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Goran backs Henman to win Wimbledon
June 09, 2004 13:09 IST
Tim Henman will win Wimbledon. He is ready, playing with great confidence... it is his year.
The Briton himself would never say as much but a man who knows more than a little about timing, fate and Wimbledon magic is more than happy to put his money where his mouth is.
"Tim will win," Goran Ivanisevic said with his broad Croatian smile.
"It is his year. He has got what he was missing before... he is really enjoying it now.
"Getting to the semi-finals of the French Open on clay, beating those guys, he has shown he can really do it," added the player who entered Wimbledon folklore in 2001 when he won the tournament as a wildcard.
"I am going to put some money on Tim. It is the first time I can say that he is number one favourite."
Three times a losing finalist at the grasscourt Grand Slam before winning it three years ago, Ivanisevic has never been able to defend his title due to injuries.
This year the 32-year-old returns to the All England Club for the first time since his victory -- and it will be his last tournament.
"Listen, Wimbledon means everything to me... I qualified there in 1988, that was the start of everything," he said at Queen's Club where he is preparing for his farewell.
"I lost three finals there, two semi-finals. Everyone thought I was finished and then I won it. Wimbledon and me, we have a special relationship.
"So it is gonna be tough, walking out there, going to the net, shaking hands at the end of the match... the end after 15 years as a professional... no more tennis for me, it's gonna be tough.
"But I'll be back as a member, in a tie, drinking cups of tea. I will be back."
Ivanisevic is hoping he can give a good account of himself.
"My goal is to pass first week. Then... who cares?" he grinned. But first he knows he must keep his injury-ravaged body free of any last minute knocks.
"You know me, I am a special person. I can get injured getting out of bed. So I have to make sure I stay fit and healthy for just two more weeks, eh?
"I am in Wimbledon on a protected ranking. I had one more of those left," he said of the system whereby a former high-ranking player is allowed to enter a number of top tournaments even if his ranking plummets through injury.
"I didn't want to take a wildcard. I mean, I know what happened last time but that only happened once in like 10,000 years."
Ivanisevic, who lost in the first round of the Stella Artois Championships at Queen's on Tuesday, needs just three more victories to rack up 600 top-flight wins.
"It would be great to get that number, that 600 at Wimbledon," he said.
Those wins could even come on Centre Court.
"I am not defending champion, Roger Federer is... but I am an unbeaten champion," he smiled. "I am unbeaten at Wimbledon since 2001.
"Centre Court is the most magical court I ever played on in my life. It would be great to play on there again."
And his preferred final opponent?
"Well... there is three," he said, scratching his stubbly chin.
"Henman, Agassi, Federer. Maybe Agassi... I mean, I lost that 1992 final against him, have played so many great matches against him and he is my age, my generation."
It would seem Ivanisevic would not fancy meeting his tip for the title on the hallowed lawns of Wimbledon, despite beating Henman in a dramatic semi-final in 2001, the year of his glory.
"I hope Tim wins," he smiled, "but only if I don't beat him."