Of war woes and beating McEnroe

Of war woes and beating McEnroe

Slobodan Zivojinovic puffs his chest when he starts talking about the War in 1992.
"It was a very bad time," he begins. "Economically, socially and sport wise it was very difficult.

"You couldn't even fly out of Belgrade. You had to first go to Budapest before going anywhere else," he elaborates.

"I still ask myself why we had the war and I still don't understand."
Zivojinovic, who is here in the City in a dual role as the honorary president of the Serbian Tennis Federation as well as a serving member in Davis Cup committee, talked with Deccan Herald about the Yugoslavian Cup side which beat India in 1988, his memorable encounter against John McEnroe in the quarterfinal of the 1985 Australian Open, the importance of tennis for the people of Serbia and the upcoming tie against India which starts on Friday.

On Yugoslavia's Davis Cup match against India:  I remember that tie. It was in February 1988. India were the favourites as apart from them being losing finalists a couple of years earlier (1987), they were also playing at home. But we were good and we beat them 3-2. I also remember India's current Davis Cup captain, Anand Amritraj, being one of your doubles players. It was a good experience, that tie.

On how the war in 1992 affected sport:  Tennis suffered immediately. We were in the semifinals of the Davis Cup  and were favourites to win but after Croatia declared its independence, Goran Ivanisevic and Goran Prpic withdrew from the team and we lost in the semifinals to France 0-5 and sport in itself was embargoed for a couple of years. Even in 1999, things became bad with the (NATO) bombings. I hope we never go back to those times.

On beating John McEnroe: That was unique. It was probably my greatest win as a player. It was my first full year as a professional player and to beat him was great. He was up to his old tricks trying to delay and argue with the umpire but I was in the zone and whatever I hit, it landed in. I still remember that McEnroe skipped the post match conference and because of that he was penalised heavily. (Zivojinovic beat McEnroe 2-6, 6-3, 1-6, 6-4, 6-0 in the quarters but lost to Mats Wilander in the next match).

Tennis as an identity in Serbia: Tennis is a big thing in Serbia. We have traditionally been good at the sport and now because of all the players (Djokovic, Jelena Jankovic, Ana Ivanovic, Janko Tipsarevic) it is very famous. The arenas are always packed and it's good to see that.

On the tie against India: It would have been better to play with Novak but we still have a good team. You are slight favourites because you are playing at home and you have one of the strongest doubles teams. But anything can happen.

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