Mario Ancic and Ivan Ljubicic: Tennis-X 5 Questions
By Richard Vach, Tennis-X.com Senior Writer
Croats Ivan Ljubicic and Mario "Baby Goran" Ancic won perhaps the most crucial doubles match this year when they came back from a set and set points down to defeat Americans Bob and Mike Bryan in the Davis Cup first round. The win gave the Croatians a 2-1 lead going into Sunday play when they finished the upset over an American "Dream Team" that included Andy Roddick and Andre Agassi.
Ancic and Ljubicic have been playing doubles together since the 2001 US Open where they reached the quarterfinals, losing to their budding rivals the Bryan brothers. The Croats began teaming regularly after last year at Roland Garros, and while they are still seeking their first title, they appeared on the radar of other top teams after winning a bronze medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics.
Tennis-X caught the Croat twin towers in Hamburg where they reached the semifinals before being derailed by the experienced combo of Jonas Bjorkman and Max "The Beast" Mirnyi.
Tennis-X: Why are doubles so important to you two, and playing with each other?
Ivan Ljubicic: Why it's important, I don't know, it's tennis, it's a game. We play it because we play singles, anytime we have a chance, and I'm talking about myself -- when I think that the doubles aren't going to have an influence on my singles, then I play it. If I think it is going to be too much, I take a week off, (Ancic) takes a week off. We always play together because we like to play with each other.
X: Because not all the top players will play doubles...
Ljubicic: I don't think it is so much work, not for me because -- for some people it is priorities. If we can get some extra practice out of playing some doubles, why not then. We play pretty well.
X: The moment in the Davis Cup (against the U.S.) when the Bryan brothers were up a set with points to go up two sets to love, what were you thinking at that time? There seemed to be a real momentum shift when they could not close out that set.
Ljubicic: I think we just focused well on every point. We can serve well, we can return well, we can hit the ball well, it doesn't matter about how lucky the point is, we always know we can win. We'd played the Bryans in some really tight matches so we knew we were going to have a chance. It was a very good moment for me and for Mario as well, we played good tennis and obviously in the third and the fourth sets we played some of the best tennis we've ever played together in doubles.
X: What was the difference between that match and Monte Carlo (weeks later where the Bryans won 6-2, 6-1)?
Ljubicic: Well, this was...
Ancic (struggling to speak through a mouthful of muffin): It was completely different.
Ljubicic: With the style, the match we weren't as into it. In Monte Carlo I lost singles two-and-two, so definitely I was not in shape to play, I think they are definitely better on clay too.
Ancic: The result was 6-2, 6-1 but we always had many chances on their serves and we always had game points on our serves so, it wasn't that easy actually.
X: Have you two given any thought to qualifying for the Masters Cup Doubles? Is that a goal?
Ljubicic (turning to look at Ancic, pausing): No.
Ancic (looking at Ljubicic): Mmmm, no.
X: You two have a good shot of going all the way and winning a first Davis Cup for Croatia this year. Who do you anticipate in the semifinals and the final?
Ljubicic: Well first we have to concentrate on the quarterfinals with Romania, Romania is tough.
Ancic: At this stage we still have to concentrate, to be careful, to go through every match...
X: Do you see this year as your best chance?
Ljubicic: Yes, when we play away on clay at Spain and Argentina, that is like mission impossible, so this is the first time we play at home. We like to play at home, and like I say we have to play really careful from the beginning because like you saw in the states, they played at home and they played their best team and look what can happen.
Croatia will host Romania in Split on July 15-17, 2005, laying down an indoor carpet surface for the tie, with the winner to face the winner of Russia and France.