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Ivan Ljubicic Semifinal Press Conference

Indian Wells, CA, USA

March 20, 2010

I. LJUBICIC/R. Nadal

3-6, 6-4, 7-6

An interview with:

IVAN LJUBICIC

THE MODERATOR:  Questions, please.

Q.  Does being 31 get better and better?
IVAN LJUBICIC:  Well, I can't complain.  It was great, great match.  Probably the best I've ever played in my career.  I enjoyed it, really.
I struggled a little bit at the beginning with the wind.  I was not expecting the wind at all.  I warmed up on center court before the match and it was not windy at all.  That surprised me a little bit.  I struggled with the return whole first set, although he was serving 80, 90 miles per hour, but a lot of rotation and the wind bringing the ball to my body all the time.
I really struggled to return, and obviously those two double faults in the first game didn't help.  But I felt actually from the beginning okay from the baseline.  I didn't feel like he was, you know, in control of the points.
You know, I just felt like if I find the rhythm of the return then I can have the match, and that's exactly what happened.
I think that fifth game in the second set when I served down Love 40 was the key to the match.  After I relaxed a little bit I started to play more aggressive, and that was it.  I think he played some incredible points.
I mean I felt like, What is this?  I mean half volleys, winners off the baseline.  It was impressive.
But I felt    I knew if I keep serving well and playing aggressive with my service games I would have a chance maybe in the end to, you know, win.
I had an early break in the third set.  I was a little bit nervous, I have to be honest.  That second game of the third set didn't play well at all.
But then throughout the third set I was holding quite comfortably, and then tiebreak absolutely perfect.  I knew I had to be aggressive.  I knew I had to go for my shots, but I didn't expect that everything would go in.  But it did happen.
So great, great moment, and the fourth Masters finals, four different Masters, so I hope this one, it's gonna be finally the victory.  We'll see tomorrow.

Q.  Did anything in the first set give you hope that what you were doing   even as you lost   that made you think, yeah, I still have a chance?
IVAN LJUBICIC:  Yeah, the rallies.  I mean, once the ball was in play I felt like I was even.  I didn't feel like I was losing every long rally from him.  That was positive.
I felt like once my serve starts going and I find the rhythm on the returns that we could have a match, and that's exactly what happened.

Q.  17 aces obviously was great, but your second serve probably...
IVAN LJUBICIC:  Yes.  I mean    

Q.  You managed to get a lot of kick.
IVAN LJUBICIC:  Yeah, that was    I was thinking about it yesterday actually already, you know, how to use my serve.  I was not going for the biggest serves all the time.  I knew that that slow serve to his backhand would give him a lot of trouble, and that's exactly what happened, especially on the deuce side.
But, you know, second serve, yeah, I had to go kind of for it to serve really aggressively.  Because if I just put a ball in the box, I mean he just rips it, and then you are on the back foot right from the beginning and you have basically no chance even to risk something.
So I think I did really use my second serve quite well, especially on the ad side, kick to his forehand couple times, surprised him, and that gave me maybe a few free points when I most need.

Q.  Do you think he became a bit less aggressive as the match went on?  He seemed to start more aggressive and maybe just pulled back.
IVAN LJUBICIC:  I think he felt all the way that he has to be aggressive.  It's just that I don't think he was less aggressive in the end, but he was probably missing more when it was important, especially that first game in the third set.  He missed couple forehands.
Also first game that he was serving, he missed three forehands.  I think he started the match thinking that he has been to aggressive off the baseline.  That's exactly what it did.
But it's not easy, you know, to go for your shots all the way, all throughout the match, especially when it's windy like this.
In the end I think he overhit a couple balls.  Especially in the beginning of the tiebreak, he hit long, two, three shots, normal shots that he probably felt the pressure if he played short I would come in, which exactly I did come in later in the tiebreak.
So I think off the baseline he played the match he wanted to play.  It's just that, you know, probably he was expecting me to serve a little bit less good because I always did against him for some strange reason.  But the serve was really okay today.

Q.  There's obviously still one step to go, but having the week that you've had, beating the No. 2 and No. 3 players in a week, what's that say about you and where your game is at the moment?
IVAN LJUBICIC:  It's great.  I felt in Dubai it was coming.  In Dubai I already played some great tennis.  I had a chance to beat Djokovic already there.  Went back home, practiced for six days mostly physically.  I hit the balls only once for one hour.  I really feel if my body is in place, then everything else comes together.
I always felt comfortable here in Indian Wells.  Last time I lost a match on outside courts was fewer 2004.  I lost last five years three times to Roger, once to Roddick, once to Andy Murray.
So this is the place where I feel comfortable.  Of course, beating Djokovic and Nadal    together with all others, let's not forget them, especially Monaco who is tough customer    of course it's fantastic result.
But as you said, I do have one more to go.  I would love to have that win tomorrow, because it would mean the world to me.
I really feel like 2005, 2006 when I played my best tennis I deserved that one Masters Series.  Tomorrow I'm go gonna have another chance to go for it.
When I see my name on the court, to have that little shield next to my name, it would be nice.  But it's still two, three hours to go.  Let's see if he can I do it.

Q.  You were saying yesterday going into the match that you felt you had to hit four or five winners to win a point, but today that wasn't necessarily the case.  You played patient at times against him.
IVAN LJUBICIC:  Yes, I felt like I can play, you know, high top spins, because he also likes the pace.
So if I    you know, whenever I was able to play really high, deep balls, I was expecting short balls that in the end I had to go for it.  It's not like you can play high all the way.
But you have to find a way against him to get that short ball that you can take control of the point, and I felt that those high balls were the key.
And it did happen.  But, again, you know, his tennis is taking one shot away from me, which is backhand slice.  I can't use against him.  He's just going all over you if you slice it.
But my backhand was pretty good today, and especially forehands, those down the lines when I was in trouble.  Also on the match point, it was great, you know, just to go for it.  And he can't expect it.  I mean, he can't cover that shot.

Q.  Can you just talk about Andy or Robin, what each final might be like tomorrow depending on who you might play?
IVAN LJUBICIC:  Similar players.  Maybe Robin is more aggressive off the baseline, but both great servers; huge first serve both of them have.  Andy is little bit more defensive.
He's    I think lately I saw him he's pushing the ball back, but he's doing it pretty well.  Great mover on the court, and it's just really difficult to hit winners all the time.
Robin is hitting the ball fantastically.  I mean, I saw him against Andy Murray.  It was great.  We'll see if he can do it today again.
But, you know, it's    you know, it's pretty similar players, I would say, those two.

Q.  Most young boys have very protected almost innocent lives, yet you have that incredible experience when you were 13 years old, escaping the war zone.  Is that something that is still a part of you?  Do you reflect on that?
IVAN LJUBICIC:  No, not anymore.  That's    that is part of history, but I created my life after that.  I feel my life, it's what I created by myself, you know, in my    in tennis and the family that I have.
You know, I'm really not thinking about the past.  I mean, I know it was difficult.  I know that it probably make me stronger, and, you know, made me somebody who can come overcome things that are not so easy.
But I'm really not thinking about the past anymore.  I'm just enjoying these moments and this life I have now.  It's great.

Q.  Of course you had your great moment in the Davis Cup here in Southern California, so you kind of like playing in this part of the world.
IVAN LJUBICIC:  I like playing in these conditions.  I say that million times, and I'm gonna repeat it.  It's great for me to play in the desert.  Slow courts, very high bounce so I can use my rotations, and dry air so the ball is not going through the air quite quickly so I can use my first serve as well and hard shots.
If I have to play match of my career, it would be somewhere around here.

Q.  Did you ever think you'd see the day when Nadal would be out of the singles and in the finals of the doubles?
IVAN LJUBICIC:  Well, that's    I mean, he's a great doubles player, that's for sure.
I think, again, if I have to play the match of my life with doubles, I'd pick him as a partner.
It's great to see him, you know, helping his friends and still winning Masters Series and winning great tournaments, because he's just, you know, great.  It's great to see him involved in doubles.
I think it's not gonna help him, you know, being fresh for clay, but, you know, it's great seeing him play doubles almost all Masters Series.

Q.  You've had to wait a long time for your second win against Rafa.  How much sweeter is it getting him at one of his favorite venues where he is a twice champion?
IVAN LJUBICIC:  Not only the plays, but also the way.  7 6 in the third is special.  It means that physically I'm there, you know.  I can go to the distance to anybody.  This is what I was saying two days ago against Monaco.
I feel my body, it's in great shape.  And to be able to beat Rafa 7 6 in the third, it's just great.  I mean, he's not gonna give you any free points.  It means I was able to hit winners after two and a half hours of tennis.
So it is one of his favorite places, but it's also, you know, one of my favorite places.  So it's    and I was happy to, you know, have another chance to beat him.

Q.  Can you talk about the dynamics of playing in an American tournament if you do play Andy tomorrow?
IVAN LJUBICIC:  Well, it's okay.  I mean, I played Andy at US Open 2003.  It was loud.  After that, I think I've seen everything.
So it's not gonna be    you know, of course, the crowd is gonna be on his side, as it was with Rafa, as it was with Novak.  I'm just used to it.
Wherever I go I'm underdog.  And I'm    you know, if I play top guys, you're gonna have a crowd against you and you have to get used to it.  And I am.
I don't think the crowd is gonna be, you know, the key, key moment, key element of the match.  But, you know, I just hope that if it's Andy or even if it's Robin that we gonna give something to the crowd to cheer for and enjoy the tennis.

Q.  Are there any parts of your career where you feel like you could have done things different or made some mistakes that might have had things go a little bit better?
IVAN LJUBICIC:  Absolutely.  I think we all did.

Q.  Couple things you might offer on that you want to talk about?
IVAN LJUBICIC:  Oh, I mean, that's a long question.  I think    I don't know.  You know, I would probably take it easier, maybe, in 2007, you know, instead of rushing it, feeling that pressure.
But it's tough to say, because looking back, I would    I'm gonna say that 2007 was probably, you know, the key year for me.  Because I was already two years top 10, top 5 player, and that year was "the" most difficult one for me mentally.
But now I know why was it, and now I know what I would do.  Back then I didn't know, and it was    I couldn't know.
I would probably, you know, play different tournaments that year and I would do things differently, but now I don't think it makes any sense looking back to that.           

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