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Melbourne: Home of the underdog

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Originally published on: 11/01/12 10:22

He’s best known for winning Wimbledon in 2001, watching the teletubbies along the way for luck and, perhaps even more bizarrely given his roots as a Croatian native, being a West Brom fan, but Goran Ivanisevic certainly knows a thing or two about being an underdog.

A wildcard ranked at No.125 in the world ahead of his greatest tournament triumph at the All England Club, the Split-born left-hander also reached the quarter-finals of the Australian Open on three occasions – in 1989, 1994 and 1997.

The Melbourne tournament has provided a platform for surprise packages in the past, with the likes of Arnaud Clement, Rainer Schuttler and Marcos Baghdatis reaching the final in the past decade. Alexandr Dolgopolov was an unexpected star last year, reaching the quarter-finals, and Ivanisevic believes that the tournament will inevitably host more surprise results again this year.

“It is the first Grand Slam of the year and a lot of players are tired or still injured when they arrive in Melbourne,” he told tennishead.

“They’ve had a long season and how keen they are depends on when they have started to practice in the off-season.”

Mastering the searing heat and unpredictable weather, according to the former world No.2, is crucial to a player’s chances of success down under.

“Australian conditions can be very tough to play, but [your future in the tournament] can depend on whether you play night or day. The day can be very hot and windy,” he said.

“I played some terrible matches there but if you can survive in the beginning, play bad but tough it out, it can be okay, but there are a lot of guys who can’t do that. You have some guys who just come more ready and there are always a lot of upsets.”

Ivanisevic, who came through qualifying to reach the last eight on his first main draw appearance at the Australian Open in 1989 while ranked at a lowly 300 in the world, believes the lower ranked players have their best chance of Grand Slam success at Melbourne Park.

“Now it’s like a tradition that players know they have a chance to beat these big guys in Melbourne and somehow they try harder,” added the 6’4” Croat. “It’s a pretty interesting tournament to watch because there are always a lot of upsets.”

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