Ivan Ljubicic returns against Sergei Bubka during their match at the Dubai Duty Free Men’s Tennis Championships 2011 at the Dubai Tennis Stadium on Monday. Image Credit: Hadrian Hernandez/Gulf News

Dubai: The presence of Ivan Ljubicic's toddler son has given the former top player a completely different perspective on life in the otherwise gruelling men's tour.

"The motives are different and the motivation is different. I feel much more relaxed when I go out on the court now," Ljubicic said after retiring from his opening round match against qualifier Sergei Bubka.

Now just two years and four months young Leonardo is very much present when the burly Croat gets on court these days. "This is the best time for both of us. He is a big boy now, but he is not quite into tennis, but more into music at the moment," Ljubicic said.

"He likes dancing, singing or just listening to people talking. It doesn't matter it's a whole new world for him and I am enjoying these moments so much," Ljubicic added.

Tall and with a strong serve, Ljubicic achieved a career-high world No 3 in May 2006, also his most successful year on the tour. He made it to the final here once (in 2005) and last year went down to defending champion Novak Djokovic.

"It's totally different now. Things are much more relaxed now simply because the priorities are different," he said.

"And when you lose a match it is not the end of the world. You go back home and there is something to look forward to. You see him [Leonardo] sleeping, you see him smiling, you see him hugging, kissing. Those are the real joys in life."


The presence of his son has made a difference.

"Having him around definitely changes me as a person and a player. It relaxes me and I find that in the more difficult and boring moments I am more relaxed. At the back of my mind I am thinking he is there and that kind of relaxes me. Even the preparations towards a match are different now," he said.

Ljubicic and Mario Ancic are only the second doubles team ever to defeat the legendary Bob and Mike Bryan in Davis Cup history [the other team is France's Arnaud Clement and Michael Llodra] on their way to helping Croatia win the 2005 Davis Cup [against Slovakia].

Now at No 15 on the rankings, the affable Ljubicic loves coming to Dubai.

However, Monday's early exit failed to dampen his enthusiasm as he prepared to go and defend the ATP World Tour Masters title he won in Indian Wells last year.

His scalps on the way to the crown included Djokovic, Nadal and Andy Roddick.

"Of course, of course I will go there [Indian Wells]. Though there is not much I can say really right now about the injury, I will go there no matter what, even without one leg. I will be there hopefully healthy enough to try to defend my title," Ljubicic said.