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March 4, 2005

Ivan Ljubicic

CARSON, CALIFORNIA, I. LJUBICIC/A. Agassi 6-3, 7-6, 6-3 Croatia 1 USA 0

THE MODERATOR: We'll begin with questions in English.

Q. You said out there afterwards that three finals in three weeks, coming in here, are you just right now really relaxed and just going with that?

IVAN LJUBICIC: Just play my game. I mean, obviously my game now is much better than it was maybe before. But obviously these three finals helped because of the confidence. I also know that Andre did the same tournament as me last week, so nobody had advantage here like zones, time zones, and stuff. I played great match, I think maybe one of the best ever at the Davis Cup. I'm really pleased to win in three because wasn't easy out there at all. Obviously, I do feel a little bit fatigued, so was very good for me to get out of there in three.

Q. Besides the fact you played really well, he just seemed kind of lost.

IVAN LJUBICIC: He couldn't find the rhythm. But I understand him completely because he need a lot of rhythm, he need a lot of nice feeling to play well. Here today was very difficult. The court is really slow. You know, you can use the rotations a lot. He doesn't. So he likes to, you know, hit the ball very clean and nicely. So I tried to mix up my serve and the game from the baseline as well. It was windy as well. Wasn't easy at all. So probably the most difficult conditions for him to play on because obviously he couldn't play his game.

Q. Can you comment on the crowd? Seemed like a pretty energetic crowd.

IVAN LJUBICIC: Well, crowd is crowd. In Davis Cup, you have to expect crowd. You don't expect to go out there and, you know, just play quiet match, obviously. But I've seen worse, that's for sure.

Q. The United States being the home team, they could surface this court in any manner in which they chose.


Q. They clearly chose to make it very slow.


Q. Do you suppose they might have Croatia?

IVAN LJUBICIC: I mean, I have been to be honest. Like if I play against Croatia, I don't know what I would put. Probably the clay would be the best. But, obviously, the States, I think they never put the clay in the history of the Davis Cup. And they don't have definitely the players to play on clay. So because we have -- like we like the similar things, it's really tricky to find a good solution. Obviously, I think, yes, today the court helped me more than Andre. But we'll see after Sunday's matches, I mean, who is actually the one who used the court better. I mean, it's just one match, so...

Q. When you practiced on this court, did you sense immediately that this was a court that was going to be favorable for your game?

IVAN LJUBICIC: No. I mean, I don't like it. It's not like I like it. It's just that I like it probably better than Andre. But I don't like it. It's a lot of running and it's a lot of playing. I prefer to play short points. Here it's not really easy.

Q. You said you were a little fatigued. If Croatia is 2-0 after today, is there a possibility you might save your strength and Mario's and throw in the two juniors for tomorrow?

IVAN LJUBICIC: I don't know. It's not my choice, definitely. I mean, it would be maybe too risky because we have to go for it I think every point. I don't know. Really I can't say.

Q. How tired are you?

IVAN LJUBICIC: Not too tired (smiling). Not too tired.

Q. Can you remember back the last time you played Andre, he was a totally different player?

IVAN LJUBICIC: I think I'm actually the different one here because when we played four years ago, I was 22 and I was coming up. You know, I was pretty impressed actually with him, the way he played. I mean, Andre was Andre. You know, when you're a kid, you watched tennis, you see Andre, and then suddenly you find him on the other side of the net. But now, being No. 14 in the world, you can't be surprised by anyone. So it's just different now. I just take every match as a match. And I did play well today.

Q. You've had such a great run recently. Aside from your confidence increasing, can you point to one or two things?

IVAN LJUBICIC: Well, definitely, I mean, my fitness has improved a lot because I can play match over and over, you know, winning a lot of matches, playing three tournaments, three finals in a row, definitely you have to be fit. If you're not, then you can't do that. That's something I improved a lot in last two years I think. Everything else is pretty much similar. Obviously, somebody who know me better, I improve my forehand, I improve a lot of things. But I think the fitness is the main improvement in the last two years.

Q. We asked Nikki about your improvement, his quote was, "He got married."

IVAN LJUBICIC: Well, I mean, I don't know. But definitely it's nice feeling. That's something that help me sometimes, definitely. I mean, I cannot say it's a big deal actually because me and my wife, we stay together for more than eight years before getting married. So it was just very natural step for us.

Q. How would you assess Croatia's chances of winning the match now that you've scored this important point?

IVAN LJUBICIC: Well, bigger than before this one, definitely. But we are still far away. I mean, if Mario beat Andy, which I think it is possible, then we are I think becoming slight favorite for the first time. But if he doesn't, then still it's very difficult.

Q. Did you feel that Croatian support out there?

IVAN LJUBICIC: Oh, yeah, yeah. It's a lot of Croatians out there. It's nice to hear from them. I mean, they are loud, so it is really nice. And, you know, it's different when you play Davis Cup indoor. Then it's more, you know, you feel the crowd much more than here. But, I mean, Croatians, there's a lot of Croatians out there definitely.

Q. Croatians have had a lot of success in a lot of different athletic areas. Why such excellence for such a small country?

IVAN LJUBICIC: I mean, I don't know. But it is true. I mean, we do well because maybe physically we are all big. It's very sporty country, I think, Croatia. We love sports, everybody. Media is supporting a lot. It's giving us -- I mean, it is sporty country. It's not like there is a lot to do in Croatia. You have to play something, that's the feeling (laughter).

Q. You stepped away several times after you heard outcries from the crowd.

IVAN LJUBICIC: Well, I mean, you -- especially it's problem with the serve. You can't serve when somebody's shouting at you or anyone else. I think even Andre had difficulties to concentrate because you're just not used to it.

Q. In the last game, you served an ace to go ahead 40-30. Somebody in the crowd very audibly cried out, "Go home, Steffi." Do you remember hearing that?


Q. How did you respond to that? What was your reaction?

IVAN LJUBICIC: That was ugly. That has nothing to do with the sport. It's just embarrassing, I think.

Q. You obviously noticed that Andre never got into his rhythm. Do you feel at all maybe he put too much pressure on himself coming into this match?

IVAN LJUBICIC: I have a lot problems with myself, I couldn't think of him, what kind of pressure he has. But definitely was not normal match for him, because he didn't play for Davis Cup for five years. He might put a lot of pressure. But, I mean, he won so many matches. It's not like he can't cope with the pressure.

Q. Does he still look like the same player that he was four years ago?

IVAN LJUBICIC: For me it's very difficult to say because I was looking at him with a different eyes than I'm looking at him right now. I mean, I don't think it's fair to say, "Yes, he is the same," because probably he's not. But he's still, I mean, great player. You have to play best tennis to beat him - not only me, but a lot of guys out there. He just lost to Roger a couple times this year, so it means that he is still very good player.

Q. Do you remember the first time you saw Andre?

IVAN LJUBICIC: Well, I definitely remember first time I walked on court to play against him in Miami. That was night session, quarterfinal. Was huge for me. I was 3-1 up, then rain came down. We continued the day after, and he killed me the day after. But I remember the feeling just, you know, hitting the ball, the warm-up. I was like, "Jesus Christ, what is this?" I mean, he was definitely using that. You know, he was very fast, warming up in the second. Suddenly I found myself playing the match, and it was great feeling.

Q. Has Andre in the years since you played him lost any edge, any of his explosiveness?

IVAN LJUBICIC: Again, it's the same question as before. For me it's difficult to say. But, you know, a lot of guys improved actually since then. Again, I mean, I think he is obviously a little slower than he used to be. But he's still great player. I mean, I still see him capable to win something important this year. So it is possible. Obviously, it's not as certain as couple years ago, few years ago, but he still can win an important tournament.

End of FastScripts….

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