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March 27, 2005

Ivan Ljubicic

MIAMI, FLORIDA, I. LJUBICIC/V. Spadea 6-3, 4-6, 7-6

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. Well, that's the first time you've beaten him, isn't it?

IVAN LJUBICIC: Yes, first time him, yes. I had first time we played in Monte-Carlo couple years ago, I had some matchpoints. On one I had easy volley. It was one of the -- together with Wayne Ferreira in Australian Open, that's probably the worst loss ever for me. So it was painful for long time. Now I'm glad to win the same way - almost.

Q. Ease the pain?

IVAN LJUBICIC: Yeah. I mean, I felt really good today actually on the court for a set and a half. And then he started to dropshot and come at the net, unusually, and play some great volleys and try to take the rhythm out, you know, the trainer and stuff. So it suddenly wasn't tennis anymore. It wasn't like easy-going. It was real difficult to hang it in there because even last half an hour was also hot.

Q. Were you tired?

IVAN LJUBICIC: No, not tired. Not necessarily tired. But, I mean, that last point on 5-All in the third was really big one, because I felt like, you know, after that point -- obviously, we both were very tired after that point but I felt like I was the one with little bit more energy. I went Love-30 up. Couple bad decisions, what to do with the ball. But still I felt like I raised my game in the end, which is -- I'm pleased, because it's not always easy to do that. That's what Roger always does with me so... Something that I learned from him.

Q. We've always known about your explosive game, but the results have not always been there. We know that you've been doing a lot of training to get the results for this year.


Q. Have you noticed if the players are viewing you in a different manner and a different light all together with the way you've played this year?

IVAN LJUBICIC: Well, I always felt the respect from the players. Marat once told me "If there is someone I don't want to play, it's you, really, honestly." So when I was 40 in the world. So I always felt like I'm not someone who, you know, the people want to see me in a draw. So that kind of respect I always felt. But it's not really like I felt like a change now. Obviously, I'm still really not easy draw, but it's just difference that I'm really winning a lot of matches now instead of just being a dangerous opponent before. Before, what's happening, I was beating big guys but I couldn't manage -- I didn't manage to win a lot of matches in a row. Now it's suddenly everything has changed. Just feel like trying really to focus one match by one, and one point by one. Everything, it's much easier for me. Obviously, the confidence is really high. I feel like, going on a court, that I am -- I am the one who is going to win this match, I am the one who is better in this match. Obviously, that's very important when it comes to important moments in a match.

Q. Do you like the extra attention that is coming to you now?

IVAN LJUBICIC: It's really, I mean -- this morning I was really not shocked but, I mean, I will explain you why I really was shocked this morning - that's another story. But before the match, like one hour before the match, I went up to see my wife and just to say that I'm gonna go down and focus on the match and blah, blah, blah. She showed me this paper telling that I'm after Federer, the best player right now in the world. I was like, "Jesus." I mean, I'm used to really be underdog for all my life. Even like juniors, I was doing good results, but not really like because I really belonged in top class. And as soon as I start winning matches in junior tennis, I switched to professional. So I was always coming up, you know, always underdog, always beating good guys but not really, you know, felt like I'm really belong up there. This morning I start to read this and I was like... you know, it was happening so quickly, that I better get used to it. It's nice feeling obviously, but it is little bit of pressure. I want to keep winning because obviously Masters Cup, it's something that I really want to be in. It's great opportunity. I know Masters Series together with the Grand Slams, it's the place where I want to win points and where I can make the biggest difference right now.

Q. Will you miss being an underdog, leaving the kennel?

IVAN LJUBICIC: Well, no. No (smiling). I mean, it's nice feeling, you know, to go on the court and feel that you are the favorite, you are the one, if you play well, you're gonna win this match no matter what. That's great feeling - except, obviously, against Roger (smiling).

Q. What was the other story where you were shocked?

IVAN LJUBICIC: Oh, was 10 to 10, 10 minutes to 10. I went to take a shower. I come back in locker room -- I mean, I came back and I see my stuff on the ground, from the locker. Yeah, I was like -- and a lot of people, a lot of people in locker room because the matches at 10 o'clock, they were just getting ready. I was like, "What's going on? My stuff on the ground." I see the doors of the locker just slightly open. So I went to open the locker and then shock, completely shocked. What happened, Michael Llodra naked in my locker. I mean... he was looking at me, I was looking at him. I said, "What the hell are you doing here?" I'm trying to focus for my match. I said, "It's 10 to 10, you're playing at 10 o'clock." I don't know what he did, did he won?

Q. Yes.

IVAN LJUBICIC: I mean, that's the way (laughing). I don't know. I mean, the locker, it's not the big locker, it's small locker. You better maybe, if you have a chance, just to see how big is the locker.

Q. Expect to see him again, I suppose?

IVAN LJUBICIC: Now when I'm opening my locker, I'm opening really slowly. I mean, after this, I don't know what I'm gonna find in there.

Q. What were you thinking would be in there?

IVAN LJUBICIC: I was shocked. I mean, I was really shocked. I didn't know what to say. I didn't know if to laugh or, you know, looking at people around me. I mean, obviously, everybody knew because it takes time to get in.

Q. They were all in on it?

IVAN LJUBICIC: He said to me "I'm trying to get positive energy from you. You're winning a lot of matches this year." (Smiling). I mean, he is weird guy. Maybe next time I'm gonna tell you another stories with him. Just imagine that he's actually father. I mean, this kid is really lucky kid. I mean, he's gonna have great time with him. It's just, it's not easy to get in that locker, I'm telling you. He is not small guy. Very flexible. Very, very flexible. Naked.

Q. Just going back to the way you're playing, we've discussed the work you've put in. Do you think the change really may have started with the medal in Athens?

IVAN LJUBICIC: Well, yes. I mean, obviously, it comes, like the mental part, yes. Because it was my first big result. I had big victories, big wins. But not big result. And that was something really important for me and for Croatia and for everybody, and that was the first big result. And obviously now, playing all these finals and beating United States in Carson a couple weeks ago, it's another big result but it's just, you know, it's keep happening. But mentally, it made a big change, definitely.

Q. Do you see yourself or feel any different since then?

IVAN LJUBICIC: I feel much more confident, you know. My game is not going up and down anymore that much. I'm playing good from week, like every week, really constantly - not great, but it's really good feeling also to win matches without playing great. And I think that the best, physically, I feel much better now. Physically, I can go forever now. Just playing my tennis, run every ball out, just to pull the ball back in the court and to see what the other guy's gonna do, it's great feeling, you know. Even when you're not playing great, if you just fight, you're gonna win a lot of matches, and that's really important. When I play well, I feel like one of the best out there.

Q. Do the people of Croatia start to see you differently since then?

IVAN LJUBICIC: Well, I really -- I mean, after -- I wasn't in Croatia. I mean, I was for one day just to get this American visa after Milan, Monday of Marseille. After that Monday, I played final, final, final, then Davis Cup, then here. So I wasn't there. I cannot say. But even before, obviously, the people will recognize me on the street. But now obviously it's much -- I assume it's much bigger.

Q. I was meaning after Athens, immediately after Athens?

IVAN LJUBICIC: Yes, yes. But you know what, the difference between Olympic medal and great result in Wimbledon or whatever is that the people are really enjoying it. They feel like it's part of them, that you get a medal for Croatia, not for yourself. Even the Davis Cup, you know, they really feel like they are into this. Even like in the States, I remember in New York, after this Olympic Games, I went there and obviously my coach and my fitness coach, we went in the restaurant. We start talking and this waiter said "You tennis player?" I said, "Yes." He said, "Did you play the Olympic Games?" I said, "Yes. I won a medal." He said "great." Even the people around, they heard that, they don't know anything about tennis, but just to hear that I won an Olympic medal, it's big. That's why I think it's like if you say to someone who doesn't know anything about tennis, "I won Australian Open," he's looking at you like, "And?" If you tell him I won Olympic medal, doesn't matter if it's bronze, gold, silver, it's really important. That's the difference between Olympic medal and any other tournament.

Q. You became successful just after Ivanisevic left?

IVAN LJUBICIC: Well, I always say that I am really lucky to have Mario just next to me, because we can do -- we can really do well now in Davis Cup together. But it's unfortunate that Goran is not around anymore. We would have great, great, great team if he was around.

Q. How often do you hear from Goran?

IVAN LJUBICIC: Oh, really often. I mean, we text message a lot. Talk maybe a couple times a month. But really keep informed of ourselves. I am asking how he is doing. He's apparently doing really well on Senior Tour.

Q. Is he as funny with you as he is with reporters?

IVAN LJUBICIC: Oh, he always says what he thinks. That's him.

Q. What is the craziest thing you ever heard him say?

IVAN LJUBICIC: Well, you don't want to know that (laughing). I have to think. Next time -- I'll think of this and then next time I'll tell you, the craziest thing said by Goran.

Q. If you went out for dinner with Goran and maybe you spent five hours at dinner, whatever, what would the five hours be like?

IVAN LJUBICIC: I mean, it's a lot of -- I mean, for him, it depends, his mood. If he is really positive, he is really funny. Sometimes, I mean, obviously, as everyone else, it depends how he feels. He's one of the funniest guys out there, by far. All the stories, like when he start to say what -- especially when he was really young. I mean, boy, was really, really funny. But now he is a father. Now he is much, much more serious than he used to be.

Q. Did you go to his wedding?

IVAN LJUBICIC: His wedding? He's not married. He's not married.

Q. Before you were joking about you have a visa in the States, but seriously, is there any reaction in the States?

IVAN LJUBICIC: Obviously, there was interview, she asked me, "What do you need visa for?" I said, "Well, I play tennis and I'm gonna play Davis Cup in couple weeks." And, you know, she asked me if I'm gonna play like next years, and obviously she didn't know anything about tennis. But I said, Yes, I'm going to play more and more. She said, Okay, I'm going to give you five years visa. I said thank you, because obviously it's better to have it five years. So she says, "So good luck in Davis Cup." I said, "Are you sure?" She said, "Yes, yes, yes, I'm sure." I said, "Okay, thank you" (laughing).

Q. And, after, now in the States?

IVAN LJUBICIC: I mean, I get a lot of -- the people are really congratulate me for that. I mean, on the streets and in the restaurants and even here, I mean, the people are really pleased the way I played, and that's nice. It's not always like that. I mean, somewhere else maybe it wouldn't be like that. I mean, if you beat someone, you're not gonna -- you're not gonna get a lot of compliments in Croatia maybe, I don't know. If somebody is going there and beat Croatia and he sticks there for a month or something, he's not going to get a lot of compliments, that's for sure.

Q. You were able to get out of Serbia at just the right time. That's well-known. Was there ever a close call where your life could have been in grave danger?

IVAN LJUBICIC: That's something you really should ask my parents, because they really tried to hide the real danger from us, you know, from the kids. I mean, I was 13, so I really couldn't realize how danger it was. But, obviously, it wasn't easy. I was just reading the other day in the papers that in the town that I was living, there were 60,000 Croatians and there is only 1200 left. So, obviously...

Q. Banja Luka?

IVAN LJUBICIC: Banja Luka, yes. So obviously there was a reason to leave, but I don't know how many people actually really died or something. But it wasn't comfortable, I mean, to live there. But, again, I have to say that again I was only 13, so I didn't felt that really much. Our little village - because I was living little bit outside of Banja Luka - was actually Croatian village. It was actually probably the best part of this little area to stay.

Q. Are you saying that at some point when you got older you asked your parents about it but they said they would rather not talk about it?

IVAN LJUBICIC: Well, they never talk about it - not only with me, but with everyone else. They just try to not think about it. Obviously for them it was probably much worse than for us, obviously. I mean, I didn't see a lot of friends since then, but they were living there for 35 years. I mean, it's much bigger difference than, you know, just being a kid there.

Q. What is missing for you to win against Federer? I mean, obviously...

IVAN LJUBICIC: It's not up to me, really. I really don't feel like I am doing something wrong. It's really, Indian Wells, I played one of my best matches of my life. It's just that these tiebreaks, I mean, he played unbelievable - some half-volley winners, stretch passing shots winners. I mean, when it comes to really important moments, he is raising his game just unbelievable high. And last three matches that we played, it was always really close. But, I mean, probably Rotterdam we played a good match; Dubai wasn't really great, we were both struggling, it was a little windy and the balls were flying a little bit. But Indian Wells we both played well. Obviously, I mean, if I raise my game, he's raising his game again. I just need, I don't know, little luck maybe or little lack of concentration from his side or something. But really, it's not like I'm thinking about that when I go to sleep. I mean, if I lose this year only to Roger, I would sign right now (laughing). I mean, he is the best player in the world right now - maybe in the history of tennis. So to lose to him close matches, for me, it's good.

Q. We don't know right now whether it will be Nadal or Verdasco. A couple days ago you said you'd rather play Roddick than Verdasco. Why?

IVAN LJUBICIC: Yes. I don't like to play lefties, but I guess I have no choice the next one; they are both lefties. So I beat Nadal in Doha, was tough match. Was 3 in the third, but was really difficult. Obviously, I feel like he's better player now than he was the first week of the year. I beat Verdasco in Dubai, but I saved at least one matchpoint - maybe even more. So it's tough. It's gonna be tough match for sure. They are playing huge topspins on my backhand, obviously with one-handed backhand it's really difficult to manage that ball. Verdasco is just great player. I saw him in Indian Wells against Andy and I saw him here against Andy, he has powerful forehand, great serve, backhand is great. I mean, I don't know why he's not better player than he is, I mean ranking-wise. Nadal, obviously he won two events already this year and the Davis Cup last year. He is great future of tennis, I hope, not present.

Q. Do players kid you about your lack of hair?

IVAN LJUBICIC: Well... if there is something that I need to miss, hair is good thing to miss I think (smiling). Yeah, no, I have to cut it, actually. It's really long. No, I like to keep it really short.

End of FastScripts….

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