By beating Greg Rusedski in the quarterfinal stage at London’s historic Royal Albert Hall yesterday, Goran Ivanisevic set up yet another mouth-watering Wimbledon rematch at the Aegon Masters event. Today, the popular Croatian will face Aussie Pat Rafter in the semifinals, a rematch of their epic 2001nWimbledon final. The latter was a turning point in Ivanisevic’s career which he now believes ‘saved his life’.
Ivanisevic continued to crush the Brit contingent by beating Rusedski 7-6(6), 7-6(6) in a frenzied exchange of aces and saving set points in both sets. This was a familiar moment in their rivalry which dates back to 1994. Rusedski said: “I’ve only beaten him once on tour. Goran for me is always a challenge.”
In the post match press conference, I was eager to know whether Ivanisevic had changed his game at all to suit the new slower courts and technology of the rackets. He said: “I don’t mind to stay back but still I always like to serve my aces and go for the big shots.”
The Croatian is doing a great job of reminding tennis fans of why he was such a great asset to the tour with his attacking all-or-nothing style of play at the Royal Albert Hall. A rare glimpse of tennis as it was played in the 90s juxtaposed with the recent Barclays ATP World Tour Finals at London’s contrasting O2 Arena where Rafael Nadal and company punished each other with long baselines rallies and formidable topspin.
Ivanisevic said: “You can’t serve and volley in tennis now. The courts are too slow. The top ten guys, I don’t want to mention any names, but a lot of them haven’t got a clue how to volley. They don’t come to the net enough. You have to come in on the right ball. The guys are so quick.”
Another player providing an exhibition of exquisite approach play is none other than Britain’s, Tim Henman. He defeated ATP Champions Tour Rankings leader, Thomas Enqvist 6-3, 3-6, 10-7 to reach the semifinal stage of his first competitive tournament since his retirement three years ago. “It’s always a pleasure to play at home,” said Henman. “This is my first event on the Champions Tour and there’s no better way to start than at the Royal Albert Hall with a crowd like this.”
Henman looked remarkably sharp against Enqvist in his quarterfinal yesterday. But,unusually, Henman had to ask the patriotic British crowd to start cheering for him, as the “silence” was making him nervous. The chant ‘c’mon Tim’ is so ingrained into the British collective consciousness, that some even say it when Andy Murray is on court, such is his enduring appeal.
It’s all set for Tim and Goran to meet for a second time in the final on Sunday, unless Pat Rafter or Champions Tour veteran, Todd Martin can produce something special today. Rafter said: “Goran’s serve is ridiculous and so hard to return. I’ll probably come dressed in cricket gear and see what happens!”
Follow Melina Harris’ coverage for MiamiTennisNews on twitter under the username @thetenniswriter