Several weeks ago, Croat Ivan Ljubicic announced that after 14 years on the ATP Tour, he was pulling the plug on his career and that his last tournament would be the Monte Carlo Rolex Masters, in the city where he now resides with his family.
The laws of the draw made him play what would end up being his last match against fellow Croatian Ivan Dodig and the silliness of the tournament starting, unfilmed, on the Sunday, made it sure that it would be the second great player retiring this year (after Fernando González in Miami) of whom we would not see the last match.
For Dodig won, 6-0 6-3, thus ending his friend and countryman’s career. “The only match I’m not happy I won”, said Dodig after the match, understandably. But to me, it was the best way in which Ljubicic could end his career: against another Croat.
Ljubicic had a wonderful career on the Tour, with 10 titles, 14 more finals, and one Davis Cup, with a career high ranking of no 3. Known for his powerful serve and his gorgeous one-handed backhand, Ljubicic also won himself many fans off the court as well as on with his charming personality, his acute knowledge of the game and of what it involves, and with his implication with the Special Olympics.
As a tennis fan, I will miss the player as much as the man, as his input was always to the point and more than welcome. Among all his great moments as a tennis player, I will mostly remember these two: when he defeated Andy Roddick to win his first (and only) Masters 1000 title in Indian Wells, two years ago, which ended up being also his last career title…
… and the 2005 conquest of the Davis Cup by Croatia, of which Ljubicic and Mario Ancic were the main actors.
It is with great sadness that I see Ljubicic leave the sport today. But I have no doubt that whatever he will do in the future, he will do it as well as he did in his tennis career.
Goodbye, Papa Ljubes, and thank you for so many years of great tennis! We will miss you.