39-year-old GoranIvanisevic won a final in London last year (seniors Champions Tour) and decided that’s fit enough to play once again in a professional event, albeit only in doubles, in Zagreb (the tournament he won twice in singles in the years 1996-1997 – the first two editions). Today, in the first round at the PBZ Zagreb Indoors, Ivanisevic teamed up with his much more younger compatriot Marin Cilic, played against a Slovakian duo of two tall players: Filip Polasek / Igor Zelenay. It wasn’t a high quality doubles match, especially at the initial stage when everyone was very tense – uncharacteristic four breaks of serve in the first four games of the match! At *5:6 (15-40) Ivanisevic showed his biggest (double-edged) weapon – the serve – saving two set points with an ace and service winner, then won a point with a forehand stop-volley, but in the tie-break Cilic at 4:5 couldn’t deliver the first serve and the Slovaks took the set 7-6(4). In the 2nd set at 4:4 (deuce), the Croatian legend left a ball which landed inside the court – it was a decisive break. 6-7, 4-6 in one hour and 19 minutes. “I had problems with my serve and on the return,” says Ivanisevic. “If I served only 10 per cent better I think we would have won. From all the shots that I thought may go wrong, I never thought it would be my serve“. It’s Ivanisevic’s 229th doubles tournament in career, his record after the match: 263-226. It’s not the first time in the Open era that a former Grand Slam champion appears after many years only to play in doubles. Here are a list of notable players who tried to be competitive after a long break (name – year in which they played their last doubles match – a come-back tournament – (their age at the time of the comeback).
Rod Laver – 1978 – Delray Beach 1983 – (44)
Pat Cash – 1999 – Chennai 2006 – (40)
John McEnroe – 1994 – San Jose 2006 – (47)
Michael Stich – 1997 – Hamburg 2009 – (40)
Goran Ivanisevic – 2004 – Zagreb 2011 – (39)