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20/04/2012 16:44 CEST - Atp Tour

Ivan Ljubicic: The Journey Continues

Ivan Ljubicic has called time on his playing career, but still feels a responsibility to the game. Richard Evans sits down with the elder statesman, who reflects on his journey and shares what’s next. By Richard Evans, Deuce Extra!

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With tears in his eyes, Ivan Ljubicic bid farewell to a remarkable playing career here at the Monte Carlo Country Club. His last appearance took the form of a first-round loss to compatriot Ivan Dodig, but it didn’t matter. It was all about what had gone before and now, what path he will take in the future.

The decision this highly intelligent and popular Croat will make in the next few weeks will not only determine his personal future but could have a considerable effect on the sport he has played with such style and dignity since arriving in Monaco as the protégée of the man who guided his entire career, Ricardo Piatti.

“I have to decide whether I am going to run for the ATP Board again,” he said as we sat down for a talk in the subterranean players’ lounge. At the moment I am intending just to relax at my home here in Monaco with my wife and two children. I know I will need to do something because I am not the sort of person who can watch TV all day. And I do feel a responsibility to the game.”

Throughout his career, Ljubicic has demonstrated that responsibility to the game. Back in 2006 he was already President of the Players’ Council and, when a position fell vacant in 2008, Ljubicic became one of the few active players ever to serve on the seven-man Board of Directors.

“It was a very different experience from being on the Council,” he explained. “The Council sticks to rules and player issues. But on the Board you are exposed to the whole business of professional sport and find yourself talking about TV rights, sponsorships and calendars. It was fascinating and a huge responsibility and I learned a lot.”

There are those in the game who feel that this involvement with the sports politics hurt his career as it was around this time that his South African Airways ATP Ranking fell from a one time high of No. 3 into the 40s. But, interestingly, Ljubicic refutes this. “Actually the only time I felt my career suffered from involvement with politics came when I was on the Council, not the Board,” he said. “It was at the US Open in 2006 and we had a long meeting the night before I played Feliciano Lopez. There were a couple of big issues that didn’t go the way I wanted because there are 10 guys voting and you never know how things are going to turn out. I got very frustrated and continued talking about it over dinner with my good friend Thomas Johansson. It was on my mind all night and the next day I was completely flat and lost to Lopez 4, 4 and 4. As a result of that I got people to agree to have meetings on Fridays before a tournament rather than Sundays.”

The decision to quit for good was virtually made for him. “I had problems with my ankle, knees, back and was spending 80% of my time dealing with pain. It was not going to get better,” he said before reflecting on the journey that had taken him from his home town of Banja Luka in Boznia Herzogovina, fleeing as a refugee, to luxury retirement in Monaco.

I remember him telling me some time ago about how he and his father were unable to reach their local tennis club one morning because of armed militia barring the way. “That’s right,” he said. “It was the beginning of the war and, after that incident, my father decided it was time to get out. So my mother and my brother and I got the last cargo plan out to Belgrade and then took a very long bus journey through Hungary to get to a refugee camp in Opatija in Croatia. After four months we were ejected because there was only room for native Croatians.”

After Mr Ljubicic joined them, they managed to swop their large home in Banja Luka for a small apartment. “Not a fair swap but we had no option,” Ivan recalls sadly.

Continues to link: http://www.atpworldtour.com/News/DEUCE-Tennis/DEUCE-Australian-Open-2012/Ivan-Ljubicic.aspx


Richard Evans, Deuce Extra!

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