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March 29, 2006

Ivan Ljubicic


THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. Can you talk about the level of your play today. It was fantastic.
IVAN LJUBICIC: I think it was very good, yeah. Finally, I'm happy with the way I played because I also talk with my coach and I was not really, really happy the way I played first rounds. But, you know, a win is a win.
But today finally I think I served amazingly. I lost only one point on my first serve, and I really dominate all my service games. He had no breakpoints.
I think also him played -- I think also he played very good first set. He hit some amazing shots off the baseline. It was very aggressive. I think in the second he dropped the pace a little bit and gave me opportunity to be more aggressive off the baseline.
But I think the first set was really, really high-level tennis.
Q. When you serve that well, do you feel you can beat anybody in the world?
IVAN LJUBICIC: I mean, I'm No. 2 now for points of this year, so, I mean, of course I feel 24-3 this year record. Definitely I feel like No. 2 player in the world. It's not a secret. It's not just the feeling. Also I think the numbers are showing the same way.
I always say you cannot win the matches just with the serve, you have to play well. There are many guys out there who are serving very good but not doing this, not making the same results that I do. So definitely if you serve well, you can play much more relaxed on return games, and that definitely helps.
Q. Do you feel sort of overlooked here? Roger gets a lot of attention.
IVAN LJUBICIC: I don't mind at all, really. I don't like too much attention. I of course appreciate, like, for example, in Australia I played many matches on center court and here in the States, I don't know, probably tournaments, that they didn't like me, but in Indian Wells I played first match on center court, quarterfinal. Now again first match on center court, it's quarterfinal.
So it's kind of difficult to switch courts every time, but, you know, it's all tennis. And if I play well, of course I'm gonna earn that attention, I'm gonna earn center court appearances, I hope.
Q. What did you talk at the end of the match with him?
IVAN LJUBICIC: I told him revenge on Friday, next Friday (smiling). Which, I think, is gonna be the case.
Q. How can you compare this match to the hypothetical match you can have against Agustin if he plays singles next week at the Davis Cup?
IVAN LJUBICIC: Well, it's gonna be different. It's gonna be indoors, it's gonna be in Croatia, it's gonna be quite faster and it's gonna be even less rallies than today. I know that if I serve well, I'm gonna have chances. But I think Agustin also played very, very good first set. So if he plays like the way he played in the first set, it's gonna be all tiebreaks I guess because the court there is even faster. It's gonna be even more difficult to break.
I think it's gonna be extremely tight, tight match.
Q. Overall in the series?
IVAN LJUBICIC: Overall in the series, well, I think it's absolutely open. I think doubles, it's gonna be very important because David, the way he plays now, it's gonna be very hard to beat him. We gonna try, obviously, try, both of us, to beat Agustin. But I think every match is gonna be absolutely open. I think it's definitely the best match of quarterfinal of Davis Cup.
Q. Can you talk about your prospective opponents, David Nalbandian and obviously you know Mario?
IVAN LJUBICIC: David, I consider him unbelievable player. He is one of the guys who beat Roger when Roger was playing well, which you have to take, I mean -- you have to give him credit for that because to beat Roger best of five, 7-5 in the fifth in the final of Masters Cup, it means that you are definitely a fantastic player.
Sometimes he has ups and downs, but I think this year he is more focused. I see him more focused. I see that he wants to be up there, he wants to be No. 3 or No. 2 in the world and maybe give a bite to Roger a couple times if he can. He's definitely more focused than he was in the past years. It's gonna be extremely hard. We played three times, it's 2-1 for him. You know, obviously I think in case that Mario wins, I'm gonna have better chance because I really think Nalbandian is unbelievable player.
Mario, he has a great serve. We played already two times this year in Marseille and in Indian Wells. We know each other very well. So in that case, it's gonna be more mental game than tennis, 'cause it's kind of strange to play against your partner in doubles because we are still in doubles tomorrow. We have quarterfinal doubles.
Q. Does that take the edge off of it, does it make it more difficult to play a match like that?
IVAN LJUBICIC: It definitely, I mean, brings the match more equal 'cause, you know, we know each other so we can see if there are any -- but we definitely know the way the other guy's thinking and important points what is possible. Like the way the other guy is gonna serve and stuff like that. We played so many matches together.
But we'll see. I'm definitely gonna enjoy that match tonight and see what's gonna happen. I think David is little bit favorite there.
Q. Do you think Calleri is more difficult on carpet than Coria and Gaudio?
IVAN LJUBICIC: I think so. I think he has a big game. He's very dangerous opponent. When he is playing well, it's very hard to play against him. I played against Coria in Masters Cup, and it was quite easy match for me. I didn't play much against Gaston on that kind of court, but Gaston is struggling lately, even on clay.
So I think -- I'm sure that Alberto will pick the best possible team.
Q. What do you think you lack in your game to be up there in the top? You mention David, that he's playing more --
IVAN LJUBICIC: More focused, yeah.
Q. Do you think it's consistency, a matter of consistency in yourself?
IVAN LJUBICIC: For me? Well, I mean, I was always consistent, just that, you know, three, four years ago, consistency meant third round and quarterfinal; now consistency means winning tournaments and playing finals.
It's just that my level of tennis, it's little bit higher now than before. Every time when I go on the court, I think I'm gonna win and I am confident that I am the better player no matter who is on the other side - except Roger, of course.
Q. It's a matter of confidence?
IVAN LJUBICIC: It is. I mean, well, you can be as much as you want confident but if your game is not there, you know, it's not only confidence. But once you have a game, you have to be confident to win a lot of matches in a row and, you know, this year I played, I think, five, six tournaments. The worst result was quarterfinal. I won two tournaments, played quarters in Australia, quarters in Indian Wells, quarters in Marseille, and now here in the semis.
I definitely think that I'm picking the right tournaments to play, and my level of energy is very high at the moment.
Q. You said at the end of last year, having had such a great year, reaching Shanghai, you were hoping to sustain it.
Q. The fact that you have sustained it must do wonders for your self-confidence.
IVAN LJUBICIC: I mean, probably. I was talking in the end of last year, I was talking that I'm gonna be probably focused on Australian Open, Indian Wells and Key Biscayne because I was afraid how high is gonna be my energy level because I played so many matches in the end of the season. But, you know, I jumped, jumped up the season fantastically. I won Chennai, I won Zagreb. So it's not a matter of energy. I pulled out from Rotterdam and Dubai because I was real exhausted in Marseille. So you have to be careful not to play too much, but, again, if you take too much time off, then you slightly lose the confidence and you have to work your game again.
So that's, I think, the most important thing at the moment, is to pick right tournaments and to play at a high level all the time.
Q. How much work, apart from obviously with a racquet in your hand, does it take to be Davis Cup captain of Croatia as well?
IVAN LJUBICIC: It is a lot of work, I have to say. I just announced that this next match is gonna be my last as a captain. It's not only sitting there, because I -- against Austria, I was sitting for four and a half sets and then after I played a match and that's not the problem. The problem is all the work with the media about the match, especially now when the match is coming closer, all the talks with the federation representing the players, representing everyone. It's not easy, definitely.
I think it was okay for match or two, but to do that on consistent basis, it's little bit too hard.
Q. What will happen now, do you know?
IVAN LJUBICIC: I don't know. Of course we all hope that Goran is going to change his mind and gonna take the team. If that doesn't happen, then, you know, we gonna have another captain. As I said, for me, I said no for three names in the past, but even if they bring those three names up again, it's -- I'm gonna play no matter what. That's not a question.
Q. Have you and Mario spoken to Goran about it lately?
IVAN LJUBICIC: I'm talking to Goran on a regular basis, almost every day. He just sprained his ankle again, of course. I mean, he's very unlucky with the injuries. But he's not changing his mind at the moment. But he might, you just never know with him.
Q. Speaking of Goran, is your service motion a conscious --
IVAN LJUBICIC: Well, I learned a lot from him. I think bringing the legs into the serve, it's a lot -- I learned a lot from him, that's no question. If you serve only with your arm, sooner or later your shoulder is gonna break up. But if you lose -- if you use all your weight and bring that weight into the ball, you don't use that much your arm.
So I think it's very important. I think his problem with the shoulder was that he was not taking any time off when he felt like he was struggling with the shoulder and stuff.
But, yes, I mean, you know, that ball toss and stuff, when you hang around with the guys like that, you can learn a lot. Like also if you hang around with Coria, for example, you can learn a lot about how to move on court and how to pass, play the passing shots. That's natural.
Q. You mentioned there were other things about the captaincy you don't like. What about the relationship with the players? You as a captain, does it affect your relationship with other players?
IVAN LJUBICIC: It does. It does. That's probably the hardest part. Because one thing is talk with Mario as a partner, but one thing is talk with him as a captain. He always wanted to know everything about what's going on, and in case I forgot to tell him something, you know, he feels, yeah, he feels bad.
So I don't want, you know -- with him, it's always I want to have good relationship because we always play doubles together, we always do a lot of things together, we always split every money that we earn in playing doubles or Davis Cup or even Dusseldorf, we split everything. So I just want to have that -- I prefer that relationship to be healthy instead of making some mistakes as a captain.
Q. Britain, as you know, are playing Serbia-Montenegro. You know Novak probably better than anyone.
Q. Can you talk about his improvement as a player over the last year or so.
IVAN LJUBICIC: Well, he's still young so it means ups and downs, a lot of ups and downs. He can play an unbelievable match, he can play a really crappy match, what he played against Coria, I think.
It's a lot really about motivation and the way of the level of how focused he is. I think at the Davis Cup he is gonna bring a lot of good matches because he is definitely a lot -- I mean, he has motivation to play well.
Q. And he is a great talent.
IVAN LJUBICIC: I think he is fantastic talent. I think his athleticism and talent for tennis, it's very high. Now he has to organize his life. He has to become professional tennis player, which means a lot, actually. And when he does it, he's gonna be very, very danger player.

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