The goal wasn’t for this to be just a tennis match, but much more. From the court, I can’t judge how we were playing, whether we looked silly after thirty years. Prpic told journalists an hour or so before the start that he was a bit worried how it would look, and then just before we started, both of us found ourselves thinking “wish we hadn’t played the finals in 1990, at least we wouldn’t be here now.” But it was great, plenty of people came, they laughed, cheered, applauded… So they probably had a good time.
With the muscle pulls I have, I couldn’t really run and I had to be careful, which surely showed, but I think that’s not important when the atmosphere is so good. Of course, it’s a lot easier to play when you can run, and at exhibitions, that means you can have variations, you can “fool around” a bit, do something you don’t usually do. But all in all, we showed we can still hit the ball and play well.
There’s one more exhibition match left, and I’m getting ready for my duel with Patrick Rafter on Wednesday. The result is irrelevant. I won the more important match in 2001, so if Patrick happens to win on Wednesday, let it be so. I’d like to invite all tennis fans to come, and especially tennis nostalgics, because it will be interesting. It will be a great story and I’m glad Patrick will be here with us.
I know all sports lovers remember that Wimbledon final – not just those who love tennis – and I hope we fill up the stadium. I also invite all young tennis players and even the professionals who are here in Umag to come and see how you return a volley. They could learn a lot.
In the meantime, come to the tournament matches to enjoy some world-class tennis. We’ve got very, very good players in the main draw, both in the upper and lower half, and it won’t be easy for anyone. The favourites are only on paper, they’ll have to work hard to win. There will be players in every round who are outsiders but who might surprise us. Just look how many great players weren’t seeded and you’ll see immediately how many potential “land mines” there are for the best-ranked players.