Age proves no barrier for ‘motivated’ Ljubicic
Originally published on: 19/03/10 12:59
“It’s all about motivation,” said 31-year-old Ivan Ljubicic after making the semi-finals in Indian Wells for the first time on Thursday, “it doesn’t matter how old you are.”
Twenty-four hours after knocking out world No.2 Novak Djokovic to make the quarter-finals of the BNP Paribas Open, the Croat – who celebrates his birthday today – bettered his 2009 defeat to Andy Murray in the last eight by dispatching Juan Monaco 4-6 6-2 6-1.
The victory sees Ljubicic through to his second career semi-final against Rafael Nadal, and his seventh meeting overall with the Spaniard, having lost in five of their past six ties including a straight sets defeat in the last four at Roland Garros in 2006.
Despite the eight-year age gap, Ljubicic turned pro just three years before the Spaniard in 1998, but after blowing out the candles on another birthday, far from feeling his age, the world No.26 is finding competition easier than ever.
“It’s much easier than it was in 2007,” said the Monte Carlo resident, having struggled to live up to expectations that year after reaching a career-high No.3 raking in 2006. “That was a really difficult year for me mentally. It was very, very hard. So I feel really motivated now, nothing to prove to anybody.
“I just feel like I’m playing for myself again as I was doing at the beginning of my career, and I’m just enjoying every good result that I do.”
Ljubicic has plenty to celebrate on his birthday, and despite losing an early break in the first set against 27th-ranked Monaco, the Croat dropped just nine points on serve from there-on in. He went on to win four of his five break point opportunities to down the Argentine in an hour and 47 minutes.
“The conditions suit my game perfectly,” added Ljubicic in his post-match press conference. “It’s nice and dry. The ball goes through the air pretty quickly and the court is slow enough so I can return well. It’s just perfect…”
Ljubicic will require nothing short of perfection in his semi-final clash with defending champion Nadal, who will be determined to advance from their semi-final clash and take a shot at his 37th career title on Sunday.
If he were to suceed, somewhat remarkably, it would be the Spaniard’s first tournament win since claiming the Rome Masters in May 2009.