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March 30, 2001

Ivan Ljubicic

MIAMI, FLORIDA, A. AGASSI/I. Ljubicic 6-4, 6-4

THE MODERATOR: First question.

Q. Do you feel like the rain delay hurt you because Andre maybe had a little more time to digest your game and discuss strategy with his coach?

IVAN LJUBICIC: Well, I think, yeah, I had more chance last night, especially because I was playing better and he was not in perfect shape, but maybe I could even today won the first set, but I was just -- I think I was a little unlucky there, but then, in the end he played good beginning of the first set; umpire helped some things. That is just how it works.

Q. Do you feel that they wanted him in the --

IVAN LJUBICIC: I don't know what they wanted, but that is what they did.

Q. When you say unlucky, those back-to-back net cords?

IVAN LJUBICIC: Yeah, well I had some unlucky shots that I smashed at the net and forehand before at the net, and in the first game-- in the second when I played the volley it was just wide and some bad calls and stuff. That is something that you have to call unlucky.

Q. Overall, though wouldn't you call it a lucky week for you?

IVAN LJUBICIC: Well, yeah. It was pretty good one, actually. As I said before, I am especially happy because I won a match after I beat Top-10 guy, which is first time here that it happened. So after I beat Norman, I beat Carlos Moya, so that is a step forward for me. Yeah, I think it is pretty good luck - two weeks, actually.

Q. In that first set though, you feel where it got away from you?

IVAN LJUBICIC: He miss-hit the second serve. He bounces it pretty bad, so couldn't pick it up. But then I mean, yeah, I had a chance to win the first one. He could break me right away on the first game when we came back. I get out with pretty good serves. I had a chance at 4-1, but still, if even if I broke him at five-- if he is playing good, he can come back. That I can't say for sure if I broke him there I could win the set-- if you have a set in the pocket it is a different situation, sure.

Q. You hung in there. You got to be proud of yourself. Two matchpoints, and you wanted him to serve it out?

IVAN LJUBICIC: Yeah, well, you know, it is always difficult to play someone like him for the first time because his game is faster than anyone else. He is taking the ball pretty early. He is not hitting that hard actually, as I was expecting, but he is playing pretty fast. Also, the time between the points is pretty short. You don't have time to think, to recover, you know, I think I am confident even in the next match against him because next time I will know how to play and, I mean, if I play the match against him like this, I think that you know, I am there. I am really there. It was important match for me.

Q. What were your thoughts over the evening, you know, having the lead against a top player?

IVAN LJUBICIC: It was different situation because before the match last night I was getting out with nothing to lose, really playing really relaxed. Then when you have 3-1 lead, 15-love -- you know, he is still the favorite one but it is different situation because at that point I have something to lose, that advantage that I had. So probably last night -- I think I saw him a little bit not 100% concentrated when we were warming up and the people like clapping and he was like, yeah, thank you, in warm-up, you are usually not doing. That is where I saw that he was a little bit relaxed there. He didn't do the same thing today, so I think that, I mean, bad luck for me because last night he was a little bit too relaxed, I think.

Q. Did you have trouble sleeping last night?

IVAN LJUBICIC: Not at all. Whoosh, I was sleeping 11 hours almost.

Q. From all the tennis you played this week?

IVAN LJUBICIC: Yeah, well I think -- I am going to have some good nights in the future if I am playing like this.

Q. You weren't so impressed with his power, but what it is-- that makes him the best player in the world now?

IVAN LJUBICIC: I think the thing that he is taking the ball very early and he is playing the same tennis from first to the second point. Well, everything, it is really fast. It is not hitting hard, but he is taking the ball pretty early. He is not giving you the time to move, you know, to go for your shots. That is the problem. He was serving pretty good. That is something that I am surprised. He didn't give me a chance, especially in the second set to play even the games because he was serving all good wide serves or really good hits down the middle. So and then after that, of course, if you are not returning deep return he is taking the game in his hands. Well, he is for sure the best player for the moment and -- on the hard court. I want to see him play on the clay if he has the same motivation, it is a different situation on clay. You need to play 5-5, 5-6 or even more shots to go for the point. I don't know how hungry he is for that.

Q. When you say fast, you don't mean between points?

IVAN LJUBICIC: Yeah, well even in between points. How he is moving and stuff, it is pretty fast. I mean, of course, when I am serving I can take my time. But to beat him you have to break him. So, it is real difficult because as I said, he is all rhythm, he was serving excellent today, and that is it. As I said, he is taking the ball early, especially from the backhand angle, from that angle he can play short cross, long cross. From the forehand side he is a little bit weaker I think.

Q. Early break in the second set you played two -- a drop volley, drop shot from the baseline?

IVAN LJUBICIC: That is the shots that I have to go for. But just -- I have to be 100% confident to go for them. When you are 4-1 with a breakpoint and you lose a set 6-4 then you are in trouble beginning of the second, that is, you know, you feel a little confused. I don't think that my choice of the shots was wrong, it is just how I played him. I have to go for it really if you want to play drop shot then play it; not like, yeah, maybe, you know, if I -- I have to maybe -- not too long not too short and stuff. That is -- well he put the pressure on me.

Q. Playing during the day with the sun make a difference you have played with 6 matches in around nine days. He hadn't played in about two days...

IVAN LJUBICIC: Well, I had no problems with that. I have problems with the sun around 12:30, 1:00 because my ball toss is exactly in the middle of the sun we played -- I played the first game from the other side and then when I came back that side the sun was already far right. So I had no problems with the sun at all.

Q. If you had to say what the most interesting difference between Croatia on the one hand and the United States on the other hand --

IVAN LJUBICIC: It is a big difference.

Q. What would that be?

IVAN LJUBICIC: What do you mean in tennis?

Q. No, just two countries?

IVAN LJUBICIC: We are a lot smaller than the United States. We are a very young country. And I think in like 10, 20 years we are starting to go be really, really good country because we have possibilities for being there. In sports, we have-- as you know, great soccer team, basketball players. We have Goran, tennis player, we have the girls Majoli, good tennis players. We have unbelievable water polo team. Sport in Croatia is pretty big. Everything else has to grow up a little bit more but it takes time.

Q. When do you think a Croatian guy will win a Grand Slam title?

IVAN LJUBICIC: Goran missed that opportunity, so we have to wait -- maybe me? Maybe someone else. If you are asking me if I am ready, I have to say I am not ready yet but I might be in a couple of years.

Q. Are you really 22?

IVAN LJUBICIC: I am. Well, in a couple of more days, two weeks.

Q. Are you 21 right now?

IVAN LJUBICIC: 22 in two weeks, 19th of March. 1979. The problem is that actually I start to live by myself when I was 14, that is why I grow really fast and everything, you know, it goes faster, so that is why I look like that, probably.

Q. Do you shave your head because--

IVAN LJUBICIC: No, I just did it first time in my life a couple of days ago. Don't ask question about that because I don't know how -- maybe --

Q. You lived by yourself?

IVAN LJUBICIC: I moved from Croatia to Italy and I was there by myself, yeah, for five years. My parents were in Croatia. I was there, and I practiced there in one club, had difficulties first year or two because I didn't speak Italian and Italians of course are not speaking English, but then get easy a little bit. I meet my coach who I am working with now. In 1997 I start to work with him, so I think yeah, I start to live by myself pretty early.

Q. No family at all in Italy?

IVAN LJUBICIC: Family were in Croatia. I was visiting them like maybe once every three or four months, which for a kid 14 years old is pretty tough. Especially in the conditions with the war and stuff in Croatia, I was a little afraid for my family and -- it was difficult conditions. I think that I am doing pretty good for a guy who was in that kind of problem.

Q. Did they send you to Italy because of the tennis or because of the war?

IVAN LJUBICIC: Because of the tennis and because of the war because actually I am born in Bosnia and in 1991, 29 I was refugee actually as everyone else from Bosnia and Croatia, and Bosnia and tennis Federation send some players in Italy, one club who was hospitalizing us six players from Bosnia for a couple of years. Then '96 I met my coach who I am working with now and I start to play pretty good junior tennis too. So, everything-- I get a good contract, everything was going pretty much better actually and then about 1997, '98 I started to play professional tennis. That is what I think starting to get out of it.

Q. So you were living by yourself in Italy?


Q. Before you left for Italy; how close did you get to the battles of the war?

IVAN LJUBICIC: I was very close. I was actually in the middle of it. In '92 we were-- I was born in Banja Luka which was the capital of the Serbs. And, as you know, I am Croatian, so it was very bad situation for us. So, me with my brother and my mother, actually escaped with the last airplane that was going to Belgrade, and then from Belgrade we took a bus for, I think, like 36 hours was driving all-around Hungary to Slovenia to Croatia. My father stayed there for 6 more months. I didn't hear a word from him for that six months because he couldn't go anywhere. And then suddenly he just phoned, he said that he is in Croatia, if we can come to pick him up. Then after like three months after that I just realized-- well one guy who was in Croatian military told us that actually that plane that we were on was supposed to be shot down because in that time no airplanes were allowed to fly, so that was a pretty lucky flight actually.

Q. That was a hell of a lot harder to face all of that then facing --

IVAN LJUBICIC: Before that I was playing tennis in Bosnia, but I had no intentions to become professional tennis player. And then at that period like for three or four months I didn't play tennis because I had no possibility to do. Then when I came to Croatia, and then my father came out six months later it was November 1992. He said that I have to make decision, playing tennis, or going to school, because in Croatia, it's not like you can go in college and play tennis and stuff. You have to decide what you want to do. Then we decided to play tennis and I think that was pretty good move.

Q. Those experiences in the war now making tennis seem pretty easy for you after going through that?

IVAN LJUBICIC: Well, probably some things were easier for me because of that. But still, I think I have some disadvantages because of that. I cannot be -- I am not the free man as all good players are. I -- I am a little bit afraid of everything and I am working on it. It is not like you are a good tennis player, famous tennis player because I think I am in Croatia right now and that you can do whatever you want. I still have to work on my liberty, actually is because I -- the worst years actually when you are 12, 13, 14, if you have to think how to survive it is much more difficult than to think how to get the best vote in school.

Q. Your fears, are they psychological; is that what you are saying?

IVAN LJUBICIC: It is not that bad. It is just that probably I have some difficulties, it is not the same like normal tennis player, you know, if you as you said, in the beginning, the difference between the United States and Croatia at that time of course was like Andy Roddick, let us say he has everything here, whatever he needs, he will get, and what he has to do is play tennis and concentrate on his game. Well for me it wasn't that way. I remember that in Italy I had 50 dollars per month to spend. So I mean, you have to live with that. Of course, it gets -- I feel especially this week, especially actually this year that I am really concentrating 100% on my tennis and that is -- I am happy that the results came immediately. I think that I am feeling pretty good, I can concentrate 100% on my tennis because economically I am in pretty good shape now, my parents are okay, my brother is okay in Croatia and everything is pretty good. I think I am going forward now.

Q. Will your experiences give you a toughness maybe down-the-line that might help you in your tennis career?

IVAN LJUBICIC: Maybe, yeah. Maybe -- well, that will help, you know, sometimes when you are going for the ace from the second serve it is not like, you know, not shaking that badly as some guys will, because, you know, I mean, in all the things in life I think you have advantages and disadvantages, of course. And that maybe will help in a future.

Q. How did you get by on 50 dollars a month in Italy?

IVAN LJUBICIC: We actually had free -- well, room to stay and food, but all other things like you have to buy, I don't know, toothbrush and those things, it is not really -- you can do it with 50 dollars but the problem is that if you needs anything else like shoes or whatever, it is going to be it is becoming really difficult. If you need anything else. 50 dollars for those things that I needed at that point was enough actually, but, you know, if you want to even buy a book, extra book, it is not possible.

Q. Did they give you your equipment?

IVAN LJUBICIC: They give us, yeah, but in the beginning they give us shoes and socks and everything, but as you know, shoes and socks after a couple of months they are not that -- you can't use them forever.

Q. It was there --

IVAN LJUBICIC: In the beginning because this club was very friendly for us in the beginning, but of course, they couldn't handle us like for three or four years. In the beginning it was great because they really helped us a lot. But then in the end I realized that I came there when I was like maybe probably No. 100 player at that club because in that club there were the top Italian players. After three years I became the best player of the club because all these guys left. I feel that it is time to move on. That was probably the biggest decision for me in my life for the moment. Because then I decided to come back in Croatia, you know, without knowing what I am expecting there. That was '96 and that was the year that I played excellent junior career and then I get the contract with the S. F. X. And they helped me to get out of -- from junior career to the professional.

Q. Are you happy that Docic is going to be playing for Yugoslavia now?

IVAN LJUBICIC: I have no concerns really. Well, from my point of view I don't think it is a good move, but -- the only problem is passport. I don't know if she is giving up from Australia passport because I know with Yugoslavian passport you need Visa for every single country you are travelling to so it is pretty tough.

Q. Goran ever given you any advice?

IVAN LJUBICIC: Yeah, he is when I am playing with the older players that he was playing against that I never played. So I remember one excellent advice when I played Medvedev in Monte Carlo that was my actually first professional match, he said to me, listen, he is serving a wide serve on important points really go for it. He was really doing that. So I won 6-1 in the third. Yeah, he has been helping me. Of course I will give some advice on young players that I know and he doesn't know. So it is pretty good relationship, I think.

Q. Did he give you have any for Agassi?

IVAN LJUBICIC: No, I couldn't speak with him. He is in Croatia. It is real difficult to reach him actually. He is a star.

End of FastScripts....

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