WIMBLEDON, England, July 9 (AP) --
Goran Ivanisevic dedicated his Wimbledon title to a good friend, an NBA star killed in a car crash eight years ago.
Drazen Petrovic, a Croatian compatriot, was a member of the New Jersey Nets when he died June 7, 1993, in the accident in Germany.
Atlanta Hawks forward Toni Kukoc congratulates Goran Ivanisevic in Split, Croatia, on July 10. Ivanisevic is wearing a Drazen Petrovic jersey.
"I went to his funeral just before Wimbledon (in 1993) and I said I was going to dedicate that Wimbledon to him," Ivanisevic said Monday after beating Patrick Rafter in five sets. "Unfortunately I played pretty badly and I lost in the third round."
Ivanisevic said his father brought him some newspapers before this year's tournament. In one of them was a poster of Petrovic, who was one of the best shooters in the NBA.
"So I ripped it off and put it on the wall," he said. "I said, 'This must be destiny. This is it.' Everything was going smoothly and I won it. I want to dedicate this victory to him.
"He was not my best friend, but he was my good friend," Ivanisevic added. "He was one of the greatest basketball player in Europe ever."
Petrovic hit his stride when he was traded from the Portland Trail Blazers to the New Jersey Nets during the 1990-91 season. He averaged 20.6 points per game the following season and improved to 22.3 ppg in 1992-93, when he was named to the All-NBA Third Team.
Ivanisevic's 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 2-6, 9-7 victory over Rafter was one of the most stunning championships in Wimbledon history. Two points from defeat, Ivanisevic rallied to become the second player -- man or woman -- to win a Wimbledon singles title without being seeded. Boris Becker did it in 1985.
Ivanisevic needed a wild-card invitation simply to make it into the tournament and -- in the end -- no man played better. Or with more obvious emotion.
Teary-eyed as he served his final points in the last game, Ivanisevic finally won the game, and the championship he had waited so long for, when Rafter returned a serve into the net.
The moment Ivanisevic knew that he had completed his long climb back -- from being a Wimbledon runner-up for the third time in 1998 to being ranked 125th in the world entering the tournament -- he fell on his back and rolled on his stomach on Centre Court.
Then he stood up, clutched both hands on his head and went to the net where he and Rafter hugged. Ivanisevic, his face contorted as tears fell, then ran into the stands and hugged his father.
"When I came here, nobody even talked about me," Ivanisevic said. "Now, I'm holding this trophy."