November 7, 1993: The day the Paris crowd booed Goran Ivanisevic for serving too well

Every day Tennis Majors looks back to the biggest moments in tennis history. On November 7, 1993, we remember how Goran Ivanisevic’s deadly serve not only helped him claim the Paris Indoor title, but also turned the crowd against him

Goran Ivanisevic, On this day 7.11.2021

What happened exactly on that day

On November 7, 1993, Goran Ivanisevic defeated Andrei Medvedev in the final of the Paris Indoor Open (6-4, 6-2, 7-6), firing no fewer than 27 aces and 32 service winners. The Croat served so well that the crowd eventually began to boo his aces, considering that he was killing the show. The public’s attitude on that day was one of the key events that led the ATP officials to slow down the game in the following years.

The players

  • Goran Ivanisevic: volatile left-hander capable of genius

Goran Ivanisevic was born in 1971 in Split, Croatia, and had his breakthrough year in 1990 when he was 19. That year, he made himself famous by reaching the quarter-finals at Roland-Garros after defeating Boris Becker, then ranked No 3, in the first round, and followed it up by reaching the Wimbledon semi-finals –  where it was the same Becker who beat him (4-6, 7-6, 6-0, 7-6). In 1991, his season was disturbed by political issues in his country as Yugoslavia was ravaged by civil war and he couldn’t focus on tennis. In 1992, he returned to the top and, firing 206 aces during the tournament, he reached the Wimbledon final where he was defeated in five sets by Andre Agassi (6-7, 6-4, 6-4, 1-6, 6-4). He finished the year as world No 5, but in 1993, he injured his foot before the Australian Open and struggled to find his pace when he came back on the Tour. The Croat didn’t go past the third round of any Grand Slam event and was kicked out of the top 10. However, he started playing well again on indoor courts, claiming his first titles of the year in Bucharest and Vienna (where he beat the local hero Thomas Muster in the final, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4, 7-6), and finishing runner-up at the Stockholm Masters 1000 (defeated by Michael Stich, 4-6, 7-6, 7-6, 6-2). Thanks to these results, he was the No 9 seed for the Paris Indoor Open.

Goran Ivanisevic_Roland-Garros_1993
Goran Ivanisevic_Roland-Garros_1993 Image Credit – © Panoramic / Tennis Majors
  • Andrei Medvedev: Ukrainian making waves on the ATP Tour

Andrei Medvedev, born in 1974 in Kiev, had a very early breakthrough at the highest level.  The Ukrainian claimed his first tile in Genova in 1992, at the age of 17, defeating Guillermo Perez-Roldan in the final (6-3, 6-4). This first trophy was soon followed by two others, in Stuttgart and Bordeaux, and by the end of the year Medvedev was already world No 24. He continued his way to the top in 1993, defeating the future Roland-Garros champion Sergi Bruguera on his own lands in the Barcelona final (6-7, 6-3, 7-5, 6-4 ). The Spaniard took his revenge at the French Open a few weeks later, defeating Medvedev in the semi-finals (6-0, 6-4, 6-2). In November 1993, at the age of 19, the Ukrainian was world No 8, had already claimed six titles on the Tour and had become the third teenager – after Mats Wilander and Boris Becker – to earn $1 million in prize-money.

The place: The indoor arena in Bercy, Paris

The Paris-Bercy Indoor Open was established in 1986. Held each year in early November, it was usually the last tournament on the tour before The Masters and the Davis Cup final. One of the most prestigious indoor events in the world, it became a part of the Super 9 category (the former name for the Masters 1000) in 1990. Among its former champions were great stars like Becker (1986, 1989, 1992) and Edberg (1990).

The facts: Ivanisevic’s serve too good for Medvedev, too dull for fans

When Goran Ivanisevic stepped onto the Paris Indoor Open main arena to face Andrei Medvedev in the final, his reputation as a big server was already well established. The left-handed Croatian had notably fired 206 aces at Wimbledon, in 1992, when he had lost a five-set final to Andre Agassi. In Paris, on his way to the final, he had already served 70 aces to defeat three top ten players: Michael Chang (7-6, 7-5), Pete Sampras (7-6, 7-5) and Stefan Edberg (4-6, 7-6, 7-6). However, neither the Parisian crowd nor Medvedev had imagined that on this day, Ivanisevic was going to deliver such a service masterclass that tennis authorities would have to slow down the game to keep the general public’s interest!

During three sets, Medvedev, despite being world No 8, was left clueless when it came to returning the Croatian’s serve. The numbers talked for themselves: in fifteen serving games and one tie-break, Ivanisevic served 27 aces and 32 service winners – almost enough to hold his serve the entire match without ever having to hit a second shot.

All week long, the Parisian public had shown a lot of support to Ivanisevic, but on that particular day, his serve ruined the show and a part for the crowd finally began to boo him after each of his unreturned serves. “I didn’t boo him because I was a big fan,” would recall Vincent, a tennis enthusiast who was in the audience on that day. “However, I must admit that there wasn’t much to see on his service games and it wasn’t a great final to watch.”

Ivanisevic, despite the crowd’s hostile attitude, remained unperturbed and sealed his victory, 6-4, 6-2, 7-6.

“I don’t care,” Ivanisevic said, of the booing, according to the Los Angeles Times. “They want five sets, but I don’t want to play five sets. (…) “To beat four top-10 guys in one tournament is not easy.”

Rafter and Ivanisevic at WImbledon in 2001
Goran Ivanisevic and Pat Rafter at WImbledon in 2001

What next: Ivanisevic wins Wimbledon, Medvedev the nearly man

The 1993 Paris Indoor final would remain as one of the key matches, along with the 1994 Wimbledon final (which also featured Ivanisevic), that led tennis authorities to slow down the game.

“We want to enhance tennis on our faster surfaces,” would say Mark Miles, director of the ATP, quoted by The New York Times at the end of 1994. “This is proof that we should not look to change the rules of tennis but work with the combination of surface and balls,” would declare Patrice Clerc, the Paris Open tournament director, at the same time.

Most of the indoor tournaments would quickly adopt heavier balls and slowed down their surfaces in order to obtain longer rallies. At Wimbledon, after having tried different kind of balls to increase the length of the rallies, the board would finally decide to change the composition of the grass, which slowly doom the serve-and-volley game to disappear from the All England Club.

In 1994, after reaching a second Wimbledon final (lost to Pete Sampras, 7-6 ,7-6, 6-0), Ivanisevic would obtain his highest ranking as world No 2. In 1996, he would serve an unbroken record of 1477 aces in one season. In 1998, he would suffer a heart-breaking third loss in the final of Wimbledon, where he would be close to leading two sets to love before he being edged again by Sampras (6-7, 7-6, 6-4, 3-6, 6-2).  Devastated by this match, which he called “the worst moment of his life”, Goran Ivanisevic would not win a single tournament in the 24 following months, but in 2001, entering the main draw as a wild card ranked only world No 121, he would finally triumph at Wimbledon, defeating Patrick Rafter in the final (6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 2-6, 9-7).

After having climbed to world No 4 in 1994, Andrei Medvedev would struggle for five years, remaining a solid top 30 player, but performing far below the standards he had set in his early years. In 1999, he would achieve a last remarkable feat, reaching the Roland-Garros final as world No 101, defeated by Andre Agassi after having led two sets to love (1-6, 2-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4).

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