When Goran Ivanisevic pulled on his precious Croatian football shirt and walked off the Wimbledon Centre Court for the final time this year, fans, fellow players and the world's media shed a collective tear.
Ivanisevic was one of the most popular champions in Wimbledon history, as much for his unique sense of humour and selection of alter-egos as for his tennis. If the media were short on stories, they could invariably put a question to the Croatian and end up with the quote of the day.
Thankfully, he is back, and will this week make his return to action against many of the best players of his generation at the Alex Tennis Classics in Eindhoven, Holland - the fifth stop on the 2004 Delta Tour of Champions.
At 33, he looks no different to when he won Wimbledon three years ago. He is still tall, lean and angular (he claims to be lighter than when he lost in the third round against Lleyton Hewitt this year), and is looking forward to mixing with the likes of Jim Courier and Thomas Muster who currently top the Stanford Financial Champions Tour Rankings and have already qualified for The Masters Tennis presented by Cunard at the Royal Albert Hall in London (30th November - 5th December).
"It's going to be great," said Ivanisevic, as he wolfed down a plate of steak-and-chips - a meal he might have had to think twice about six months ago - an hour after arriving in Eindhoven.
"I'm going to see some old friends of mine, guys that I like, that I admire a lot and who I had great matches with. It will be fun for me because there is no pressure any more. We still want to win, but it's not like before when we HAD to win. I'm looking forward to it."
Ivanisevic has been drawn to play in Group B with Mats Wilander, Jan Siemerink and Thomas Muster - a man he has not seen in years.
"I saw Jim Courier last year when Croatia played Davis Cup against the United States, but I haven't seen Thomas for three or four years and now I'm in his group! We had some great matches, he is a great guy and I'm looking forward to seeing him."
What he did not know is that Muster was spotted, minutes after our interview, pounding the streets of Eindhoven and looked in ominously good shape.
If Ivanisevic had any doubts about the quality still possessed by the players he will take on this week, they were quickly expelled when he saw 45-year-old John McEnroe almost beat his 20-year-old compatriot Mario Ancic - currently 21st in the Indesit ATP 2004 Race - in an exhibition match.
"All these guys say they are not practicing and yet they are all playing unbelievable tennis!" said Ivanisevic.
"John surprised me. I know he's a genius, but for him to play that close against Mario (Ancic) who is playing great tennis, was something unbelievable. He was so pumped, he wanted to win so badly."
Since bowing out at Wimbledon, Ivanisevic has kept in trim by playing plenty of football with his friends and hitting with Croatian Davis Cup team (he is the assistant coach), sailing around the Dalmatian islands near his home in Split, and looking after his 18-month-old daughter, Amber-Maria.
So, what does he think of fatherhood?
"It's great, but there is one problem," he says.
"She doesn't sleep. At night she seems to turn into a vampire. She wakes up every night 5 or 10 times, asking for things, singing, calling out. If she only wakes up five times in a night, it's like I've won the lottery. I'm awake at night and asleep during the day. I haven't found a way to keep her asleep. I tried yelling, but if I yell it gets even worse, she starts to cry and scream even more. So, I just give her whatever she wants. If she wants tea, I give her tea. If she wants her bottle, I give her the bottle. Every half an hour I get up and go to her."
As you can see, he is still the same old Goran. And we can all be grateful for that.
He begins his Delta Tour of Champions career on Thursday against the seven-time Grand Slam titlist, Mats Wilander.
He beat Wilander 63 62 and will play Siemerink next