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Goran Ivanišević and Wimbledon 2001: the last triumph of the hero from Split

© Gabriele Ferraresi / LUZ

The problem with being a thirty years old sportsman is being thirty. You are still young for the old ones and too old for those who are really young. Croatian tennis player Goran Ivanišević turned 30 in 2001. He was an excellent tennis player: muscular, restless, and very powerful in service.

He won a lot, especially in the first half of the 90's, but he never passed the number 2 of the ATP classification. It happens when you need to play against champions the like of Agassi or Sampras. Ivanišević never won at Wimbledon, he was assigned the loser trophy in the final - taken home to Croatia, a country that until ten years before did not even exist. Wimbledon 2001 was the last chance for Goran.

Wimbledon is the most important tennis tournament on earth
The premises were not good. Apart from his shoulder, he had been in pain for a long time. The forecasts of bookmakers were deeply discouraging - 1:150 - and his ATP ranking, a paltry 125th place, was quite depressing. A ball boy would have been more likely to win at Wimbledon than Goran. Instead, a miracle happened at Church Road. Ivanišević, after being defeated by the Italian Cristiano Caratti, was readmitted to the tournament "by invitation", as a wild card. In theory, he shouldn't have even approached the high society of world tennis, but the judges turned a blind eye.
a champion is fading
They did well. Because Goran started to win. He won against Moya, against Roddick, against Rusedski, against Safin and then against Tim Henman in the semi-finals. The rain caused some interruption to the game, so the final for the first time in 115 years was played on Monday instead of Sunday. The elegant grandstands at Wimbledon became chequered white and red, and that day at Wimbledon, it seemed like being in a corner at a game of the Zagreb Dynamo FC.

It's the final: Goran Ivanišević - Pat Rafter.

Rafter, Australian, was the No. 3 in the world and the favourite to win that year’s championship. The two went on for five interminable sets: 6-3, 3-6, 6-4, 2-6, 9-7. The game ended after Rafter responded to a serve by Ivanišević: the ball, too low, stopped right under the net. Goran won. At the end of the game he said,

I'm dreaming and I don't want to wake up. I don't care anymore if I don't win a game anymore.

The shot at victory
Wimbledon 2001 was his last success before his retirement in 2005.

Goran's style of play

The Croatian tennis player was famous on the court for his fast and aggressive style of play, which was well suited to grass courts. A left-handed player, his strengths were service and volleying; in order to exploit the offensiveness of the latter in the game, he often used his backhand in slice, sending a slow and effective ball to the other side of the field in a chip-and-charge strategy.
A serve not to trifle with
The great style of Goran Ivanišević's service was that he chose to do the first service twice; a risky choice, but a mirror of his tactics aimed at putting the opponent under constant pressure.

Strengthen your service with 3 simple exercises

The technical complexity of the service involves the whole body, but mainly affects the following muscle groups:

  • Sural triceps (calf muscles), quadriceps, femoral and buttocks for the lower part of the body
  • Obliques, abdominals and estersori for the trunk
  • Subspinals and supraspinates, biceps, serratus, flexors, wrist extenders and supinators, subscapulars, large pectorals and trapezoids for the upper body

To perform an increasingly precise and powerful service, in addition to performing the correct technique, it is important to perform training aimed at strengthening the muscles involved in the movement.

Here are 3 simple exercises to strengthen your muscle power in function of the service.

  1. 1. Squat and jump: Standing, legs slightly apart, with a barbell weighting about 1/10 of your body weight resting on the trapezoids (you can also do this exercise without barbell), squat while keeping your back extended. During the phase of ascent from the squat, gradually increase the speed of ascent, and at the end of the latter perform a jump, landing in the starting position.
  1. 2. French Press with an arm to the cable high: The starting position sees the athlete standing with their shoulders opposite the machine and elbows extended. The shoulders are also bent so that arms and chest are in line from a lateral view and partially abducted. The grip is neutral or prone/neutral. The execution consists in flexing only the elbows by little more than 90°, and then extending them again avoiding rebounds in the change of direction.
  1. 3. Lateral crunches: On total abdominal equipment, angle the legs with respect to the trunk by inserting one of the two legs into the outer part of the machine. Perform the movement guided by the equipment and at the end of the repetition, swap the legs.

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