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Like Countrymen, Ivanisevic Puts His Best Foot Forward

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The clock was taunting Goran Ivanisevic on Tuesday at Wimbledon.

“It’s a big clock, so when I look to the left, you always see that clock--2, 2:30, 3, 3:20--and I’m still playing,” Ivanisevic said.

And that was only one of his relentless foes, Todd Martin being the other.

The better Martin played in their fourth-round match, the more time Ivanisevic spent on the court. And the more anxious he became about watching his beloved Croatia against Romania in the World Cup soccer tournament.

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As the fourth-set tiebreaker started, the Croatian national anthem was playing in Bordeaux, France. And as Ivanisevic won the match, 7-6 (7-5), 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (7-2), the Croatians were in the third minute.

And there still was the press conference before Ivanisevic could settle in with the soccer game. Told then that Croatia was leading, 1-0, Ivanisevic did his best Beavis imitation, saying, “Good . . . hey, hey, hey.

“I have to play tomorrow [against Jan Siemerink of the Netherlands], so I will be too nervous,” Ivanisevic said. “If they win, 1-0, it’s easier.”

Croatia held that lead, beating Romania, so for Ivanisevic, disaster was averted on two fronts.

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Ivanisevic is intensely patriotic. When he won the first medal for newly independent Croatia at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Spain, he said, “This is a very important match for all of Croatia, not only for me.”

Now, he believes he is playing better than when he reached two Wimbledon finals.

“I’m volleying much better,” he said. “Sometimes I rely too much on my serve and the volley comes and it goes everywhere. Now, I know I can volley very good, and I don’t panic when the volley comes.”

With Martin losing, top-seeded Pete Sampras is the only American remaining. Sampras defeated French qualifier Sebastien Grosjean, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4, in another fourth-round match and joked afterward about Richard Krajicek’s recent statements that Sampras has been playing like the 10th-ranked player in 1998.

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“Maybe I’ll make it one day,” said Sampras, who except for a few weeks in the spring has been ranked No. 1 all year.

The Netherlands’ Krajicek, who defeated Wayne Ferreira of South Africa, 6-3, 6-3, 7-5, is having his own problems. He slipped, hurt his right knee and needed treatment.

“If it stiffens up and gets worse, I don’t know what will happen the next match,” he said. “I’m lucky there was another invalid on the court, and he [Ferreira] couldn’t serve.”

Ordinarily, Krajicek’s next opponent, Davide Sanguinetti would not be a major concern on grass. A former UCLA player, Sanguinetti has established himself on the tour as a solid clay-court player. But he became the first Italian to reach the Wimbledon quarterfinals since 1979 by defeating Francisco Clavet of Spain, 7-6 (7-3), 6-1, 6-4.

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There was little drama in four fourth-round matches on the women’s side.

Top-seeded Martina Hingis of Switzerland and third-seeded Jana Novotna of the Czech Republic advanced in straight sets. Hingis beat Tamarine Tanasugarn of Thailand, 6-3, 6-2, and Novotna ousted 10th-seeded Irina Spirlea of Romania, 6-2, 6-3.

Fifth-seeded Arantxa Sanchez Vicario of Spain needed three sets to beat 15th-seeded Dominique Van Roost of Belgium, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2.

Seventh-seeded Venus Williams exacted some family vengeance, beating Virginia Ruano-Pascual of Spain, 6-3, 6-1. Ruano-Pascual had beaten Serena Williams, Venus’ younger sister, in the third round on Monday, Serena quitting the match because of a calf muscle injury while trailing, 7-5, 4-1.

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On Tuesday, however, Serena Williams managed to compete in her mixed doubles match with partner Max Mirnyi of Belarus and they won their first-round match in straight sets.

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Wimbledon officials honored Don Budge, commemorating the 60th anniversary of his Grand Slam, victories in the Australian, French and U.S. Opens and Wimbledon. The Duke of Kent presented him a Waterford crystal vase, and the 85-year-old Budge watched play from the Royal Box.

Budge was also honored at the French Open and was part of the awards ceremony after the men’s final there.

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The quote of the day was uttered by Sampras, who was asked about the marketing of men’s tennis in the United States.

“When the game was successful, you have four of the guys in the top five playing in the semis and finals of the Slams,” he said. “They were all different personalities and hated each other. So it’s great theater.

“That’s what the game needs. It needs a little controversy, a Dennis Rodman-type of guy. A little hatred, or whatever you want to call it.”

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Today’s

Featured Matches

MEN’S SINGLES

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* Pete Sampras (1), Tampa, Fla., vs. Mark Philippoussis, Australia

* Petr Korda (3), Czech Republic, vs. Tim Henman (12), Britain

* Richard Krajicek (9), Netherlands, vs. Davide Sanguinetti, Italy

* Jan Siemerink, Netherlands, vs. Goran Ivanisevic (14), Croatia

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WOMEN’S SINGLES

* Martina Hingis (1), Switzerland, vs. Arantxa Sanchez Vicario (5), Spain

* Jana Novotna (3), Czech Republic, vs. Venus Williams (7), Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

* Monica Seles (6), Sarasota, Fla., vs. Natasha Zvereva, Belarus

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* Nathalie Tauziat (16), France, vs. Lindsay Davenport (2), Newport Beach


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