Australian Open Tennis : Yugoslav Teen Is Emerging as Next Prodigy

Times Staff Writer

The future of men’s tennis appears to be 17 years old, 6 feet 4 inches tall, left-handed and Yugoslavian.

His name is Goran Ivanisevic, who up until 2 weeks ago had won only one Grand Prix match in his life. But quicker than you can spell his name, he is in the round of 16 here at the Australian Open.

Ever since Ion Tiriac visited Leiman, West Germany, and began twitching his forest of a mustache in the direction of a red-haired teen named Boris Becker, tennis has been waiting for another prodigy to emerge.

Ivanisevic may be the one.


“He definitely has the chance,” said Tiriac, who does not manage the Yugoslavian teen-ager but does advise him.

“He has the technical ability and the physical ability,” Tiriac said. “He has so much ability and fluidity. In 2 years, he should be in the top 10.”

On a cloudy Saturday morning, Ivanisevic was impressive while defeating Tom Nijssen of the Netherlands, 6-4, 6-4, 6-0, in a third-round match.

It was Ivanisevic’s sixth consecutive victory because he had to survive three qualifying matches to enter the main draw. Going into the match with Nijssen, Ivanisevic was confident.

“I was sure I was going to beat him,” Ivanisevic said. “I am very happy I came in without pressure.”

Ivanisevic was ranked No. 371 before the tournament in Adelaide, Australia. He got into that tournament as a lucky loser and reached the quarterfinals, where he lost to Mark Woodforde.

Along the way, the lanky player with the big serve also showed he has a big temper. Ivanisevic received 5 umpire warnings in 3 matches, threw his racket several times and once disgustedly hit a ball that struck a ball girl.

“He needs to work on his mental ability now,” Tiriac said.

Joining Ivanisevic in the round of 16 were Michiel Schapers of the Netherlands, Jonas B. Svensson of Sweden, Miloslav Mecir of Czechoslovakia and South African Christo van Rensburg, who defeated Woodforde, 2-6, 6-2, 6-7, 6-4, 6-0.

Schapers defeated 12th-seeded Swede Mikael Pernfors, 6-7, 7-5, 7-6, 6-0; Svensson downed Australian Wally Masur, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-2, and Mecir beat Jason Stoltenberg, another Australian, 6-2, 6-1, 6-3.

In the women’s draw, Hana Mandlikova won her third consecutive 3-set match, 3-6, 6-3, 9-7, over Manon Bollegraf of the Netherlands; Helena Sukova defeated Lisa O’Neill of Australia, 6-2, 6-1, and Catherine Tanvier of France upset 10th-seeded Mary Joe Fernandez, 6-2, 6-3. Australian Belinda Cordell shortened the comeback of Andrea Temesvari of Hungary, 1-6, 7-6, 6-1.

Martina Navratilova was clearly favored against Czech Jana Novotna, whom she dispatched, 6-2, 6-2, but if Navratilova is lucky enough to run up against Steffi Graf in the Australian Open final, she knows it clearly would be an uphill race.

“I’m the underdog,” Navratilova said. “I am. Steffi has won everything in sight and I have not.”

In late matches Friday night, 13th-seeded Pat Cash hung on to defeat Richey Reneberg, 6-3, 6-3, 6-7, 4-6, 6-3, and in a battle of Americans, 10th-seeded Aaron Krickstein swept past Jeff Tarango, 6-3, 6-0, 6-2.

It was later announced that Cash was fined $500 for an audible obscenity. John McEnroe was fined for verbal abuse of a linesman after his 6-2, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory over Australian Brod Dyke.

Tennis Notes

Although John McEnroe is a staunch ATP supporter, he is not entirely happy with the new 1990 tour setup.

“All in all, it’s good, but I mean it’s almost the same tour and I don’t think the top players had enough involvement in the whole situation.”

Under the current Grand Prix rules, players are required to compete in 14 tournaments, which include the 4 Grand Slam events. But in the ATP tour there are 11 tournament commitments in addition to the 4 Grand Slams, for a total of 15.

“I haven’t played any more than about 12 tournaments in about 4 years, so to think that I’m going to play 15 is crazy,” he said. “I can tell you right now, I’m not going to.”

McEnroe also sounded an ominous warning to the lesser open series tournaments, such as the $250,000 Volvo/Los Angeles event.

“I think the tournaments that are going to get hurt are those open series that have minimum prize money,” he said. “I don’t think that the players are going to play those tournaments and I think that there’s going to be a big problem. . . . “