you in ten seconds. But winners they don’t forget. It’s been ten years that people still remember that final and the things they remember I don’t even remember. And if you ask them who was the finalist of Wimbledon last year they have to think about it a little bit. Not only in tennis but in every sport. People, they like winners, they remember winners and second place is good but not good enough. So everything changed, I didn’t change but everything around me changed.
TH: Do you get to use your Wimbledon membership very often?
GI: Actually this year I was in the Royal Box for the first time in my life and I had a great time. It was a real honour. I worked hard for that seat there to watch the match. I watched the semi finals, we had a little lunch, and it was a really great feeling to be there. I had been back before but I had never sat there in my life and it was really nice. It was a really great, great experience. Hopefully they invite me again to see, I don’t know.
TH: What makes Wimbledon so special, is it just that sense of tradition?
GI: Everything. The tradition, grass, the green grass is different. Everything is different. Wimbledon changed a lot. They slowed down the courts, now they have a roof. I was lucky they didn’t have a roof in 2001. But still Wimbledon is Wimbledon, you see people queuing there, it’s just the biggest tournament. Even if you ask someone, who never watched any tennis match, about any tournament they are going to say Wimbledon because it is special for every player. Everyone wants to win Wimbledon, even the Spanish guys who love clay but they still want to win Wimbledon. Wimbledon is Wimbledon and you can’t change that.
Quick Fire Questions:
Favourite place to go on vacation? Croatia
Murray or Henman? Henman
Greatest tennis player of all time? Federer
Hawkeye or linesmen? Hawkeye
Favourite car? Porsche Turbo
Davis Cup title or Olympic gold? Olympic Gold
Beer or wine? Neither
Happiest day of your life? When my two kids were born
Bjorg or McEnroe? Oooh eh ... both
Boban or Suker? Both
Facebook or Twitter? Neither
Rafa or Roger? Rafa
Flushing Meadows or Roland Garros? Mmmmm Roland Garros
Croatia winning the European Championships next summer or another Croat winning Wimbledon? Oh wow. Croatia winning the European Championships
Favourite female player past or present? I have a couple of them. Graf, Navratilova, Seles and Hingis
Pasta or Pizza? Pasta
Water sports or mountain sports? Water sports
Smart suits or tennis gear? Ummm tennis gear.
Favourite type of music? Depends on the mood.
Favourite football team? West Bromwich Albion.