This is where his heart lies

Star attraction ...Goran Ivanisevic (left) watches the men’s singles semifinal between Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic.-Pics. AP Star attraction ...Goran Ivanisevic (left) watches the men’s singles semifinal between Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic.

Though he nearly had his soul destroyed, the All-England Club was where Goran Ivanisevic mastered death in 2001. By S. Ram Mahesh.

Goran Ivanisevic is back at Wimbledon, which in itself is nothing new, for he can’t stay away from the All-England Club. This is where his heart lies. Wimbledon is a sort of mother-ship to its former champions. You can’t walk far in the grounds without spotting Laver or McEnroe or Becker or Cash or Krajicek or Navratilova or Agassi or Graf. Some of them have commentary commitments, but you get the feeling, they’d be here anyway.

Ivanisevic, like Harry at Hogwarts, felt immediately at home. Though he nearly had his soul destroyed, here was where he mastered death in 2001. “This is forever,” he said, and he comes every year for the sideshow that is the Gentlemen’s Invitation Doubles, which he is playing this time with France’s Cedric Pioline. It’s an engagement that allows him to watch the current generation of Croats, dip in and out of various commentary booths, unleash that famous left shoulder, talk about West Bromwich Albion, his club since 2005, and grin a lot, thinking about the time when opponents cowered before facing him.

To no one’s surprise he loves Mario Balotelli. “The year I won, I say there are three Gorans. But there are ten Balotellis inside Balotelli. I would like to have dinner with that guy. That would be something. That would be dangerous,” he tells Mats Wilander on Live @ Wimbledon. “He is incredible. Incredible.”

Wilander wants to know what his relationship with Pat Rafter, the 2001 runner-up is. “It’s become even closer,” says Ivanisevic. “I don’t know, maybe he hate me, he never tell, but no, he’s a great guy. I feel sorry for him, you know?”

Goran and father Srdjan watch Ivo Karlovic run Andy Murray close on Centre Court. This time the Brit defeats the Croat; Tim Henman, in commentary (where John McEnroe constantly ribs him), might remember a different time.

Quite a celebrity

Rufus, the gorgeous harris hawk used to scare off the pigeons that like to roost in the rafters at Wimbledon, is stolen. He was left in his travel cage in a car with the back window open to allow for fresh air. But come morning, and the cage was gone. “It’s really, really sad,” says Imogen Davis, whose family cares for Rufus. “He was taken in his travelling box, which is where he sleeps because it's nice and dark and cool and he can fall asleep in there.”

Rufus the harris hawk, with handler Imogen Davis on Centre Court.-

Imogen appeals for help in finding the thieving fiends! Rufus used to circle the courts before and after play, his very presence keeping the pigeons away. Now that magnificent bird of prey will no more patrol the skies over the All-England Club.

But wait! What’s that the diary sees on the balcony of the press restaurant? Why it’s our feathered friend, Rufus, bristling in the light drizzle as photographers click away. She takes wing in Centre Court for more pictures. Quite the celebrity, this one. The diary learns, after a minor investigation, that Rufus was found abandoned in Wimbledon Common and returned to Imogen. Rufus will have two days off — which is one more than the diary gets every week, so perhaps it should consider abandoning itself. Doubt anyone will miss it though.

Big News

Everything about Andy Murray is Big News here. So when his pockets keep disgorging spare tennis balls in his match against Marcos Baghdatis, and he loses two points because of the hindrance rule, a national investigation is launched. Our Andy can’t lose because of malfunctioning shorts, goes the cry. It’s discovered that Murray’s shallow shorts-pockets are hand-stitched; shorts by the same manufacturer that are machine-stitched behave perfectly normally and hold their balls as they should. “adidas works closely with Andy on the design of all his kit and we believe the issues were the result of an individual technical error in the handmade pockets of those shorts,” the German company says in a sombre press release.

Journalists conduct experiments by wearing the shorts and engaging in the sort of physical activity they had last sampled at age 10. No, they aver, they can’t dislodge the ball unless they wiggle their legs violently. Fortunately, Murray puts an end to all this, and switches to the machine-stitched shorts. His balls stay in place.

‘Golden Set’

It sucks to be Sara Errani. Like Malcolm Nash, Tilak Raj and Stuart Broad, the Roland Garros runner-up will forever be remembered for being subjected to total dominance. Yaroslava Shvedova, who reached the quarterfinals in Paris, wins 24 consecutive points to complete a ‘Golden Set’, a set won without losing a point. It’s the first time ever in Grand Slams and only the second recorded instance in the history of the game at the highest level. American Bill Scanlon, a former top-10 player best known for upsetting John McEnroe in the 1983 U.S. Open, accomplished it earlier that year when he beat Brazil’s Marcos Hocevar 6-2, 6-0. It’s an inconceivable achievement, particularly on grass, where a point can be lost quicker than a hiccough, where mistiming and framing a ball is common, where winners are hard to defend again.

“It was incredible,” Errani said. “I didn’t feel on the court that I was playing so bad.”

Shvedova, better known for her doubles play, was astonishingly just a point away from doing it in 2006.After winning 23 points in a row against Amy Frazier, she double-faulted. She won the set but lost the match, 6-1, 0-6, 0-6. This time she ensured she came off the court with the win, although she didn’t know of her record. “I had no idea,” she said. “In the second set, first or second ball of the second set, she won, and all the people started to clap and scream and I was like, ‘What’s going on?’”

Until her coach told her she had done it, she hadn’t even heard of a ‘Golden Set’. And although she said she was focussed on every point, it was no different from any other match she had played. So perfection happened and she didn’t feel anything? “No.”

Serena Williams, who defeated Shvedova, was impressed, but just as unaware of the existence of the ‘Golden Set’.

“I immediately thought, ‘She won all four in a row and the Olympics?’” Serena said, referring to the four Grand Slam tournaments. “I thought that wasn’t possible. That’s the only golden thing I know of.”

* * * Quotes of the week

You guys make such a big deal out of it; it’s a little bit already boring to read all the news. I think everybody makes different kind of noises. Men also grunt really loud.

— Victoria Azarenka is peeved at the press for going on about her grunting.

Oh, that’s the biggest myth. There is no dance. It’s just a dinner, that’s it.

— Serena Williams, on who she’d like to dance with if she goes to the Champions Ball.

You know, subconsciously I’m probably extremely stressed out right now, but I try not to feel it. Then, yeah, when the tournament’s done there’s normally a pretty big release of that. I just don’t want to be on the court for a few weeks.

— Andy Murray, on the pressure he’s under at Wimbledon.

I think he was talking to Andre Agassi actually. That’s what Andre told me afterwards. It was pretty funny, you know, him speaking to the Royal Box, I thought.

— Roger Federer, on Mikhail Youzhny’s plea for advice during their quarterfinal.

It is big difficult.

— Petra Kvitova, on what it’s like playing Serena Williams at her best.

It’s the same tennis court, just more spectators.

— Florian Mayer, on his return to Centre Court after eight years.

I think he was here for three days, and I don’t think he saw me play for one minute because it rained three days in a row. He sat on the side of the courts on the wooden benches. He sat in the rain and waited for the groundsmen to take the covers off because he wanted that seat thinking that would bring me luck. So he just sat on that seat.

— Kim Clijsters, on her father’s plight during her first Wimbledon.

It feels amazing. I mean, she won the French Open. Actually, that’s a good omen for me, because I’ve beaten the French Open champion three times here. In ’09 I beat Kuznetsova, last year Na Li, and this year Maria. I guess they shouldn’t be in my part of the draw.

— Sabine Lisicki, on how she has Roland Garros champions for breakfast at Wimbledon.

No. I didn’t want to put that in my head.

— Marin Cilic, on if he thought of Isner-Mahut 70-68 during his fifth set with Sam Querrey (he won 17-15).

Just another match now, thanks to Isner Mahut. They set the bar pretty high. I mean, it’s going to be tough. Even if it’s, you know, 30 28, you’re a long way away.

— Querrey, on it.

You really like talking about Roger don’t you? Every press conference you come up with questions about him.

— Novak Djokovic, on a journalist’s Federer fixation.