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tennis: wimbledon: Split personality to be welcomed as a hero.

Byline: MARK STANIFORTH

GORAN IVANISEVIC still cannot believe his dream has come true, and today the fairytale continues when the aeroplane on which he has flown home to Split opens its doors and reveals tens of thousands of jubilant supporters waiting to greet their Grand Slam-winning superstar.

The 29-year-old Croat hailed his incredible 9-7 final set victory over Pat Rafter on a magnificently raucous Centre Court yesterday as "the greatest day of my life".

And being such a proud patriot his thoughts immediately switched to the glory his win had bestowed upon his country.

"This is going to be great," said Ivanisevic, who carried his country's flag at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona.

"At least 150,000 people will be waiting for me in Split. I don't think anybody will have received such a big welcome. It's one of the biggest days ever for Croatia, sports-wise."

Ivanisevic was entitled to exude an immediate sense of bewilderment after his epic victory on a court made even more vibrant by thousands of young fans who camped out all night to take advantage of the unreserved seats on the Championship's extra day.

Nobody in their right mind would have backed the three-times runner-up to finally break his Wimbledon duck after a year which had seen him slump to 125 in the world rankings and only avoid having to qualify by dint of an All England Club wildcard.

Eight months ago, Ivanisevic was smashing the last racket in his bag against Hjung-Taik Lee in Brighton and defaulting; less than a month ago he was beaten with ease by Cristiano Caratti in the first round at Queen's.

CAPTION(S):

YOU CANNOT BE SERIOUS! Goran Ivanisevic proves he's left-footed as well as left-handed as the Croatian, a keen footballer once offered a game for Hadjuk Split, takes it out on the net after a disputed line call, which was actually out. He recovered from his tantrum to win his first Wimbledon
COPYRIGHT 2001 Coventry Newpapers
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2001 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Jul 10, 2001
Words:325
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