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Ivan Ljubicic Blogs From ATP World Tour Masters 1000 Madrid

Ivan Ljubicic Sees The SightsZolles.comIvan Ljubicic Sees The Sights

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

I've just lost 7-5 in the third to Stefan Koubek. Playing so late I knew that so many of the guys in the battle for Tennis Masters Cup spots had already lost today. It was a huge opportunity for me. I could have jumped to eighth or ninth from 14th, so it's a huge disappointment, of course.

What happened today now opens the door for another group of guys ranked between 15th and 24th in the Race. It's amazing how many guys are still in contention to qualify for Shanghai this late in the season. It's impossible to talk about all the possibilities. All I know is that it's going to be fantastic for the fans to watch how things play out.

Why did so many guys in contention for Shanghai get beaten today? Could nerves have played a part? Maybe the tension played a little bit of a role, but all the guys are used to it. It's not like we've never played with pressure.

I saw a little bit of Ancic against Blake and Mario played really, really well. Berdych only lost 7-6 in the third to Nalbandian. Moya lost to a great player in Ferrero. I lost a tight one to Koubek, who had already played three matches here and was used to the conditions. The balls were flying and he broke me straight away.

For me it was a very long day, playing fifth match from 11 a.m. By 4.30 pm only two matches had finished. After an easy warm up I had a long lunch, played some pool and spent some time on the internet, checking out the European football qualifiers.

I also had time to joke around with Andrei Pavel. I keep asking him: "How long am I going to keep seeing you around? I've had enough of you." He says: "Why do you want me to retire?" I've played him so many times I feel tired whenever I see him.

There are some guys you can't joke around with, but Andrei's not one of them. He's a nice guy and doesn't mind me kidding around. In all seriousness (in case he's reading this), I wish him a long career. He's been playing really well this year so he should keep playing on.

Right now I'll go back to the hotel and talk to my coach. I'll have something to eat, but nothing as substantial as I would have eaten had I won and needed to refuel the body for a match on Thursday.

Regards, Ivan

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Today let me say a few words about my friend and countryman Ivo Karlovic, who has been playing some incredible tennis this year, winning three titles, serving more than 1,000 aces and climbing to within reach of the Top 20.

I've always said that he had the potential to be a really, really high-ranked player. His serve is by far the best in the world and arguably the best ever. Even on an average day he's still not dropping serve and he can expect to make it to a tie-break, where one or two points can change everything. He's winning 93 or 94 percent of service games and the number of tie-breaks he plays is just ridiculous.

He's already topped 1,000 aces this year and he's a good chance to finish second all-time for most aces served in a season. Goran served 1400 and something in the mid '90s but back then the courts and balls were faster and it was easier to hit aces. At 6' 10'' Ivo has a natural physical advantage and he uses it as much as he can, which he absolutely should. But he's also really improved his all-round game, and that's a big reason for his jump up the rankings.

He has 230 Race points and he's still a chance to make it to the Masters Cup. I can tell you with certainty that there is not one player in the locker room who wants to play him.

Ivo and I grew up together in Croatia. I remember at 16 we were given a wild card into the tour event in Umag and we won our first-round doubles against Berasategui and Clavet. That kicked off our careers. And in 1996 Zeljko Franulovic selected us to spend time with the Davis Cup team and experience the atmosphere.

Ivo had a good win today over Safin and with the weapon he's got, he's going to be hard to beat indoors this week.

Today in my role as Player Council President I met with ATP Chairman Etienne de Villiers and Gayle Bradshaw, who is the head of Rules and Competition. I was interested to talk with Gayle about how chair umpires are evaluated and how you know when one is really good.

I also had a deep discussion with him about Stefan Koubek, who ironically enough, I play tomorrow. Stefan was defaulted in Metz and was hit with a pretty big fine. He thought the fine was excessive and asked me, as his representative on the Player Council, to raise the issue.

I talked to Gayle, who is reviewing the Supervisor's report of the incident, and explained Stefan's point of view. Stefan will appeal the fine. Sometimes players don't know who to talk to about these issues and if I can help out I'm happy to do so. If I can write a brief email or give some support to the player and maybe help to reduce a fine, then it's worth it. Young players may not know a lot about the structure of the ATP and any of them reading this blog will hopefully now know that the Player Council is there to help them and give them a voice.

I reviewed the 2009 calendar with Etienne. He wanted to know the players' side. Overall it's good; there are just a couple of issues here and there. The new Asian swing is very important for tennis and for the players, but it does involve some extra travel.

We'll keep trying to work it out. The calendar has to be announced in Shanghai.

Thanks for reading and check back tomorrow for my post after the match with Koubek.

Regards, Ivan

Monday, October 15, 2007

Hello everyone,

Today I have a picture from a sponsor's visit, taken in the Mutua Madrilena lounge. I also visited the lounges of Rolex, Air Europe and Telefonica. It's something players do on a regular basis at tournaments.

Last night we had the player party but if you want to know the highlights you'll have to ask someone else. Because I'd been sick in recent days I only stayed about 30 minutes with my coach Riccardo and my fitness coach Salvador. I just chatted with Zimonjic and Nestor for 15 minutes and had some food, which was very good. I saw a lot of beautiful young people, but not so many players. I think I went too early. Here is Spain they don't even open the restaurants until 9 or 9.30.

It's somewhat strange playing an indoor tournament when the weather outside is so nice It's been 25 or 26 Celsius. Often when we play indoor events we walk outside and it's below freezing.

I'd like to use the blog today to explain to everyone about the structure of the ATP, which is an association owned 50/50 by the players and tournaments. We have an Executive Chairman and President, Etienne de Villiers, and six board members: three player representatives and three tournament representatives. The six board members vote to make decisions and if they are divided then the Chairman can come in and make the decision.

I'm going to focus today on the three player board reps., who represent the following regions: Europe (Jacco Eltingh), the Americas (Perry Rogers) and the International Region (Iggy Jovanovic). The player reps. are chosen by the 10 players on the ATP Player Council, who themselves are elected by all the players.

The Player Council advises the board reps., passing along the ideas and feelings of the players, but the board reps. still can vote against our wishes if they think it is in the best interests of the sport.

The big issue the board and Player Council have been dealing with recently has been the 2009 calendar and all the changes that are coming. We've got a new premier category of 1000s tournaments, with those eight events replacing the current nine-tournament ATP Masters Series. Then we have the 500s and the 250s.

If you win a '1000s' event you will earn 1000 points. Win a '500s' event and you win 500 points. Grand Slams will be worth 2000 points to the winner. With fewer categories of tournaments, hopefully fans will find the system easier to follow.

Beginning in 2009, players will have to play all eight 1000s, and no fewer than four of the 11 500s. So you'll see very strong fields and guys who want to boost their rankings will want to play even more than the four 500s.

The ITF, which is another federation which controls national federations and which the Grand Slams are members of, is helping us with the Davis Cup schedule. We've been trying to schedule the Davis Cup in better weeks that make it easier for the players to play, so you don't have a situation where you are playing in Europe one week and then flying across the world to play Davis Cup in Chile the following week. And in another change it looks like we'll earn points for winning Davis Cup matches.

The last 15 years nothing has really changed and the time has come to make meaningful improvements. I believe we are doing that with the 2009 calendar, and the longer-term calendar that we are planning through 2013.

So serving on the Player Council is an important and rewarding job. We don't have a lot of free time and it takes a lot of energy to talk with all the players to see what they think. I'm now in my third term on the Player Council and it's a great honor to serve as President. It shows that players believe in my ability to fill the role.

I have another day off before playing my first match against Stefan Koubek on Wednesday. Check back for another post tomorrow.

Regards, Ivan

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Hi everyone from Madrid.
It's good to be back blogging for the first time since Chennai in the first week of last year.
First off, I don't have an interesting picture today (pictured) so here's one of me last week in Vienna at a falconry at the Kreuzenstein Castle. I love animals so I really enjoyed seeing the falcons - they are so big they are scary.
After losing in the Vienna quarterfinals I got a flight the same day to Madrid. But when I got here I started to feel really sick and I basically spent the first night throwing up and I wasn't able to practice Saturday. I had a sandwich in the Vienna airport and that may have been the problem, but my coach ate the same thing and he's been fine. Usually it's better if it's the other way around!
The strange thing is that one year ago I picked up a virus on the eve of Madrid. I had a high fever the day before the match but I decided to play, which proved to be a big mistake. I wasn't well for the next 4-5 weeks and I was lucky to be able to make it to Masters Cup.
I tried to practice twice yesterday but there was no way. I woke this morning and have been feeling better so I had a light practice with Mikhail Youzhny. He had just arrived from Moscow so he was looking to take it pretty easy also. We hit for about an hour and then had a talk. He was telling me that after the US Open he and his girlfriend went to Croatia for a holiday. I thought that was great.
While Croatia is a beautiful country it's not one of the most popular holiday destinations for players or tourists. He went to a very popular island, Brac, which is a terrific place. I told him that the next time he goes he should call me and I'll tell him about all the other great places he should visit.
This week is obviously very important for all the players in contention for Tennis Masters Cup. One reason I'm hoping to make it is to see how I look as a terracotta warrior. In Montreal a lot of players in contention had their measurements taken. The woman doing the measurements said that my head had a very interesting shape and that she would like to do it for me. I guess you have to take that as a compliment :) Being bald, I have nothing to hide.
I experienced the excitement in 2005 when I qualified for the Masters Cup in my semifinal match in Bercy (Masters Series Paris). I was fighting for every match and it will be the same for everyone this year with so many guys grouped so close together all the way down to me in 14th place. And with byes for the seeds in Madrid it will be really hot from the beginning because there's 15 points for the seeds if they can win their first match. But the cut here is 44, so there are no weak players or easy matches. So it's going to be very exciting for the players and the fans.
Check back Monday for another post.
Regards, Ivan

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