- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 26, 2004

WIMBLEDON, England — In the final set of his wild and crazy career, 2001 Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic was preparing to serve when a spectator cried out, “We love you, Goran!”

Ivanisevic paused, smiled, then smacked a service winner and pointed toward the admirer. Right before his next serve, a shout came from another section of the stands: “We love you, too, Goran!” He hit a volley winner, then pointed in that supporter’s direction.

One of tennis’ great showmen and few remaining serve-and-volleyers bid farewell at his favorite spot in the world, Centre Court at the All England Club, with a 6-2, 6-3, 6-4 third-round loss yesterday to Lleyton Hewitt, his successor as Wimbledon champion.

“Everything was right — the weather, the crowd, the court,” the 32-year-old Croat said. “I’m happy and sad. I’m sad that I have to leave, but I’m happy that it’s no more practicing. Was really great — 15 years. I really enjoyed every moment of my career.”

So did fans, who delighted in his engaging play and personality. Some worry whether another player can provide similar entertainment now that he is retiring.

“You should wait for another Goran. Is going to come,” he said in his endearingly fractured English. “Every generation has own Goran. So I was the Goran of this generation.”

And the next generation? From the looks of things on Court 2, Andy Roddick could be that guy.

Swatting big serves and following them to the net more than usual, the U.S. Open champion produced a nearly Goran-esque display of muttering during a 6-3, 7-6 (2), 6-4 victory over 128th-ranked Alexander Peya of Austria.

After a backhand slice error, Roddick said, “Stick to your shots!” A fault: “Commit to your serve!” A long forehand: “Concentrate, Andy.” A weak backhand volley: “Gosh, Roddick, stick it!”

When he hit a serve to Peya’s backhand to win a point, a voice in the players’ guest seats called out, “Way to mix it up!” Roddick wheeled to respond, “Mix it up? I’ve been going there 80 percent of the time.”

It was better natured than Ivanisevic’s histrionics sometimes were. Recalling a $9,000 fine at the Australian Open for cursing, Ivanisevic noted fondly: “How I swear, it was like poetic, you know?”

He once broke so many rackets during a match he ran out and had to forfeit.

Roddick didn’t get any more violent than reacting to a missed leaping overhead by bonking himself in the head with his racket. Still, that’s the type of animation John McEnroe and Marat Safin, among others, recently lamented is missing from the game.

After the match, Roddick was critical of his play.

“It was OK, I did enough to win,” the U.S. Open champion said. “I still don’t feel like I’m playing my best tennis. I have to pick up my game in the next round.”

That’s today against No.26 Taylor Dent, another big-serving American who defeated Stefano Pescosolido 6-3, 6-3, 7-6 (3). The winner moves into the round of 16, joining No.7 Hewitt, No.9 Carlos Moya, No.10 Sebastien Grosjean and — most surprisingly — No.27 Robby Ginepri, who ousted No.6 Juan Carlos Ferrero 6-3, 6-4, 6-1.

Two other highly seeded players who aren’t as comfortable on grass as clay lost: No.2 Anastasia Myskina and No.3 Guillermo Coria. Myskina (2004) and Ferrero (2003) won the French Open; Coria was this year’s runner-up.

Amy Frazier, who beat Myskina to reach Wimbledon’s fourth round for the first time since 1996, next faces No.13 Maria Sharapova, while 1999 winner Lindsay Davenport also advanced. Two-time defending champion Serena Williams, No.4 Amelie Mauresmo and No.7 Jennifer Capriati reached the third round.

Williams had 23 unforced errors against Stephanie Foretz, one fewer than in her first match, but at least the score was counted correctly. Her sister Venus’ streak of four straight Wimbledon finals ended Thursday in a loss to Karolina Sprem, who was awarded an extra point by chair umpire Ted Watts.

Serena wondered why Sprem didn’t point out the error to Watts, who was barred from officiating for the rest of the fortnight.

“As a competitor and as a professional, you should be able to distinguish between right and wrong,” she said. “I’ve never been in a situation like that before. I’m an honest individual. If I were in that situation, I know I’d make the right choice.”

Of all the players asked how they would react if handed a point by mistake, Ivanisevic delivered the most unique reply, of course: “I give it to somebody in the crowd.”

Unable to defend his lone Grand Slam title because of a series of injuries, he wanted one last hurrah at Wimbledon before quitting. He made it to the 1992, 1994 and 1998 finals, losing once to Andre Agassi and twice to Pete Sampras. Then, in 2001, ranked 125th and in need of shoulder surgery, he became the first wild card to win a Slam, pounding a record 212 aces along the way.

His final match as a pro provided a wonderful contrast: Ivanisevic’s go-for-broke serve-and-volley style vs. Hewitt’s best-in-the-game returns and lobs.

With the sun shining, Ivanisevic hit 15 aces but had nine double-faults; Hewitt compiled 17 break points, converting four. That was enough because the Australian never faced a break point and lost one point on his serve in the second set.

When it ended with Hewitt’s forehand passing winner, the crowd of about 13,000 celebrated Ivanisevic with a two-minute standing ovation.

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