WIMBLEDON, England — Goran Ivanisevic is superstitious. This fortnight, he listened to two specific Croatian songs before leaving his house each day to come to Wimbledon. His habits carried over to the All England Club.
There are six showers in the men's locker room. "Each day I pick one," Ivanisevic said.
What if somebody else is in it?
"Then I wait," Ivanisevic said.
This guy simply does not go away, whether he's waiting for his shower or outlasting another player in a marathon tiebreaker or an epic fifth set. Based on his 1998 record, he certainly was not the player anyone expected to see on the other side of the net today against Pete Sampras in the men's final at Wimbledon.
Sampras, who is trying to win his fifth Wimbledon title in six years, has been down this road before. He defeated Ivanisevic in straight sets in the 1994 Wimbledon final and has a 10-6 record against him, winning seven of their last eight matches.
A Wimbledon title would be a career highlight for the 14th-seeded Ivanisevic, who also lost in the 1992 final to Andre Agassi. There is more on the line for the top-seeded Sampras. He needs to win the championship to retain his No. 1 ranking and would match Bjorn Borg's modern record of five Wimbledon titles. A loss means Marcelo Rios of Chile becomes No. 1.
Additionally, a victory today would give Sampras 11 Grand Slam singles titles, tying him with Borg and Rod Laver and putting him one behind all-time leader Roy Emerson.
If anything, it will be a fascinating ride with Ivanisevic, who won his semifinal, 15-13, in the fifth set against Richard Krajicek.
"You know he's going to hit his aces, he's going to hit his double faults," said Sampras, who has lost one set here. "You are going to have to ride the wave with Goran. It's like riding a roller coaster. He's capable of stringing together some unbelievable service games that you can't do much about."
Ivanisevic said the experience of the two previous finals will provide some assistance.
"I know how to play in finals," he said. "I've been there. The last time was four years ago. But I know I have to keep up with him, and not let my mind go away.
"If you let your mind fly away for just one second, he gets on you and it's very tough."