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INTERVIEWS

March 13, 2007

I. LJUBICIC/D. Nalbandian

2-6, 6-4, 6-2

An interview with:

IVAN LJUBICIC


THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. I suggested to you yesterday you might want to let Nalbandian win the first set?
IVAN LJUBICIC: Thanks for the advice.

Q. You're welcome.
IVAN LJUBICIC: No, I didn't let him win. I just had some problems with my knee in the beginning, couldn't really run, couldn't put any anything on that right leg. So for me it's a little bit strange, because I never had a problem with my legs at all. If there's something wrong, it's always my shoulder or my back and never my legs.
So for me, it was a little bit difficult to get used to that. And I called the trainer, Bill, brought me some kind of cream against the pain. He said, If you can stay there long enough, it's going to be a little better later, and that's what happened.
I kind of just tried not think about it. But I think if -- I was thinking in the beginning of the second set, if I lose the serve, I'm just going to retire, because I didn't know how bad can it be if I keep playing. But, you know, fortunately I managed to hold serve long enough to put the pressure on David's serve winning the second, I think the third set was pretty much under control.

Q. So you were one service break away from retirement?
IVAN LJUBICIC: Yes. Yes, that's what I was thinking.

Q. Do they know what it is?
IVAN LJUBICIC: Well, they said inflammation of the tendon, the patella tendon. I mean, they said it shouldn't be too bad. Sometimes it goes away straight away; sometimes it stays there for years. I mean, I hope it's not gonna be that bad. But now it's already better now.
I was having treatment all the way till now, ice, massage, and antiinflammatory, and it does feel a little better now already. So tomorrow, day off, it's gonna -- I'm gonna enjoy it more than what I was thinking.

Q. Which knee is it, right or left?
IVAN LJUBICIC: Right. Right knee.

Q. You're going to play doubles?
IVAN LJUBICIC: No, we pulled out from doubles because it could make it worse. It doesn't make sense. I mean, I spoke with Thomas. He understand the situation, so I'm sorry. I wanted to play, really, and I hope that next week in Miami we're gonna have another chance.

Q. You lost to Federer the last two years. Now you might face Roddick. Do you like your chances are better this time around?
IVAN LJUBICIC: Well, I mean, Roger being out doesn't help me much, unless I get to the final. But the draw, it's very difficult, Nalbandian, probably Andy, and then Rafa in semis is possible. So it's not -- it's not any easier. But of course, I would prefer Andy to Roger, I mean, anyone than Roger.
But Andy is playing great tennis. He's playing as good or maybe better than 2003 when he was the best player in the world, so it's going to be real interesting to see if he's going to manage to win tonight's match. And if yes, then how he's gonna play against me. I'm curious to see, because at Master Cup, he was playing real, real well. He was serving unbelievable, and I want to see if he can -- if he's still playing that well or it's just, you know, maybe just using his confidence.

Q. If I had to assess the match, it looked like you served bigger and you were 10 to 15 miles an hour faster than he is, put the pressure on him. Is that a correct assessment?
IVAN LJUBICIC: Well, I mean, I think every player in the world use his weapon and -- weapons. My serve is my weapon. I have to make as many points as I can with that. And, of course, for him it's completely different story. He wants to rally as much as he wants.
So I think in the first set, I was trying to maybe stay a little bit back and make him play a little bit more, just to see if he's -- if he's ready to hit all the winners, but he was. So in the second set, I decided to step in and try to swing a little bit more, the returns, and take more risk. And I think that worked pretty well.
Especially in the third set, you know, when I started to step in and hit the second serves, he was also missing more first serves than in the beginning. So that worked pretty well. And, of course, I was serving much better in second set than the first.

Q. Your history seems to be that except in the Davis Cup, you've played much better in Europe than you have in this country. Is there any reason, do you suppose, for that? Have you figured that out?
IVAN LJUBICIC: I mean, I like conditions here. I mean, that's no secret. I mean, the ball bounce pretty high and fast conditions. I think there is a little bit altitude here, if I'm not wrong, and in dry conditions, it's fairly quick. I mean, the ball goes through the air fairly quick, but of course, it's also for me it's the perfect combination.
As we mentioned before, last two years, I lost to Roger and he's not around anymore, so maybe, you know, I can go all the way. But, of course, I'm confident, but it's not going to be easy. But I do like the conditions here. They are just perfect for my game.

Q. Were you part of the group of 19 top players that signed the letter that was sent to the ITF about moving the Davis Cup?
IVAN LJUBICIC: Of course.

Q. The schedule?
IVAN LJUBICIC: Yeah.

Q. Seemed resistant to do that in light of sort of what's been going on with the round-robin. I'm just wondering what your feelings are?
IVAN LJUBICIC: About Davis Cup week?

Q. Just leadership in the sport, the ATP. I mean, are you --
IVAN LJUBICIC: It's two completely different things. ATP is always trying to do something new, trying to improve the sport. ITF is sitting there waiting, you know, ATP to do things and just kind of resisting on anything, any change. They never want to accept any changes, even the positive ones, like, I think super tiebreaker in doubles and stuff like that. So two completely different things.
But I don't mind testing things and trying things. The round-robin, we tested it. We figured out it's not working, so we probably gonna get rid of it. I have, you know, I think at the end, it's a good leader and I think in the future we gonna improve our sport, trying to improve it, not just, you know, sitting there and waiting to see what's gonna happen.
The idea, of course, is in the position to sit with the grand slams and Davis Cup, two great competitions, they can't do that. You know, I just sometimes feel angry and disappointed that when the players are asking something, especially 19 of top 20, you know, that they just don't want to listen to it. But it looks like they finally realized that's a very important issue for the players and for the health of the players. And I hope for the next year, we gonna have Davis Cup right after the slams.

Q. Was there an exhibition you played with Goran in Sarajevo?
IVAN LJUBICIC: Yes.

Q. Well, I assume it was emotional for you to go to the old country. How is Goran, how is he?
IVAN LJUBICIC: It was beautiful. Maybe the best time I had in the last, I don't know how long. I mean, it was fantastic. It was very emotional, and the people really were very happy to see us playing, and we had great fun. And Goran, it's very good. He's -- he told me, like, I'm serving better than ever. I said, Okay. Let's see.
And he is really smacking that ball better than ever. It's just he can't do it more than an hour because his shoulder is falling apart, but for that first hour, it's impressive, I have to say. He would still be competitive, I think, on a professional tour.

Q. If you don't mind to follow-up on this, Croatia is doing great in tennis. Serbia is coming up, too. What's Bosnia doing? You were born there. Just tell --
IVAN LJUBICIC: I have no idea. For me, it's difficult to talk about something that I really don't know. I mean, I don't know if -- I don't think it's about facility or it's about anything because I don't think there's any difference between Bosnia, Croatia, or Serbia. It's just that, I don't know, it takes time.
I think they had some priorities in the last ten years, and that was not tennis. So I think it's gonna take time for the country to get up and together with sports, tennis, of course.
I think it's because we are all similar. I mean, at the end of the day, it's not like there's a big difference between Bosnia, Serbia, Croatia, physically or mentally. We all one country just 20 years ago. So many of us were born already, and I think it's just mentally, what I said, the priorities were different and that's -- you have to feel it.

Q. What was the score between you and Goran?
IVAN LJUBICIC: 6-4, for him, 6-3, for me, so we played super tiebreaker. We stopped at 8-all (Laugher). We decided to split, because -- and I said, like, I never play draw in my life in tennis, and probably I will never. So it felt like that's fair. We didn't want to -- because it was charity exhibition. All our money we gave to the kids in Sarajevo, kids with cancer. So we felt like, you know, if one or the other win, then people will talk about the result. We didn't want to do that.
So we just said we didn't have -- we didn't pay for the court any longer than a half hour. We just walked away (laughter).

Q. Did you play hard?
IVAN LJUBICIC: We played hard, yeah, well, most of it. Of course we played some fun points, but, I mean, the court was unplayable. It was so fast. It was ridiculous. He likes it, of course. But, I mean, again, I think he, on those courts, if the courts are this fast, he could play with anyone. It's just that those courts doesn't exist anymore.

Q. Just getting back to that point about Davis Cup, the argument the ITF puts forward is that by having it straight up against a Grand Slam, there's less chance of getting the big name players to play those earlier rounds.
IVAN LJUBICIC: Yeah.

Q. Whereas if there is that week's gap, it gives them a bit of a break, and then there's a bit more of a chance. What's your view on that?
IVAN LJUBICIC: Well, my feeling is that if the players are saying this is better for us, I don't see why the ITF thinks differently. I mean, if Roger, Rafa, or Andy, James, anyone, everybody is saying, Listen, we would prefer to have it right after slams, we would. We would play maybe more. And I don't see why the ITF is saying, No, we don't.
It's the truth. I think we had a problem this year, for example, if it stays like this, we gonna have more and more problem. Roger didn't play; Rafa didn't play. Davydenko didn't play; Nalbandian didn't play.
So I think it's getting worse and worse, because I think the sport is getting more and more physical, and having that gap right after a slam, because in the case that it is right after the slam, so there are only two players who don't have a week between the matches and the Davis Cup. So the two finalists. So let's say --

Q. So it would be four, really, because you'd have to go to the semifinals, the semifinal is like the second Friday or the second Saturday?
IVAN LJUBICIC: Okay. So from Friday to Friday, that's a week. I think it's -- it makes more sense than going, I don't know, playing for me, playing Zagreb, then going to Chile to play away, and then go back to Europe to play indoors. I would prefer just to go straight from Australia, then to Chile and focus on my two events. I just see it that way.
I mean, but for me, it's not always difficult to talk because I already said I'm not going to play Davis Cup anymore. I can just say that that's what is my feeling, and I would prefer to see it that way for other guys. Because we are talking in locker room a lot about it, and everybody feels the same way.
So we'll see. I mean, I think we should try again. I mean, I have -- again, I have no problems about testing. I have no problems about trying. So let's try one or two years and see if the players are playing more or less. If the players are playing less, let's go back and see, but I really -- I really feel like if 19 out of 20 say that we would like to see this and that one that didn't sign actually misunderstand the question, then, you know - that's what happened actually - then I don't see why we shouldn't at least try and see if, you know, that's going to make any positive changes.
Because Davis Cup, it's too important as competition not to try to make best out of it.

Q. Who misunderstood?
IVAN LJUBICIC: Well, the guy who didn't sign. Obviously not natural English-speaking person.

Q. I got in here a bit late. You were talking about your knee. Did you step wrong or did you --
IVAN LJUBICIC: No, no, no. It came slowly, slowly. This morning I felt a little bit, but during the first set, it was -- it was really sore. But this cream that Bill rubbed in really helped a lot, and he told me, like, don't worry. Because the first thing I asked was, Can it get really worse or can I hurt badly.
He said, No, it's just inflammation. If you can handle the pain, it's gonna be all right.
He said, like, Probably the longer you are on court, it's gonna be better, and that's exactly what happened.
Thank you.

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