Last July, Mario Ancic hired in the law office of Mary Turudic, sister of the famous Croatian judge Ivana Turudica, in Zagreb and recently he's seen in the building of Commercial Court. Ancic is working as an intern, and his working hours turns on increasing doubts about his return to professional tennis.
The gangly 6-5 passed a brief but extremely intense lustre in top tier tournaments, revealing himself in 2002 when, as a wildcard, he upset Roger Federer, then with a reputation of rising star after his success on Pete Sampras the year before. Ancic remained the last to defeat the Swiss at the Championships until the dramatic 2008 final.
Ancic grew to be known as "Baby Goran", a quite odd nickname because he definitely also grew an inch taller than Goran Ivanisevic, the national hero, the first to establish Split as the natural habitat for tall and nationalistic serve-and-volleyers. Mario and Goran are no strangers. Mario was one ballboy in a Davis Cup tie to his predecessor and he practised with Goran from the age of 10. He's right-handed, contrarily from his hero, but picked several movements and gestures from his mentor.
The semifinal at the All England Club in 2004 and the decisive contribute to Croatian title in 2005 Davis Cup in hostile surroundings (in Slovakia Ancic clinched the maiden victory winning the decisive rubber against Michal Mertinak in straight sets) now seem like a distant memory.
When everything was going great, when he was in great shape, in fact, destiny put him down with mononucleosis and a shoulder injury that nearly ended his career in 2007. For the Croat with thunderous serve and outstanding wingspan, it became necessary a change of perspective.
""When I was diagnosed, I knew it was going to take long to recover the first time, and I knew there would be a lot of these side effects because tennis is the No. 1 individual sport in terms of being physically demanding," Ancic said. "I can't hide. I just have to move on and every time it happens, try to come back stronger mentally and physically, to fight against this like I do on the tennis court. But I hope this is the last time".
Supported by a series of letter of people affected with mono, Ancic found an unusual, for a sportsman, way to channel his energy during the forced stop. He graduated in law from the University of Split with a thesis about tennis and the ATP organization. "I'm very proud of that; it took a lot of work. I show tennis from a little bit of a different perspective. In my research, I understood more things that were going on behind the scenes. [The ATP] was great for me. They gave me documents. They were not afraid that anything goes public. I talked about the players' medical care, the pension fund that kicks off after the career, the structure, the membership, how it works. Being out of tennis, it was a huge help to be focused on something else" he said in an interview to ESPN in March, when he addressed a sports law class at the Harvard Law School.
Ancic, down to n.136, tried to come back to top level. He reached the quarterfinals at Wimbledon in 2008 and was about to head towards the Beijing Olympics. But a relapse came at the wrong time. Having lost in an opening-round at the Canada Masters and having skipped Cincinnati Masters, as the fatigue intensified and the weight loss mounted, to about 15 pounds in total, Mario withdrew from Beijing and later from the Us Open.
His agent, IMG's Olivier van Lindonk, said he is a consummate professional who, not surprisingly given his academic interests, "is always closely involved with finalizing and approving his deals. He is a client that is aware of all the details in his contracts and likes to 'keep me sharp". And hasn't had any problem in finding an answer to the question every athlete ask himself after the last day of his career: what will I do next?
Good luck, Mario.