Mario wrote a short diary about his Wimbledon experience last year for the Brittish newspaper The Independent. It was published on Sunday July 4th 2004. So for those of you who haven't read it.... enjoy!
love you all!
PS: for all you stalkers and ladies with high hopes out there, three words: CHELSEA VILLAGE HOTEL!!! Now let's just hope he's the kind of guy who likes to go back to the same places every year...
"Diary of a giant-killer: It turned out to be a perfect day, and Goran was one of the first to ring"
04 July 2004
Sunday 20 June
: I arrive in London with my coach, my brother and my sister, who is in the junior draw. We are staying at the Chelsea Village Hotel. I am feeling tired because I have just played a tough semi-final in Rosmalen, so I watch Spain go out of the Euro 2004 in Portugal and get an early night. I am really looking forward to tomorrow.
Monday 21 June
: The first day of Wimbledon is always very exciting because you know all tennis eyes will be here for two weeks. I pick up a schedule and then go back to my hotel as early as possible because Croatia play in a must-win match against England at Euro 2004. After dinner, I settle down in front of the TV with my coach, Rohan Goetzke. Croatia play well, but are not quite good enough to beat a really good England team. We lack individual talents like Wayne Rooney, who is a brilliant sportsman. We are out of the Euro, but at least I'm still in the Championships.
Tuesday 22 June
: I'd found out earlier that my first-round opponent, David Nalbandian, had had to pull out. It was a stroke of luck, because I felt I had been handed a shitty draw. I now face Luis Horna of Peru, who I should be able to beat. I do, but only after losing the first set. I get it together in the end and win 6-7 6-4 6-3 6-4, but it just goes to show that there are no gimmes in Grand Slams. My performance is not great, but it's a good wake-up call, which is just what I need if I am to have an impact this year.
Wednesday 23 June
: I just have a light hit on the practice courts at Aorangi because I have been playing a lot of tennis in recent weeks and must not overdo it. That night, we go out to a Greek restaurant near Chelsea Village and then come home to watch Germany crash out of the Euro. Having the football on at the moment is a real treat because it allows me to kill the evenings and take my mind off the tennis.
Thursday 24 June
: Days like this are a complete nightmare. It rains non-stop and, although we are all sure there will be no play, the organisers keep us at the All England Club until 7pm. I have a hit indoors for 30 minutes and then go to have a little cheeky sleep in the locker rooms. Well, there's nothing else to do. In the evening, we pop out for some sushi at Fulham Broadway and then watch England's brilliant quarter-final with Portugal.
Friday 25 June
: I finally get to play my second-round match against Julien Benneteau, of France. I don't know whether it is due to the long wait, but I make very hard work of an opponent I should beat comfortably. In the end, I win in five sets, 4-6 7-6 6-2 5-7 6-4, but it's yet another close call. It's time to wake up.
Saturday 26 June
: Another wash-out, except that this time I am really grateful for the weather because I wake up not feeling too good. I don't know if it's the cold, but I am quite stiff. It's disappointing for the fans to go home without seeing any tennis, but for me it's a lifesaver. I would lose if I played today. In the evening, it's back to the hotel for the usual ritual of food (this time it's Italian) and then football (Sweden v Holland). Some players prefer being in houses near Wimbledon, but I feel it limits your options too much. In a hotel, you can use the gym, pop out to nearby shops, meet friends in town and, most importantly, have your meals cooked.
Sunday 27 June
: I have a hit with Sjeng Schalken in the morning, before playing my third-round match against Slovakia's Dominik Hrbaty. He is a dangerous opponent, but I play really well for the first time in these Championships and win 7-5 6-3 7-5. It feels great. I have never been to the fourth round of Wimbledon, so I am obviously delighted. Goran Ivanisevic, who is my sporting hero and has become a great friend in the past 10 years, calls to congratulate me. He tells me to stay focused because the second week of a Grand Slam is when it gets serious.
Monday 28 June
: The schedule is becoming really gruelling now, as this will be my third match in four days. But I get lucky, as Xavier Malisse retires mid-way through the second set, after I had won the first 7-5. I'm starting to become more confident now and am looking forward to my quarter-final against Tim Henman or Mark Philippoussis.
Tuesday 29 June
: It will be Henman tomorrow on Centre, a court I have great memories from since beating Roger Federer there in the first round two years ago. The fact that I will be playing against the English hero does not scare me. I love the "me against all" mentally. It's what Goran thrived on and I am the same.
Wednesday 30 June
: It turns out to be the perfect day. I start well against Tim, winning the tight first set and then take the next two quite comfortably. This is definitely the greatest win of my career because of the opponent and the setting. I am particularly happy with my mental strength, which is something I have been working on a lot. For some people, it's not easy when you know the whole crowd are against you, but those are the challenges I enjoy. I think Tim has done brilliantly considering the huge pressure he's under, but I was just better on the day. That night, no wild celebrations but a huge number of calls and SMS's. Goran is, of course, one of the first to ring.
Thursday 1 July
: A quiet day after the drama of Wednesday. I am aware that I must put the Henman match to one side now because there is an even tougher semi against Andy Roddick to prepare for. I have a massage and a gentle knock. Sleeping is not easy.
Friday 2 July
: I was really worried that we were going to have to play on Saturday, so when the referee gave us the option to go to Court One I was delighted. I think it was a very good decision. The rain can be a real pain, but it saved my bacon late in the day because I was being battered by Andy Roddick. As soon as the first drops came down, I ran off the court. That night, I had a good chat with Rohan and decided to be a bit more aggressive. Even though I was down, I went to sleep calm and confident.
: I was pumped because I knew that I had a break point straight away and a chance to get back into the match. When I took it and then won the second set, I felt confident. But Andy is tough and he just wouldn't fold, even when I was playing my best. In the end, I feel I played well but he deserved to win. I'm a little sorry, but proud. I will fly back to Split today, but I'll definitely be back here next year. I have every intention of winning Wimbledon.
Interview by Alex Hayes