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Wednesday, November 30, 2005
Ivanisevic ready if Croatia needs him


BRATISLAVA, Slovakia -- Goran Ivanisevic was only half joking when he said on Wednesday he was ready to play in the Davis Cup final between Croatia and Slovakia which starts on Friday.

The 34-year-old former Wimbledon champion last played for Croatia in 2003 and has since retired from the ATP Tour because of nagging shoulder injuries. But he was named by captain Niki Pilic as fourth player for the historic final.

With world No. 9 Ivan Ljubicic and Mario Ancic expected to play all four singles and Saturday's doubles, Ivanisevic's role is most likely to be as an inspirational cheerleader in the Sibamac Arena.

The way he struck the ball in practice on Wednesday, however, suggested he would not be out of his depth if injuries or fatigue forced Pilic to change his plans.

"I feel good, I'm playing very good tennis. I don't know when the last time was that I played this well," said Ivanisevic, who has appeared in a record 26 Davis Cup ties for Croatia and compiled an excellent 48-15 win-loss record.

"I don't even have pain in my shoulder so I'm happy. I'm ready, otherwise I would not be the fourth member of the team," he told reporters.

"The last two months I've practiced two hours a day, been to the gym, done lots of running," said Ivanisevic, who is ranked No. 1 on the Seniors Tour.

"I'm in really good shape but I'll be pleased when the Davis Cup is over though because I can't practice any more. It will all be over in a couple of days."

Ivanisevic won two bronze medals at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, was three times a Wimbledon runner-up and finally clinched an emotional grand slam title at the All-England Club in 2001.

He would like nothing more than to complete his colorful scrapbook by helping Croatia win the Davis Cup for the first time.

"It would be historic for our country, we are a very small nation," he said.

"It's good that two small countries, two close countries, are in the final, it's good for the game."

Any idea the two Slavic nations will be on friendly terms later this week were quickly knocked back.

"There will be no friends out there from Friday, this is the Davis Cup final and both countries are desperate to win it," said Ivanisevic.