“This is a dream come true,” said Wimbledon winner Goran Ivanišević to conclude his speech at a ceremony in Newport, Rhode Island, where the 49-year-old from Split became the first Croat to be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
Along with Ivanišević, Conchita Martinez, the first Spaniard to win the Wimbledon title in 1994, was inducted into the 2020 Hall of Fame at the same ceremony.
From the 2021 generation, this honor was given to the “Original 9”, nine players led by Billie Jean King, who were the pioneers of the fight for equal status and rights between tennis players and the founders of today’s WTA Tour, and posthumously included in the Hall of Fame coach and educator Dennis Van der Meer known by the nickname “Teacher of teachers.”
Goran was introduced to the company of tennis immortals by his boy idol John McEnroe. The medal of a member of the International Hall of Fame was hung around his neck by the president of this organization and its member Stan Smith.
“I love Goran Ivanišević, and I am immensely excited to be able to bring into the Hall of Fame someone who can be said to have been crazier on the court than I was. I played against Goran a lot of times, I watched and commented on his matches many times, and I have to say he always kept me on the edge of my seat because I never knew what would happen next, and I’m not sure he knew either. His unpredictability is one of the reasons why we loved him and why it was so hard to play against him. What he did on the court, Goran did in his own way. It would certainly be good to have such players in tournaments … I am proud to present my friend and a new member of the International Hall of Fame,” said John McEnroe, introducing Goran to the Hall of Fame.
“I don’t think I’m crazier than you, but I’m very close. I love you, I love your tennis, you are the reason why I started playing tennis and – yes, I beat you many times,” said Goran to open his speech.
He thanked the representatives of “Original 9” for initiating changes in tennis and for their courage. He said that there is no “better and more pleasant person” than Conchita Martinez to be inducted with.
“42 years ago, I started this trip from the small town of Split in Croatia, and today it will end in Newport. Along the way, I have to thank some people with whom I went through good and bad moments, ups and downs,” Goran said before listing the names of all his coaches, “because they helped him become the player he was.”
“Laci Kačer, Mek Ercegović, Zoran Ilić, Niki Pilić, Boško Čavka, Balasz Taroczy, Mario Tudor, Vedran Martić and, most importantly for me, Bob Brett who is no longer with us, but proud of me up there.”
Then he remembered his teammates and members of the Davis Cup national teams.
“I had the honor to play for two countries, first for Yugoslavia and then for Croatia. First, I will mention Bob Živojinović and captain Radmilo Armenulić, who helped me a lot on the Yugoslavia team. From my Croatia team, coaches Željko Franulović and Niki Pilić, Goran Prpić, Bruno Orešar, Ivan Ljubičić, Mario Ančić, Saša Hiršzon, Igor Šarić and Ivo Karlović. We played together, laughed, and won the Davis Cup in 2005.”
He also thanked all the players he met on the ATP Tour.
“Some of them ruined my life. Nearly. They all made me a better player, and that’s why I’m here today.”
Thanks were also given to Goran’s friends, who believed in him even when it was impossible, who raised him when he despaired, and who always had nice words for him.
Goran’s fans also got a special place.
“It was not easy to be my fan,” said Ivanišević with plenty of laughter from the audience.
“It was frustrating, it was sad, probably a lot of people got divorced because of me. But one thing is for sure – it was fun to be my fan.”
Journalists also received their share of gratitude.
“We had fun, we often did not agree, but there was mutual respect,” he said, and he singled out one special person from the crowd, who accompanied him as a ten-year-old – Neven Bertičević.
“Neven, thank you for every wonderful word you have written about me.”
A special space in gratitude was given to those who sacrificed the most for the career of the new Hall of Fame resident – father Srdjan and mother Gorana.
“The two most important people in my career – mom and dad. Two people sacrificed their health, careers, and time and gave me unconditional love to succeed. Mom and Dad, there are no words I can thank you for, nor can I do anything to thank you for all you have done for me. If I had to go through this trip again, I would choose you for mom and dad again, and we would go together again. I love you and thank you for everything.”
He also thanked his children: Oliver, who is “too young to know who his father is, but loves him,” and Emanuel and Amber, who are big enough and “feel proud of what their father has achieved.”
Then it was his wife’s turn.
“When I was starting to be good (tennis player), she was still a girl. She didn’t know about me, nor did she know anything about tennis. Twenty-something years later, she stands here extremely proud and beautiful. Thank you for your support and love.”
Goran has not forgotten the people responsible for his historical success, which made him a tennis legend.
“I thank the Wimbledon committee for awarding me the invitation. I don’t know if they did a good job and if they regret it, but thank you, guys – if it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t be standing here now. It was a good decision.”
In the end, Goran left thanks to “one city and one country.”
“My hometown of Split – a city that has given so many wonderful people and wonderful athletes. The city gave me the most beautiful and safest childhood, where I could become a tennis player as I am today and as I was. Everything I built through my career, I brought from that city and became the man I am today. To my country. You know, we are a small country with a big heart. We never stop believing. I’ve had a lot of ups and downs, but I’ve never stopped believing. For the first time in my life, I can say that I am proud of myself.”
In the end, he remembered the company that faithfully followed him on the road to his greatest achievement at Wimbledon in 2001.
“Boys, you made me proud. We did things our way, harder, but it was our way. But only I go inside. You can come and visit me, but I deserved to come in,” said Goran with a standing ovation from the audience and concluded:
“This is the end. This is a dream come true.”
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