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Ivanisevic beats Roddick, self

Despite his loss to Goran Ivanisevic, Andy Roddick is satisfied with his Wimbledon debut.

©Associated Press

© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 30, 2001


WIMBLEDON, England -- Needing one point for victory,Goran Ivanisevic found himself confronted by demons from a decade of disappointment at Wimbledon.

He was beating Andy Roddick but losing his cool and suddenly unable to move.

"I just wanted to win so badly that I just freeze for two seconds," said Ivanisevic, acknowledging his fragile psyche in fractured English. "I stand on the baseline, said, "Gee, what am I doing here?' "

Ivanisevic lost the point but the crisis passed, and four points later he closed out the victory he so desperately sought. With an eye-popping 41 aces and marvelous net play Friday, the colorful Croat took the biggest step yet in his career comeback by ending Roddick's Wimbledon debut, 7-6 (7-5), 7-5, 3-6, 6-3.

It was Ivanisevic's 56th Wimbledon match and Roddick's third. Afterward, they conversed briefly at the net.

"I just said, "That was impressive. I'm cheering for you the rest of the way,"' Roddick said. "That was just a lesson on how to serve and how to play on grass."

Roddick, 18, heads home to Boca Raton consoled that his performance in the past month confirmed his potential to become America's next Grand Slam champion. Ivanisevic, 29, moves into the fourth round Monday against Greg Rusedski, who has lost all eight of their matches.

"I'm into the second week of a Grand Slam, which I don't think anybody would bet on that before I come here," Ivanisevic said.

Others reaching the final 16 in men's play included Pete Sampras, Marat Safin, Tim Henman and Todd Martin. Sampras, who struggled through a five-setter against Barry Cowan on Wednesday, bounced back with an easy win over Sargis Sargsian, 6-4, 6-4, 7-5.

The victory was Sampras' 31st in a row at Wimbledon, matching Rod Laver's longest streak. trails only Bjorn Borg, who won 41 straight.

Jennifer Capriati extended her streak -- 17 wins without a loss this year in Grand Slamtournaments -- by winning the final five games to beat Tatiana Panova 6-4, 6-4. Serena Williams also advanced.

Ivanisevic, often called the best grass-court player never to win Wimbledon, lost the final in 1992, 1994 and 1998. When the mercurial left-hander talked of killing himself after the devastating defeat against Sampras three years ago, many wondered whether he was joking.

He was, but the loss put his career on the skids. Ivanisevic needed a wild card this year to enter Wimbledon because his ranking, once second in the world, has plummeted to 125th. Now, serving bullets again despite a tender shoulder, he has become the male counterpart to Capriati: a sentimental favorite.

Fans on Court 1 roared when he finished off his latest win with an ace. He rewarded them by yanking off his sweaty shirt, kissing it and throwing it into the stands.

"It's the greatest tournament, and I just love it," he said. "The first day I came here, I said I want to leave this place proud of myself. So far, I cannot be prouder than I am. I think I can be even more prouder when I finish this tournament."

The sky was leaden but the mood light on the fifth day of play.

Ivanisevic, surely the funniest player never to win Wimbledon, blamed his jitters in the final game on a split personality -- multiple Gorans.

"One was rushing, the other one was rushing even more," he said. "Then the third one came and said, "Guys, relax. It's a lovely court. Relax. Just calm down.'

"Third one had to come. I had to call him. He's the emergency one. Emergency 911 call."

The first sign of a mental meltdown came with Ivanisevic holding two match points at 5-3, 40-15 in the final game. He double faulted, sent a tentative backhand wide and dumped a forehand into the net. That left Roddick needing just one more point to get back on serve.

But Ivanisevic collected himself and slammed three consecutive aces -- Nos. 39, 40 and 41 -- for the victory.

"I was just hoping to hit an ace," he said, "and I did it."

His ace total was the most since Richard Krajicek set a men's tour record with 49 at the 1999 U.S. Open.

Roddick, no serving slouch himself, had 20 aces but acknowledged that Ivanisevic belonged in a different league. In the second set, Ivanisevic lost just one of 25 service points -- on a double fault, and Roddick put only four returns into play.

"My neck is getting sore!" Roddick shouted after ace No. 22 whizzed past.

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