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Last Updated: Friday, 25 June, 2004, 20:19 GMT 21:19 UK
Ivanisevic bows out in style
By Caroline Cheese
BBC Sport at Wimbledon

Goran Ivanisevic
After his final match at Wimbledon, Goran Ivanisevic suggested he was merely the Goran of his generation and there would be another just like him along soon.

If only he were right.

In reality, Wimbledon has waved a last goodbye to a cherished character.

It was only right that Ivanisevic played his final match on Centre Court, the scene of his emotional triumph three years earlier.

And though his exit against Lleyton Hewitt was surprisingly tame, given the drama he has provided over his 15-year Wimbledon career, he ensured his final moments were memorable.

He spent several moments speaking with Hewitt at the net before donning a Croatia football shirt and saluting an adoring crowd.

And later he told an avid audience in Wimbledon's main press room that he could not have written a better script for his last tournament.

"It was a victory for me," he said.

"Everything was perfect - the weather, the court, the crowd. I had bad luck against a player who was playing too good but it was worth it.

Goran Ivanisevic and Lleyton Hewitt
I told him 'You kick my ass very well'
Ivanisevic on what he said to Hewitt
"Two years of therapy and struggling, to come back here and finish my career at Wimbledon. I couldn't ask for any better."

Ivanisevic's career had been heading for a vastly different ending three years ago.

Having failed in three previous Wimbledon finals, the first in 1992 to Andre Agassi, the Croat had fallen on such poor form that he was forced to request a wildcard for the 2001 Championships.

Against everyone's expectations, including his own, Ivanisevic put together a remarkable run, making headlines both for his dramatic return to form and some hilarious post-match news conferences.

It was surely fate that rain delayed the final until Monday, meaning Centre Court was packed with dedicated fans of Ivanisevic and Pat Rafter who had queued on the pavement all night to get in.

The match itself has gone down in history as one of the best ever, while Centre Court is unlikely to experience an atmosphere of its kind again.

At its climax, Ivanisevic finally got his hands on the trophy at the 14th time of trying.

Injury prevented him from returning in 2002 to open play on Centre Court as defending champion, but he cobbled his shoulder back together to return this year and cap a fairytale turnaround from gallant loser to champion.

As his career reached an end on Friday, Ivanisevic himself put into words exactly why that victory was so popular.

"Even when I won Wimbledon I stayed the same," he said.

"Sometimes I don't know what I'm saying and sometimes it's bad, but who cares? I always try to say what I mean.

"It's me. I like myself. It's OK."

If the public will miss him, the world's press may miss him more for the torrent of quotes and stories he has provided over the years.

He was asked on Friday if he would come back to Wimbledon.

"Sure, I come to support our boys (from Croatia) and have a little tea," he replied.

What did he say to Hewitt as they shook hands at the end of the match?

"I told him 'You kick my ass very well'.

"He said it was an honour for him to play with me and when somebody like Lleyton says that, I'm proud of myself and everything I did in my career."

When the questions finally ran out, his audience broke out into applause, but Ivanisevic had the last word.

"I'm going to miss you," he said.

"Thank you for writing good, writing bad, for writing whatever you write.

"I had fun, you had fun. Enjoy."




WATCH AND LISTEN
Highlights: Wimbledon day five


Interview: Goran Ivanisevic




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