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March 18, 2010

Ivan Ljubicic


4-6, 6-2, 6-1

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. Into the last four. Nice early birthday present for you?
IVAN LJUBICIC: Yeah, it's good. I got a phone call from my brother just after match. He said that Croatian time zone I finish just like couple seconds before birthday, so it's fantastic (laughter.)
I mean, it's a great win and a great present to have day off, actually, just before semifinals. It's a great feeling.

Q. What is it about here, this place and this surface and this atmosphere, that you obviously like?
IVAN LJUBICIC: Well, all of it. I mean conditions suits my game perfectly. It's nice and dry. The ball goes through the air pretty quickly. The court is slow enough to be able to -- so I can return well, as well.
It's just perfect. Now looking back on 2005 when I saw we were playing Davis Cup against USA, same surface, same conditions, I was pleased to see that happening.
In fact, you know, since 2004 I haven't lost on outside courts and played at least fourth round since then.
So it's definitely the favorite place for me to, you know, to play matches, of course.

Q. So you're going to move to California, then, huh?
IVAN LJUBICIC: Well, it's a long shot. But if I have to play tennis, yes.

Q. Was your match on TV in Croatia?
IVAN LJUBICIC: It was. Yeah, they were watching it. It's great. I mean, you know, I can't say I didn't expect it, but I really played some great tennis and I felt really creative out there.
I had played all different shots: lobs, dropshots, volleys, winners, slices. I just felt, you know, really, really creative, and everything was -- you know, I felt I could hit the ball anywhere, you know.
I was a little bit upset after I lost that service game in the first set. Cost me the whole set. It was really the only bad game that I played in the whole match.
But I was lucky enough to be able to break him early in the second, which was really important to relax, kind of, and keep playing my game.

Q. Did you feel you were playing well in the first set?
IVAN LJUBICIC: I think I did, yeah. My coach told me I was a little bit maybe far away from the court, which I didn't really realize. Maybe I was.
But I was feeling the ball pretty well and I was hitting the ball very hard, and he was hitting it hard -- I mean, he was hitting it back. So I think it was high-quality tennis.
I think it was just that one game which really all the balls, you know, I played really bad. There's no excuses, and it cost me the whole set.

Q. Do you have to be playing well to be playing creative, that kind of creative tennis?
IVAN LJUBICIC: Well, you can't play creative if you don't feel the ball unbelievably.
I mean, you can't play slice down the line, slow, low, you know, lobs on the run and all this different kind of shots that are extremely difficult if you don't feel the ball well.
The thing about feeling creative is that you really feel you have to feel confident, as well. You don't have to feel the pressure that you have to win the match, because sometimes you get caught in the pressure that you have to feel -- you know, you have to win the match, you are the favorite one, and then you just play simple because you don't want to do any silly things.
Today wasn't really the case. I was really enjoying my time on the court, and I was playing the shots that were coming to my mind. They were strange ones, and then different ones, and I enjoyed it.

Q. Overall, did you have a better feel for your game today than against Novak?
IVAN LJUBICIC: Not really. I think it was, you know, two different types of players. Because Novak, if you give him short ball, he will just kill you. I felt like Monaco was not able to hurt me off the baseline. If I wanted to stay in the rally, I could stay in the rally as long as I want. He was just trying to defend.
And the only thing, I had to be careful not to rush to the net and then don't give him, you know, too many aims on the court. He likes, you know, when you give him the angles, when you give him the place to hit the ball.
I was trying not to do that, especially in the second and third set, just slicing the ball, you know, playing slow, and then just ripping it and changing the rhythm all the time.

Q. So it must be nice to reach a semifinals; it's been a little while, huh?
IVAN LJUBICIC: Yeah, it's been a while. I don't remember now. We were trying to think what was the last one. I played a lot of quarterfinals lately, even in Masters Series last year I played three of them.
But it's good to be, you know, again at a highest possible level of tennis, not only because of the result, but also because of the tennis that I'm playing.

Q. Do you feel 31, or do you feel older or younger?
IVAN LJUBICIC: I don't know. What does that mean? I mean 31, it's not that bad. I mean, it's just that -- I feel well. Physically, I really feel good. I was not afraid to go the distance with Juan, which was a good thing.
After I lost the first, I said, Okay, let's see where this is gonna go. Even if we played another, you know, two hours after that first set, I was ready. I'm really feeling physically very, very good.
I changed my fitness coach last year in September, and that gave me new life, I mean, new motivation to work hard again and different workouts. You don't kind of -- it's not always the same thing; it's not always the same routine so you get bored.
So at the moment, it's great.

Q. What did you change?
IVAN LJUBICIC: It's a way of working. It's very complicated to explain, you know, how. But it's less weights, a lot of bodyweight, just free, and a lot of balance things, and longer practices. (laughter.)
Yeah, so we were working like four or five hours a day. So it's difficult physically, but, you know, I see the results on court, so you get motivation to work hard.

Q. Some guys your age will do less practice when they get into their 30s.
IVAN LJUBICIC: I can't. If I work physically less I would not be competitive. I would not be competitive with these guys. I feel like I cannot play tennis for a month without any problems, but I have to keep working physically.
I'm feeling the ball some day great, some days good, but I'm never out of, you know, out of feel for the ball completely. So it's just really about the physique at the moment for me. Even sometimes when I take three, four days off, I still do something physically to keep my body in shape. Because if I take off completely, then it takes long, long time to get back, back on track, and then all these small problems are coming up, shoulder, back, ankles, knees.
You really have to be -- I'm really spending -- out of those four, five hours that I work out, it's two or three hours just prevention of injuries.

Q. Does it make it any easier at the ripe old age of 31 to continue with the training, or is it just the same as...
IVAN LJUBICIC: It doesn't matter how old are you, it's all about motivation. For me, it's much easier than it was in 2007. That was really difficult year for me mentally. It was very, very hard.
So I feel really motivated now, nothing to prove to anybody. I just feel like I'm playing for myself again as I was doing at beginning of my career, and I'm enjoying every good result that I do.
It's just more relaxing for me now than what it was three years ago.

Q. Can you talk a little bit about each of the possible semifinal opponents and what you think would be the key in either match?
IVAN LJUBICIC: Well, first of all, I think it's gonna be great match tonight. I think Rafa would probably prefer to play Tomas day than night, but they're playing night, so I think that's gonna bring extra quality to the match.
I think Tomas knows how to beat Rafa. He did it before. But he also knows that he has to play absolute perfect match to beat him. It's gonna be really beautiful match, and I'm really gonna enjoy it.
What it takes to beat Rafa, you have to hit five winners per point to win every point, and you have to do it for two, three hours sometimes. So it's physically extremely.
I've seen him playing great tennis these days, which is, again, nice to see. He also likes these conditions because the balls are bouncing really high for his topspins. It's perfect.
And Berdych is striking the ball beautifully, I think as good as anybody at the moment. He bet Verdasco easily, Troicki easily. So if he keeps playing the way he is, it's gonna be very, very difficult to beat him.
That's why, you know, it's gonna be great match tonight, and I'm going to enjoy it while eating, to watch it.

Q. You will watch it?
IVAN LJUBICIC: Of course I am. I love watching tennis, anyways. Now I have also reason to watch it, so why not?

Q. The way you're talking about the mental, the physical aspects, how you're feeling in your game, is this possibly as good as you've felt all around in your career?
IVAN LJUBICIC: It's very close, yeah. There were times where I felt almost unbeatable except I was playing Roger. There were really times that I was really only losing to him. It was 2005, 2006.
But, again, mentally I feel much more relaxed. I feel like I'm ready to win big ones, and I'm ready to beat anybody.
You know, I was not -- against Djokovic yesterday I was not afraid to win a match. I just felt like, you know, it was something natural, which is a great feeling, especially because I didn't play against these guys for -- I played Novak in Dubai two weeks ago, but I didn't beat one of, you know, Rafa or Roger or Novak lately.
It was great feeling actually to feel ready to beat these kind of players, and this is great, you know. The more you play against these players, the more you're ready to beat them and the more you feel like you are part of this group again.
I mean, of course, I'm in the semifinals at the moment and playing fantastic tennis now. Now the key is to keep going and trying to stay in shape as long as possible.

Q. You said you were feeling creative today. Why today? Do you always feel that way, or was there a reason today?
IVAN LJUBICIC: No, no, no. No particular reason. I think against Juan you have to be a little bit creative. Because if you just play solid points, left, right, left, right, that's the way he wants to go. I wanted to do almost every point something different, and I just, you know, I just felt that way.

Q. You're good friends with Roger, so how difficult was it to have the friendship grow when he was the guy, during your top years, stopping you time and time again?
IVAN LJUBICIC: How difficult...

Q. How difficult is to keep up the friendship when the one guy that is stopping you...
IVAN LJUBICIC: No, it's not a problem at all. I mean, I always enjoyed playing him even though I lost many times. I always felt like I was a better player right after finishing the match against him. He was the one -- I think it was not only the case with me, but with everybody else. He really raise the level of everybody else.
Every time when I walk off the court against him, even though I lost, I felt like I learned something. You know, I was respecting that. There were times when I was really upset with the loss, like Rotterdam final. I was 4-2 up in the tiebreak of the third; Miami final, three tiebreaks when he won the tournament by hitting the let.
There were some difficult moments. But right after -- five minutes after the match point, I felt okay. Again, you know, happy that I learned something, I felt like. You know, I'm close to him.

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