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August 17, 2006

Ivan Ljubicic


IVAN LJUBICIC: Sorry for the delay. I had to work on my arm a little bit.

Q. What was wrong with it?
IVAN LJUBICIC: I don't know. It's just painful. It's a little sore. Biceps. But it's usually like first weeks of the year I have this problem, and I think now again because I didn't play a lot the last month. So when you force it, and I've been serving really well first three rounds, so I think I just overused it a little bit.
It should be okay. I was icing and massage. I think till tomorrow it will -- because massage on court really helped me a lot, because I really had difficulties to -- for serve and forehand return. And after the massage, was much better.

Q. Just that one massage you had?
IVAN LJUBICIC: Yeah, on court. Yeah, on 6-5 in the first. Really helped me a lot because it loosened. Because it was really -- you could feel it like really one small ball, like kind of something like here, and then Stefan really did a good job there.

Q. Have you had it before?
IVAN LJUBICIC: Oh, yes, many times. Always like in Australia, beginning of the year, and when I take a break little bit it's coming back all the time. It's not much you can do really.
The only thing I could do maybe when I'm taking time off, to have 50 serves a day, but then it's not time off then anymore (laughing).
It's coming off the serve, you know, like this movement (stretching his arm).

Q. It was a straight-sets match, but that's very misleading to say that.
IVAN LJUBICIC: Oh, yes, it was really difficult match.

Q. He was 5-3 up, then you came back. Then you were 5-3 up, he came back.
IVAN LJUBICIC: Yes. I mean, I have to say that Dominik really improved a lot in last two years. I had 5-0 record against him before Davis Cup final last year and I lost that in five. And then I lost in Rome again this year. Today again was really difficult. He improved a lot his forehand. His backhand is still good. It's just not easy. When he's on, when he's playing good, it's hard to -- I really didn't know -- like until 5-3 in the first, I didn't know what to do. I was slicing, I was trying to change the pace, I was hitting harder. Like nothing was working. He was just like a machine, just like left and right, boom, boom, boom. Then he missed a couple shots. When he lose it a little bit, then fortunately for me it was pretty long until he gets back again.
And, again, I have to say I'm really pleased to finish that on 5-4, because if, you know, 5-All in the second, I mean, he definitely -- physically, I think he was feeling much better.

Q. You were actually having to contain and defend a lot, weren't you?
IVAN LJUBICIC: Well, yes. I mean, again, as pretty much similar like yesterday. I would like to be more aggressive, but he is not giving me any balls to be aggressive of. Like I try to do couple different things on his second serve, I came in once in important point, tried to be aggressive sometimes, but it's not always easy because once the rally starts he's hitting these flat balls. They are bouncing this high from the ground, and you can't do really much with that ball.
And, you know, when I topspin it, he just on top of it and just smack it again. So it's not really -- I mean, if you try too hard, then it's even worse because he likes the pace. He just runs and hits, you know, these good crosses and out of the court. So you have to defend. But, again, if you only defend, then it's not good because he finds his rhythm and then he's danger.

Q. The first serve percentage was down.
IVAN LJUBICIC: Was, yeah, first set was down because of the arm, obviously. It was I think under 50%, which is not usual for me. After, I think second was much better because, again, I felt it much better.
First two rounds was okay; 65 I think both matches. Today first set I think was around 45, something. Second set was, again, in 60. So after, was okay. I just have to work on this arm and make sure that I don't have these problems.

Q. You always seem a very focused player. Have you always been like that?
IVAN LJUBICIC: Yeah, I think so. It's just that now focus plus confidence makes tremendous combination, you know. And, again, you know, this motivation to make Masters Cup, for me, it's great. I know that I am in great position and it's great chance I'm gonna make it. But until I am not mathematically in, I'm gonna really fight as hard as I can to get there.
I have I think with this victory today 415 points. This is more than I had in the end of last year, so it's looking really good. But, again, there are many guys out there who is gonna try and do well.
Now, with Roger out, you know, somebody's gonna win it, and that somebody's not Roger. So, you know, a lot of points still at stake until the end of the season.

Q. How long did it take before you had that confidence you're talking about?
IVAN LJUBICIC: Well, it takes long time. It's something that you're building over the years. After this Olympic medal 2004, first big result for me, and 2005 great season ending with the Davis Cup victory in the end of the season, and, you know, once you are top 10 of course the confidence is there no matter what. It's just building. I think it's like snowball, you know; it's just getting bigger and bigger.

Q. What did the Davis Cup win mean to you?
IVAN LJUBICIC: Well, I mean, it's still so far the biggest result in my career. You know, to win something that big, it's very important. Plus, I won eleven live rubbers in a row. I lost again that last one against Dominik, but fortunately it didn't matter in the end because Mario won his last match.
So it's fantastic because you can say you were a world champion 2005, because that's the only way you can say it. In individual, it's hard. I mean, of course being No. 1 in the world, you're world champion kind of. But there's no really moment where you say, you know, With this victory I'm a world champion. I think in tennis that's like a Davis Cup. It's really fantastic.
You know, you didn't do it only for yourself, but also for the team and for the country, and our country is very sporting country so they really do appreciate that a lot.

Q. Because of what it meant to the country, was that --
IVAN LJUBICIC: Well, yeah, both, both. Combination of what it means to me and what it means to the team and the country.

Q. I realize that you've been talking about this a lot lately, but when you're younger, living in a refugee camp, don't know where your father is, what's that like as a 13-year-old kid?
IVAN LJUBICIC: Well, again, you know, I don't know, it's hard to say. But we were away from home. We thought it gonna last for a few months and then we gonna come back. It was not obviously the easiest moment of my life. But, again, it's -- you were living day by day. You thought that tomorrow I'm gonna hear what's going on. Tomorrow, maybe in a week we gonna come back. You were always living in hope. That's maybe one of the reasons why I'm always positive because, you know, since then, you had to think positive. Because if you were negative, then it would be very, very difficult to come back from that because there were not -- if you think you're never gonna come back home and you think you're never gonna see your father, I mean, it's not the way you want your life to go on, you know. Maybe, you know, that's why I'm so positive all the time on the court.

Q. Do you ever wonder if it had gone a different way, do you ever wonder how your life would have turned out?
IVAN LJUBICIC: No, not really. Again, in those six months that I didn't hear from my father, I always thought, Okay, in a week or in two weeks, he's gonna come, he's gonna come. Eventually, he did came.
Maybe that's something that guided me from then on always to be positive, and I was never thinking like what it would be if I didn't -- if he never came back, or what it would be if the war was not going on. Because, again, for my career, this is definitely perfect combination, because I think if I stayed back what I was born -- I mean, tennis was dead there. I could be, I don't know, No. 5 in the country or probably not professional tennis player - I mean, for sure. For my career, this was kind of, you know, good circumstance in very, very unlucky situation.

Q. Do you remember the emotions when you saw your dad?
IVAN LJUBICIC: Oh, yes. I remember it was my brother and me waiting for him on the road because he didn't know where to go. He calls, he said, I am coming in that city and 11 o'clock. Was evening. We were waiting for him. I remember the car coming. We were like waving, you know. It was very nice (smiling).

Q. Just on the side of the road?
IVAN LJUBICIC: Yeah, it was in the middle of the road, yeah. It was empty. Road was empty. It was 11:30 at night or midnight, something like that.
I remember actually my brother and me, we were sitting there for an hour or so and, you know, every car passing by, Is that him? No, it's not him.
Actually, when he arrived, we thought, Is that him? You know, because we knew the car. Was French, Renault 4. Was really -- well, it was great car for us. But thinking now, it's really bad car (smiling).
We were thinking we know how the lights look like, you know, of that car. We saw one car going. Said, No, it's not him. Then actually it was him. It was strange because every car that was passing, we thought it was him. Then finally when it was him, we thought, No, it's not him. Then he was very close. We said, Oh, it's him. We kind of jumped on the car (smiling).

Q. That's great, thanks very much, Ivan.
IVAN LJUBICIC: You're welcome. No problem.

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