Tennis champion serving in uniform
ZAGREB, Croatia -- Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic has changed his place on the tennis court to undertake a different type of service.
Ivanisevic has begun six months of compulsory enlistment in the Croatian army, changing tennis whites to military khaki.
He will have two weeks of basic military training at a base near his home city of Split.
After that he will be free to live off base and allowed to train, travel and compete in tennis tournaments during his six-months as a soldier.
Top athletes in Croatia essentially are exempt from regular military conscription, which normally requires draftees to stay at a base for a year.
Ivanisevic joked that his country can relax now that he is part of its military defence.
"Now that I am in the army, you can all sleep peacefully," the Jutarnji List daily quoted Ivanisevic as saying.
"I know I have to undergo basic drill first. But, after that, they will probably send me to catch Osama bin Laden," the Croat added.
Ivanisevic, who beat Patrick Rafter to win his first Grand Slam title at Wimbledon in July, is to be officially sworn in on December 15 in Zagreb as a member of a sports squad.
The 30-year-old passed a fitness test -- where only his eyesight caused him trouble -- and was formally drafted in September in a process that brought memories of singer Elvis Presley's U.S. army service.
Joker Ivanisevic thrilled the world in July with his surprise Wimbledon win which he put down to, among other things, help from God and watching the TV programme "Teletubbies" to get him in a relaxed mood for the match.
The tennis star, who had been given the odds of 125-1 to win at the beginning of the tournament, was deemed to have so little chance of winning that he was given a wildcard to play in the championship. Normally unseeded players have to play in qualifying rounds.
After he beat Britain's Tim Henman in a mammoth semi-final stretched over three days, Ivanisevic said: "Destiny is on my side. I think God wants me to win.
"He sent the rain when I was in trouble on Friday. I got a wildcard into the tournament, I am in the final, it is destiny."
Ivanisevic's sensational win at Wimbledon did done much for Croatian national pride.
It was reckoned his success made life very much easier for his country's coalition government of Prime Minister Ivica Racan.
Racan faced bitter opposition and demonstrations over his move to hand over Croatian generals to the U.N. War Crimes Tribunal in the Hague.
But Ivanisevic-mania proved a welcome diversion.
His patriotism was widely praised and contrasted with the attitude of Davor Suker, considered Croatia's best soccer player, who is under investigation for ignoring a military call-up.
Ivanisevic victory boosts Croatia government
July 11, 2001
Croatia hails Ivanisevic win
July 10, 2001
Ivanisevic wins over world press
July 10, 2001
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