Ivan Ljubicic doesn’t have Karlovic calibre, nor Ivanisevic’s ponytail or the good looks of Mario Ancic. And yet, with 10 ATP titles, a Davis cup and a bronze Medal at Athens Olympics, the quiet Croatian is a must of international tennis. At the time of his retirement, here are a few crunchy munchies as a farewell party. Cheers mate!
1. bullets not balls
Born in 1979, Ljubicic then 13, had to flee his native Bosnia Herzegovina torn apart by the Balkan ethnic war. « My parents thought our lifes were in jeopardy » he told the Telegraph. For 6 months, the little child doesn’t know if his dad who stayed in the country is dead or alive. In November, the phone rang. It was him. He had a chance to escape. The family finally reunited left the refugees camp and settled at Rijeka in Croatia. Twist of fate: An Italian tennis club near Torino just opened its doors to young Croatian refugees. Ljubicic showed up and caught the interest of a man: Ricardo Piatti. It changed his life forever.
2. New ball
« At the beginning, I didn’t understand what he was expecting from me. I was playing instinctively, and it wasn’t so bad. Then Riccardo taught me stuff about tennis that I couldn’t even imagine ». Riccardo, the one and only coach with who Ljubicic has been working with for the last 15 years. In 2005, Novak Djokovic, an 18 years old lad with a bowl cut joins the pair. It will only last for a year. Crual dilemma: Piatti had to let go the Serbian master and decides to focus only on Ivan. « For their relationship » will confess the Italian. Love is blind isn’t it?
3. Dear Croatia
More than just an elder, Goran Ivanisevic is a true inspiration to Ljubicic. Since what seem to be forever, the dear compatriots have been exchanging service balls, love letters and good advices. Superstitious or sensible, Ljubicic even keeps in his wallet a precious picture of his idol, taken during Wimbledon semi finals against Tim Henman in 2001. He also made a lovely promise to himself, to keep this lucky charm until he makes something on the court of which he could be proud. Mission more than accomplished.
4. Self Service
Service, it’s the same old thing every time when you first start tennis. And at this little game there are two categories: Regular people and exceptionally gifted people. Like Ivan Ljubicic. The Croatian has always relied on a fantastic service that brings back the memories of Roscoe Tanner moves, or maybe Kevin Curren: body turned towards the crowd, toes to the sky, pretty poor throw, not that high either, but what a ferocious shot that was! At the end of day, this actually makes him 9th in the top players who won most service games: 85% successes on 714 games played. Passed with honours.
5. French touch
Sunday, the 27th of March 2005, Ivan Ljubicic is getting ready for his third match of the Miami tournament against Vince Spadea. When he gets out of the shower, he finds his stuff all over the ground. In his locker: Mickel Llodra completely naked! « I’m trying to catch your positive vibe. You’re winning a lot this season! » says the French troublemaker in front of a laughing changing room. A prank that left a few relapses: « Now, when I open my locker, I do it very very slowly » says Lljubicic.
7. Made in Germany
Who invented the term « Penis car »? Probably a woman. With the profits of his 10 victories in tournament, Ivan Ljubicic bought himself a monster car of 605 horsepowers, worth 460 000 euros and which can exceed 200miles an hour: A Porsche GT Carrera. This remains, he admits, the « craziest thing I have ever bought! » And that’s a man who saying this..
7. Sonia and Lanka
For the last 30 years, it’s been hard for the island of Brijuni in Croatia to satisfy its elephant’s massive appetite. In 2006, Ljubicic and his wife came to the rescue of this two starving pachyderms, Sonia and Lanka, with the little help of his friends, the dollars bills. Ironically, the wildlife park once belonged to Tito, the ex communist Yugoslavian dictator.
8. Sea sex and sun
His other passion? Deep sea diving. Preferably at the Maldives islands: « the best spot in the world» for its «coral reefs and its unbelievable sharks ». A world of luxury, tranquility and voluptuousness. The whole point being to do absolutely nothing. « My wife would like to do a lot of things on holidays, but all I need is rest» he told the Telegraph. «What I fear the most actually, it’s the cultural visits ». He’s right, you never know what could happen.
9. Labour Party
On the tennis court it’s a «one two punch» and one hand backhands. Backstage, Ivan is a class representative. He sat from 2002 to 2008, including the two last years as president, at the ATP’s players council: it’s like a labour union of the professional tour. Since the American Paul Annocone in 1993, no player has been so important in the organization chart. And yet, the boss resigned in 2009, choosing to focus on tennis.
10. Game set and match
When he was just 33, after a 14 years career, Ivan Ljubicic announced on the 7th of march 2012 that he will leave his sport after Monte-Carlo Masters 1000. The end of an era: the one of the noughties outsiders - Fernando Gonzalez, Hewitt or even Roddick - Volley services legends, the black shirts on white shorts gang, and of scratched caps. Behind him, Ivan is leaving an unequalled record. In Davis Cup, more exactly. In 2005, he won the oldest of all competition as a team, all sports included, with 11 victories on 12 games. That is history now.
By Victor Le Grand