Tennis, being an individual sport, tends to quickly cycle through generations. Time is an opponent that a few can fend off, but is an opponent that no one defeats. Fernando Gonzalez and Ivan Ljubicic are both hanging up their racquets this spring. Both players brought an interesting dimension to the tour, and both will be missed.
Gonzo About the Olympics
Fernando Gonzalez is a player that I always enjoyed watching. His style of play has been to hit hard and if that does not work hit harder. Under Larry Stefanki he did add a few wrinkles to his game, but Gonzo has always played a visceral style of tennis. The closest player to his style going forward is Nicolas Almagro, but Almagro lacks some of Gonzo’s obvious aggressiveness. Gonzo reached the 2007 Australian Open final and nearly reached the 2009 French Open final. His greatest success was in the Olympic Games. In 2004, Fernando won the Olympic Gold Medal in doubles with his partner Nicolas Massu (who won Gold in singles). Gonzalez also claimed the 2004 Bronze Medal in singles. In 2008 with some controversy surrounding his semifinal against James Blake, Fernando Gonzalez reached the Gold Medal match losing to Rafael Nadal and taking home a Silver Medal in singles. These three Olympic medals represent Gonzalez’s best achievements.
Ljubicic a Tennis Genius?
Ivan Ljubicic reached the top 4 in the world rankings and helped win a Davis Cup title for Croatia in 2005. Ljubicic was always a big guy who could crank his serve. He troubled Andy Roddick for awhile during Roddick’s magical 2003 US Open run. However, Ljubicic raised his game by becoming incredibly fit and being very smart. Tennis genius is normally reserved for artists such as John McEnroe or Roger Federer. However, Ljubicic has always been a player who struggled with low bouncing shots and who was mechanical in his court coverage. Still, Ivan built his game around being incredibly fit, winning points on his serve, hitting his rock solid one-handed backhand and basically maximizing the gifts he does possess. Ljubicic is a tennis genius in the sense that Brad Gilbert is a tennis genius. To put it simply, Ljubicic pushed most matches toward focusing on his strengths and while shoring up any weaknesses he could on the practice court and in the gym. Ljubicic turned his career into a bright display of toughness and results. Beating Andre Agassi, Andy Roddick and the Bryan Twins in doubles to defeat the US on US soil during his 2005 Davis Cup run as well as defeating Rafael Nadal and Andy Roddick in succession to win the 2010 Indian Wells title demonstrate that Ljubicic’s career had a lot of high water marks. Ljubicic’s almost philosophical demeanor will be hard to replace.
Post Script – Gonzalez and Ljubicic might give Carlos Moya some challenges on the Champions Tour