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August 15, 2006

Ivan Ljubicic


THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. He said you've got the best serve on the tour, which, coming from a guy who once held the record for the fastest serve, is quite a statement.
IVAN LJUBICIC: Yeah, we're very close friends. We just had a chat after the match what we thought about the match, and I think I served really well and I was not here risking too much. The first serve percentage, I went like 80%, 85%. I think I had extremely high percentage of first serve. The balls there, they were bouncing really high. You know, these conditions are pretty fast, so there was no reason to go for too much. So it definitely feels well.
I think I return also very well, which is no surprise to me. But to beat him 3 and 4, you have to play well the whole match. That's exactly what I felt.

Q. Can you tell when you're going to serve well, or does it just happen?
IVAN LJUBICIC: Well, you know, in the beginning of my career, like when I was junior, I was just like you didn't know. One day I would serve fantastically, and the other day would be just bad. But now it's like long match, longer periods. It's always coming with matches. If I play a lot of matches, then the serve is better, better, getting better. If I am coming after off period, it is little bit inaccurate, but I can hit harder, so still have to manage it.

Q. Why do you think you were able to return well? Is it clear, good vision?
IVAN LJUBICIC: No, I just saw the ball really well. And, plus, lately, I played a lot of matches against lefties, and I won most -- well, a lot of them, not all of them. Obviously, with Rafa, that average is going down a little bit.
But I like when the balls are coming from the lefty to my forehand, or like they are trying to serve wide and still my better side which is backhand. So I don't mind playing against lefties.

Q. How would you describe this year? You're up to No. 4. You have to be pretty excited about how things are going.
IVAN LJUBICIC: Yeah, it's doing -- I mean, everything is happening very well. I started the year winning a title in Chennai, and then quarters at the Australian Open. I was top 10 at the Race the whole year basically from the first week. I went to No. 3 position I think after Monte-Carlo, and I basically stayed - at the Race, I'm talking about the Race - until now. I still have 20-something points advantage on David Nalbandian, and everybody else, it's even further down.
So obviously the goal now in this particular moment, it's hard to get to Rafa and Roger, so is to try to hold this position. But it's happening only if you win matches, so it's not much of headache there, just have to win as many matches as you can.
Of course when you're No. 3, all the guys, they are great players and they are always winning matches, so it's not easy really to hold that position.

Q. How do you like your chances against Mikhail Youzhny?
IVAN LJUBICIC: Well, I played him I remember last two times it was Davis Cup in Croatia and then Zagreb in Croatia. Lots of times we played in Croatia. I won both. It was definitely easier for me to play. But now we'll see.
I mean, he's definitely hard, tough player to play against. He's staying so close to the baseline, doesn't give you any time really to organize. When he's playing well, it's really hard to play against. I think last year he made quarters here, so it means that he likes the conditions here.
So, again, of course it's gonna be very important how I serve, and then if I can move him around, maybe open the court a little bit more, we'll see how it goes.

Q. So much of the talk in tennis from writers and fans probably is about Federer and Nadal, a lot of it is. Is it strange to be No. 3 or 4 in the world and just get so much less attention than maybe whoever might have been No. 3 five years ago?
IVAN LJUBICIC: Well, I mean, I don't know how what was the feeling being No. 3 in the world five years ago, but it was definitely different. Now, everything is focused about those two players. I mean, everybody is talking only about them. It's, I mean, that's not a secret. They played most of the finals in last I don't know how long. Well, last week was for the first time actually that they lost before the final - one of them, which was Rafa.
But I think it's also natural that the talks are about these two players, but it would be I think even better if the crowd and the media have more idea what's going on also behind them because you just never know what -- like for example last week, you know, it was big surprise that Rafa is not in the final, but that could happen. I don't think it's exception. I think it's gonna be harder and harder for both of them to hold that position.

Q. Andy Murray was in here and talking about possibly playing Roger in the next round. He said he basically expects to lose, didn't think he had a chance to win. Do you think there are a lot of players that maybe don't say that but have to think the same way? Do those two players have a kind of air about them that most people don't think they can win?
IVAN LJUBICIC: Well, I think like what -- I mean, obviously, you told me what Andy said, and I have a lot of bad experience about journalists telling me what the other players said.

Q. We asked him twice to make sure.
IVAN LJUBICIC: Okay, but I am just saying that he might say it, you know, but I am sure that if he goes break up in the first set he's gonna start believing it, you know. It's changing after a game or two. If you feel like you can stay in the rally with Roger, if he feels that, or if he feels like Roger is a little bit tired, he's gonna start believing it straightaway, doesn't matter if he starts the match without believing it.
And now I think he play great tennis for last few weeks. He played final in Washington, semifinal in Toronto, so he's definitely not going to go out there and give up after the first few games.
But talking about also other players, of course that when you go out and play against Roger, it's not like, Okay, now I'm gonna win, you know. It's definitely -- it's hard to face him, especially on American hard court. But like for example for myself, in Miami, I mean, I knew that I'm gonna have a chance, and I had a chance. It's just that on these particular moments he's playing great tennis, and very often there's nothing you can do actually about it.

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