Originally created 12/02/05

Ivanisevic not selected in draw for Davis Cup final



BRATISLAVA, Slovakia - Goran Ivanisevic might get a Davis Cup title without setting foot on the court.

The 34-year-old former Wimbledon champion, who came out of retirement for the Davis Cup, was not selected in Thursday's draw for the best-of-five series between the first-time finalists, Ivanisevic's Croatia and Slovakia.

"Doesn't matter if I play or not," Ivanisevic said. "I was always part of the team, but now I am a member.

"The tennis I am playing at the moment is good enough. And we came here to win."

Croatia captain Nikki Pilic said Ivanisevic's invitation was not a reward for past services to the country.

"At the moment Goran is playing such a high level of tennis that he is definitely No. 4 in the team," Pilic said. "He surprised me, too, the way he was playing the last four or five days. This is the main reason he is on the team."

Pilic went with Ivan Ljubicic and Mario Ancic for the opening singles. Ivanisevic still could be brought in as a late replacement, but wasn't so sure how good that might be.

"If we win 3-1, there is no point of playing because everybody's going to be drunk," he said.

Ljubicic, Croatia's top player, will face Karol Beck, Slovakia's No. 2, in the opening singles Friday. Ancic will play Dominik Hrbaty in the second match.

In Saturday's doubles, Beck and Mihal Mertinak are scheduled to face Ljubicic and Ancic. Team captains can change their lineups until one hour before play.

The reverse singles are scheduled for Sunday: Hrbaty vs. Ljubicic, and Beck vs. Ancic.

Ivanisevic, who won Wimbledon in 2001 as a wildcard, retired from ATP singles play four years ago because of a chronic shoulder injury. He last played Davis Cup, in doubles, in 2003. He made a brief return to the tour in 2004, advancing to the third round at Wimbledon.

There will be no more comebacks.

"Returning to pro tennis, no chance. I'm very happy that this Davis Cup is finishing soon because I don't have to practice any more," he said. "That's why I stopped playing tennis, because I couldn't practice any more."

Ivanisevic would like to succeed Pilic as captain, and believes the team can dominate in Davis Cup for the next five or six years if the players remain.

"I said last year they have a chance to win the Davis Cup," Ivanisevic said. "I don't think anybody believed me, but now we're in the final.

With or without Ivanisevic, Croatia got the draw it wanted.

"I think for us it's better that Ljubicic plays first," Pilic said. "If Croatia leads 1-0, I think there would be more pressure on Hrbaty."

If Croatia takes the title, Pilic will become the first captain to win the trophy for two different nations. He captained Germany to Davis Cup titles in 1988, 1989 and 1993.

Beck has been bothered by a left-knee injury and has not played a competitive match in a month.

"But I've been practicing. I've been hitting the ball well over the last two weeks," he said. "My knee was aching quite a lot but over the last days things have improved significantly."

Beck has faced reports that he failed a drug test during Slovakia's semifinal win over Argentina. The Slovak denied Thursday that he had tested positive. The International Tennis Federation had no comment.

Slovakia captain Miloslav Mecir said the issue disturbed the team.

"Definitely, it brings an element of discomfort to the team, to the spirit of the team," he said. "But we will try to overcome it."

The final will produce a 12th champion since the competition's inception in 1900, and the fifth different winner in the past five years.

The United States holds the record with 31 titles, three more than Australia.