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Mario Ancic Q&A

Mario Ancic
Ancic is optimistic heading into this year's Wimbledon
Mario Ancic is a former world number seven, Wimbledon semi-finalist and Davis Cup winner with Croatia.

The 6ft 5in 24-year-old from Split is currently ranked 44 in the world as he makes his way back following illness and injury in 2007.

Mario is playing at the Artois Championships at Queen's Club this week and agreed to answer questions from our 606 users.

Topics range from how he dealt with contracting mononucleosis and his plans for the future, to his friends on the tour and his assessment of the best in the game.

Why did you not ask for a protected ranking while you were injured last year? (From King of Hi-Vis)

Mario: Well, because first of all to get a protected ranking you need to be out for six months and I came back after getting mononucleosis after five, purely because I thought I'd get over it, which I did, and I didn't want to wait any more. I thought after such a long break I just wanted to start and hopefully go step by step.

At the time I got injured I was at number eight or nine in the world and when I came back I was still about 35 or 40 which would mean I'd get into all the tournaments in the world so I was ready to start. I didn't know that my shoulder was going to break down after a couple of weeks and that I'd have a stomach virus and a couple of other problems along the way. It took me almost a year to fully recover, in the end.

Interviewer: Was that because the mono stayed in your system?

Mario: No, once you're over mononucleosis it will never come back and all the other things that I had afterwards were completely new injuries. That was very annoying because one came after another and they didn't have anything to do with each other, they were all completely different things.

It was just bad luck and I still think that all the decisions I made were for the best for me and were done after long thinking. You can't know what's going to happen, you just try to do the best you can.

Interviewer: Roger Federer had mono at the beginning of this year too. Do you think that's had anything to do with his slight drop off in form?

Mario: I don't think he's had too bad results to be honest. He's been in the finals in the French and the semis in Australia. Of course on the other hand people probably got used to him winning three slams a season. That was an unbelievable achievement and I think people got used to it a bit and started to think it was normal.

There's many good players and Federer had a much lighter type of mono and I'm happy that he did because that wouldn't have been nice if such a personality would have missed six months out of tennis.

Has your training schedule and regime changed since you were ill with mono? (From MabelSiew)

Mario: Maybe a little bit in the beginning of my comeback I was a little bit more careful. I wanted to work more but I couldn't, the body was still not allowing me and I still wasn't fit enough. But you have to go through that phase and at the moment there is nothing different. I think everybody knows my work ethic well and at the moment there are no boundaries to my training.

Now I feel great physically and there is not anything to stop me working now.

Are you surprised at how well and quickly you've regained your form since coming back? (From Stuart)

Mario: Yeah, of course there were many questions from people around me about whether I'd ever be able to come back, but I think this year away has made me stronger mentally and given me self-belief. If I can go through all these things then playing tennis seems easier.

I started about four months ago when I was ranked 140 in the world and now I've moved up 100 places and I'm ranked 40. I still say that the comeback is going great, but there's still going to be tough times and bad losses when I question 'why am I losing to this guy, I would never have lost to him before'.

But it's still a period when I have to adjust and it's going well and I'm looking forward to playing better and better. My goal is always to be back in the top 10 where I was before my injuries. I want it so badly but sometimes you just have to look at what you've done and be happy and then go step by step, because with everything I went through I know it can all go away in one day. I'm looking forward to every match that I play.

Do you have a target ranking that you want to get to. Do you think you can get higher than where you were before the injury, and is that what you're aiming to do? (From Chris)

Mario: Of course my goal is to be back in the top 10. Once you're up there you're one of the best players in the world and every tournament you come to you're expected to win and you're playing on the big stage. I want to feel those kinds of things again.

Whether you're five or six or seven is just a matter of one or two good tournaments. That is my goal and that is always what motivates me to come back. I had to start from nothing - my first practice was walking basically - and that (getting into the top 10) was my goal always. I don't have a time set when that has to be but it's something I'm very passionate about and it's my goal.

If you hadn't got injured do you think that you had the talent to become world number one? (From Mediter55)

Mario: Yes.

Interviewer: Do you still believe it?

Mario: Yes.

What was behind the decision you made to revamp your forehand a few years ago? (From Northbank_Upper)

Mario: Did I?

Interviewer: Apparently so. Did you make any technical changes to the stroke?

Mario: I did but there was not anything big. Of course the swing changes during the year as you do a couple of different things. It's just tweaking, there's no big changes.

What's your favourite surface to play on? (From GJ)

Mario: Well, it's a little bit weird. All the Croatians, we grew up on clay, most of us didn't have hard courts or indoor or anything. Then it turned out later in our careers that we're best on indoor or grass, on faster surfaces. So it's definitely faster surfaces.

Who were your idols growing up? (From Abroad_magpie)

Mario: Of course there was Goran Ivanisevic as a tennis player coming from my town. I also like many other sports and I was a big fan of Drazen Petrovic who was an NBA player who died in an accident when he was very young. He was captain of a basketball team and his work ethic and his leadership was amazing. He was one of my idols.

Interviewer: I know Goran said earlier this year that he thinks you can win Wimbledon this year. What do you think about that?

Mario: Well, two years ago when I was in the top 10 I liked that pressure; I really wanted it and I felt great with the pressure. I've played in the semis once at Wimbledon and the quarters once, and I was winning grass-court tournaments and only really losing to Roger - who you just have to say was just better.

Mario Ancic and Novak Djokovic
Ancic and Djokovic are big mates on and off the court
But at this position, coming back and not playing for two years on grass, I don't know yet what to expect and it's tough. I just want to play. It maybe sounds weird but after such a long bad year with injuries I just want to go out and try to play the best I can.

Like I said my game naturally suits the grass but it's still a long way for me to come back. But hopefully I can continue the same as I did two years ago.

I understand you recently graduated from law at Split University. Do you have any plans to pursue a future or a career in law at all? (From Chumbawumba2)

Mario: It's tough to answer that question but I still believe I have eight years of my tennis still ahead of me. I'm 24 and, of course, law was the thing I did for almost six years - it really helped me last year when I was away and it's something I definitely like to do.

I don't know what way life's going to take me or where I'll end up or how things will develop but it's very nice to have that accomplishment behind me and to feel proud in yourself that you've done something important. For some people it's big and for some people they'd ask why I'm doing it, but for me it was a big achievement and, like I say, I don't know where life's going to take me and you never know how long you're going to play tennis.

Two years ago I thought life couldn't be better; I was seven in the world and together with Nadal I was the youngest in the top 10 and all the hard work I did was paying off. Then all of a sudden I was very close to never picking up a racquet again. Because of the experience I've had I don't want to think 10 years ahead. I want to go step by step and at the moment I'm very focused on tennis.

Who do you spend most of your time with on the tour? Who are your best friends? (From Frenkyg)

Mario: I hang out with Jonas Bjorkman, with Thomas Johansson, with Jarkko Niemenen and I get on well with Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic and the Croatian boys too. I don't think I have a bad relationship with many guys and I have to say many of them really helped me during the period of time when I was injured; I had a lot of SMS's of support.

There's a lot of players that you don't maybe go to dinner with, but you hang out when you're at the tournaments. Basically there's about 30 to 40 players you see most of the year and I like to have a good relationship with everybody - and it's nice that when you're down many of them remember you.

Which of your fellow tennis players do you think has the best of each of the following shots? (From Toon_Luigi)

Mario: Serve - Karlovic
Forehand - Gonzalez
Backhand - Federer
Volley - There's not too many to choose from! Tim Henman, is he still playing? It's tough to say with the volley because there's not too many who play it. Maybe Roger.

If you could choose one player from the whole history of tennis to play a set against, who would you choose? (From chumbawumba2)

Mario: I'd like to play with Ivan Lendl.

Interviewer: Do you think you'd win?

Mario: I don't know, I'd just like to play.

Are there any Croatian male tennis players less than 6 foot 4 inches tall?!! What are they feeding you guys out there?!! (From phoenixfromtheashes)

Mario: I'm a midget! It must be something we eat. I think it's just a coincidence that everybody who plays is tall.

Do you have any plans to play doubles again with your sister Sanja?

Mario: Well, she has started to study pharmacy in Zagreb and she is happy that she's not playing any more. But I have to say that the dream we had, and we did it, was to play Hopman Cup together. We did it in the beginning of last year and it was so much fun to play mixed.

It was really, really nice and I think it was something that was a highlight of the family because me, my brother and my sister all play tennis and to be with her at the Hopman Cup, we all know that is a unique tournament where I played not only for my country but also for my family.

Interview by Catherine Whitaker

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