Our 'young pup' in the LAtimes [Archive] - MensTennisForums.com

Our 'young pup' in the LAtimes

03-01-2005, 06:28 PM

:) Go Croatia!

03-02-2005, 05:23 AM
can you paste the article here please? I'm lazy to register ;)

03-02-2005, 05:29 AM
Oh nevermind I got the article from the Andy forum, courtesy of Deb :)

Young Pup May Give U.S. Pause

Croatia's Ancic, 20, is already ranked 23rd and poses a Davis Cup threat to Roddick and Agassi

By Bill Dwyre, Times Staff Writer

Like a puppy growing into huge paws, young Mario Ancic is just starting to get firm footing in professional tennis.

On the worldwide caravan called the ATP Tour, Ancic, 20, is neither unfamiliar nor a household word. To most sports fans, he is a name in small newspaper type that reports a tournament result from somewhere in Poland. Occasionally, he even makes the big print when he goes into the late rounds of a tournament.

Lately, he has begun to justify his nickname, "Super Mario," which may be bad news for the United States Davis Cup team. Ancic is 50% of the Croatian team that will take on the U.S. this weekend at the Home Depot Center in Carson. He and Ivan Ljubicic will play all the singles and doubles against the U.S. team of Andre Agassi, Andy Roddick and the Bryan twins, doubles specialists Bob and Mike, Friday through Sunday.

Like his older partner, the 25-year-old Ljubicic, who has lost in the finals of his last three tournaments, two to No. 1-ranked Roger Federer, Ancic has been on a roll.

He has played in five events since the first of the year and has already won $149,020. That includes the $30,600 he received Sunday in Scottsdale, where he lost in the final of the Tennis Channel Open to veteran Wayne Arthurs of Australia, 7-5, 6-3. This year, he has already won 13 matches, a number he didn't get to until the French Open in late May last year. He started the week in Scottsdaleranked 29th in the world, and ended it at No. 23.

His coach, Rohan Goetzke, the Australian who directed Richard Krajicek to a successful career that included a Wimbledon title in 1996, said that this season's goal for Ancic was to move him gradually into the top 20.

"We are getting there a little faster than we thought," Goetzke says.


It is a chilly Saturday night in Scottsdale and Ancic is playing the second semifinal against a veteran, American Vince Spadea.

Ancic is 6 feet 5 and moves like a gazelle. Spadea, 10 years older, five inches shorter and only 10 pounds lighter at 170, moves more like a determined dachshund. Spadea won this tournament last year, is ranked eight places above Ancic, has won about $3 million more than Ancic on the tour, and never goes away easily. Beating Spadea is usually a little like trying to kill a worm by cutting it into pieces.

But this time, Ancic has the sharp-blade answer for every Spadea wiggle. He runs down drop shots and makes them into winners. He rallies with the master of the long rally, then throws in huge serves and follows them to the net. Spadea, known for torturing his opponents on the way to defeating them, is the torturee this time.

Ancic takes the first set, 6-1, and then, after losing his poise early in the second set while Goetzke sits in the stands and mumbles about "this weird match," collects himself again, runs off five straight games and closes Spadea out at 6-4 on a fourth match point with a 126-mph ace.

The next day, it is the puppy who shows up for the final, as the 33-year-old Arthurs, second oldest on the tour after Agassi and, like Ancic, without a tour victory, serves him off the court.

A few hours later, Ancic and Arthurs, both heading to Los Angeles, chat and laugh in the boarding area of Sky Harbor Airport. They are the victor and the vanquished, and from the number of passing looks directed at Ancic from young females, it would seem that winning isn't everything.

Well, maybe it is worth something. When they board, Arthurs, who won $52,000, sits in first class and Ancic squeezes into the back with the proletariat.


Among the most interesting factoids, and likely to be the most repeated during this Davis Cup week, is that Ancic is the last player to beat Federer at Wimbledon. That was in 2002, the year after Federer had stunned the tennis world with his upset of Pete Sampras and the first time the 18-year-old Ancic, who grew up just down the street from 2001 Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic in Split, Croatia, had played in a Grand Slam tournament.

He made it into the main draw as a qualifier and drew the No. 9 Federer on Center Court in the first round. It was a setup for a three-set rout. Instead, Ancic shocked Federer and all of tennis, becoming the first teenager since Bjorn Borg in 1973 to win his debut on Wimbledon's Center Court.

"I had nothing to lose," Ancic says now. "He was No. 9, I was No. 180. He had to miss everything he tried and I had to hit everything. And that's pretty much what happened."

Prior to that, the personal career highlight for young Mario Ancic was a loss to a Portuguese player in a Sunday Davis Cup dead rubber (Croatia had already lost the best-of-five match) when he was 15 years old.

Two years ago, in Croatia, Ancic was part of the Davis Cup team that beat the U.S., 4-1. He lost to James Blake and then, in another dead-rubber match, beat Taylor Dent.

"We got lucky in that one," Ancic says. "Andy Roddick was hurt and had to pull out, and we played it at home, on a fast surface. It is a big advantage in the Davis Cup to play at home."

He has also, despite his age, played in two Olympics. At 16, in Sydney, he played doubles with Ivanisevic and lost in the first round, then returned last summer to play doubles in Athens with Ljubicic, improving on his career highlight from that Federer match at Wimbledon.

In a match that went past 1 a.m., Ancic and Ljubicic eked out a 16-14 win in the third set of the bronze-medal match against the former No. 1 doubles team in the world, Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi of India.

"I didn't sleep for two-three nights," Ancic says.

"At 14-all, they had us at love-40 on my serve, and I somehow dug out. There were match points all along on both sides, and when it was done, I was so drained and happy, I couldn't even remember match point. I had to watch the highlights a few days later, and then I remembered. Ivan returned, they volleyed back and then I hit a forehand winner down the middle.

"Then I went blank. No matter what I do on the ATP Tour, this will always be something special to me. Something like this doesn't happen for our country very often."

They had parades in Croatia for an Olympic team that had overachieved with five medals. Ancic keeps his bronze at home, on a nightstand close by, where he can easily see it.


Ancic was lucky to even play in the Athens Olympics. He took a holiday after Wimbledon and, much to the disgust of his coach, injured himself.

"Playing soccer," Goetzke says, frowning.

The ankle brace is still there, and the pain Ancic endured to get a bronze medal for Croatia was considerable. But Goetzke also understands about being young and wanting to run and play all day and bark at the moon.

"It hasn't even crossed his mind that he might be playing too much, that pretty soon I'll need to pull him back a little," says Goetzke, the man to whom Ancic has entrusted the leash.

03-02-2005, 07:10 AM
Like a puppy growing into huge paws....

LOLLLLL.... what a description.. how cute!

03-02-2005, 08:22 AM
Oh nevermind I got the article from the Andy forum, courtesy of Deb :)

Ancic was lucky to even play in the Athens Olympics. He took a holiday after Wimbledon and, much to the disgust of his coach, injured himself.

"Playing soccer," Goetzke says, frowning.

:haha: this sounds like the Romanian footballer Chivu who injured himslef after playing tennis :lol:

03-02-2005, 01:26 PM

03-03-2005, 09:07 AM
"It hasn't even crossed his mind that he might be playing too much, that pretty soon I'll need to pull him back a little," says Goetzke