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August 13, 2007

Ivan Ljubicic


THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. Your story has been out there a lot, but in Cincinnati a lot of people don't know your story when you left your country. Talk about that, how that's molded you into how you are now.
IVAN LJUBICIC: I don't know how long you want to have it. It's pretty long story. Well, I was born in Bosnia in 1979 and I started to play tennis when I was nine. Obviously the war happened and I had to leave. In 1992, when I was 13, left to Croatia and went refugee to camp.
1993 went to Italy to practice and stayed there for three years until 1996. Moved back to Croatia to -- went back to my family for a year, and then 1997 I started to practice with the current coach, Ricardo Piatti, in Monte-Carlo, and I'm there since ten years now.

Q. To get where you've gotten you've had to go through a lot.
IVAN LJUBICIC: Yeah, yeah. Well, we always say it's kind of strange because I was in a position where I had no choice, and sometimes that's easier. When I got that call from Italy if I want to come there and practice in Italy, for me it was fantastic opportunity and I had really no other choice.
Just to have that opportunity was fantastic club for me. I was having great partners. I think there were like four our five players in the top 50 and I was only 14, so it was fantastic opportunity. So of course when you're three years there you are already kind of professional. You don't have to make that decision if you want to be professional or not.
So everything was really decided kind of before I want to decide myself, which sometimes again it's much easier. When you find yourself in a situation, or guys find themselves in a situation where you have to decide school or tennis or what they going to do with their life, of course it's difficult decision. Kind of in all that mess, I was lucky enough to really have no choice and everything what I was doing was actually right.

Q. You feel like it'll be really kind of -- I don't know rescue is the right term.
IVAN LJUBICIC: Yeah. It was absolutely the most important moment of my career. If I stayed in Croatia I have no future definitely in tennis because there are no facilities, no great coaches, or great players, nothing really to become a great player. That was really a lucky moment for me after probably just a year after really unlucky and unfortunate situation you have to leave your home.
I had the opportunity to really start new and great career basically straightaway.

Q. Was Italy, did they come to you and call you?
IVAN LJUBICIC: Yeah. Basically federation, Bosnia and Croatia and all these small countries, now they were writing to other tennis federation if any other club could take the players. This club in Italy which is named Le Pleiadi, they were really nice and they said, Yeah, we can pay for ten players. Just send us ten best players that you have.
Of course they were sending all these invitations to the players. I get one of the invitations and I said, Yes, I will go. Some decided to stay in Croatia and some came with me. But I thought that was fantastic opportunity. Also for my parents it was kind of easy because obviously financially we had problems, and for them to have this expense less on their budget was really important. So again it was really, really easy decision. Great opportunity for me.

Q. Now that you've established yourself in your career and made a lot money, is it cool to take care of your parents?
IVAN LJUBICIC: I'm taking care of a lot people, yeah. Of course it's nice feeling to be able to help a lot of people, because our family is huge. My father has six brothers and two sisters and, of course, all of them they have families and families.
Actually, my grandmother lives in St. Louis. As a refugee she end up here with one of the sons, and actually my two cousins are here with me. They are coming to Cincinnati every year because it's five hours' drive. After here I'm going to go to St. Louis to visit her.

Q. Do your parents still live in Bosnia that?
IVAN LJUBICIC: My parents live in Croatia, Zagreb, in Croatia.

Q. You're dad had to stay back?
IVAN LJUBICIC: Yeah. He stayed back for six months.

Q. Was he actually fighting?
IVAN LJUBICIC: No. In the part of Bosnia we were living it's actually Serbian controlled part. So when it's like that there's no war. But it's very dangerous for Croatian people to be there actually, so he was hiding for six months just to make sure that they don't find him. After that he managed to get out.

Q. Basically escaped?
IVAN LJUBICIC: Yeah, like all of us.

Q. Are you still on the player's council?

Q. What do you like about that role?
IVAN LJUBICIC: Now it's really heavy. We have all the decision for 2009 calendar and the new project. It's really difficult to keep up with those guys because I'm just a tennis player. To get all those information and evaluate what's good for us what's not -- not for us but for the sport in general, sometimes it's frustrating when you see that some things that are not good for the players are happening.
And of course you feel also very happy when you manage to get something. It takes a lot of energy and sometimes I enjoy, but also it's a little bit heavy. But, again, I took that position and, I mean, players want me to do that. I was elected, so I felt like I shouldn't, you know, step back and just keep fighting as much as I can.

Q. You're not afraid to speak your mind either.
IVAN LJUBICIC: No, no. I mean, I have to say whatever I think. I have to try to talk with a lot players just to see what they're thinking, because it's not my thinking, it's thinking of other players. Just make sure that I understand what at least majority of the players think in certain situations.
So sometimes I just find myself like shock because I see that other players are not thinking the same way like me. I say, What I did wrong? I thought was completely opposite. Sometimes you have to really push for issues that you yourself don't believe because majority players does so that's probably most difficult marred part.

Q. Going back to home, I know you live in Monaco. Do you have any connection to Bosnia?
IVAN LJUBICIC: No, not anymore. Nobody -- I mean, there's absolutely no one else left in Bosnia that I know. All my family is in Croatia, everybody, and everywhere else. Most of them are in Croatia. I'm married now and my wife is from Croatia, and basically all the things are connected to Croatia.

Q. You look at Bosnia as like the homeland?
IVAN LJUBICIC: It's a country where I was born, but you really have nothing --

Q. You don't feel like you have to give back?
IVAN LJUBICIC: No, not really. I just feel like it's real difficult to explain. When I was born it was one country now it's completely different. You can just imagine how you are now living in United States, but let's say in five years every single state is its own country. You can't really say.
Because if you were born in Bosnia when Bosnia was a country then you go to Croatia then it will would be different. I was basically born in Yugoslavia. It was Yugoslavia when I was born. And when I was deciding where to go and live there was no countries yet. It was just still one country.
When you end up in -- I mean, my parents are Croatians and I feel Croatia so we said, Let's go to Croatia. That's our country. And then of course you feel from the first moment you feel like you belong there.

Q. Did you feel like that experience as a kid helped you make you, I don't know if tough is the right term, resilient?
IVAN LJUBICIC: Sometimes it's easier for me. I feel like it's easier for me in difficult situations because it's just like sometimes in difficult moments in tennis it's just a tennis match. This is just one career. This is just a sport and stuff like that when you find yourself in difficult position.
But when things are going good you really don't need it think about the past or what happened. In this particular moment I really don't feel like I'm kind of lucky or -- I am, but I feel like I deserved everything that I have because tennis is really easy and clear sport in terms of if you win matches you going to get there.
I don't feel like somebody helped me because I was really unfortunate as a kid to become a tennis player. I just play tennis and I was good enough to be here, and I think that what happened back then, kind of what I explained before, helped me in my decisions and gave me opportunity to go to Italy and practice.

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