A Monday final beckoned against Rafter, himself a loser to Sampras -- the king of Wimbledon prior to Roger Federer's arrival -- in the 2000 finale.
Fans queued up overnight to land one of the 10,000 unreserved tickets made available for the final, leading to a more vocal climax than usual.
"It was good that it was on a Monday because three finals I lost on Sunday, so finally I played on Monday," Ivanisevic said. "Unbelievable atmosphere, probably never again because now they have a roof.
"Patrick is a very good friend, a great guy. We both should have won Wimbledon before, him in 2000 in the final, and I was supposed to win a long time ago."
After Ivanisevic beat Carlos Moya in the second round he sensed something special was about to happen.
Did it the hard way
Besides Henman and Rafter, Ivanisevic also topped Andy Roddick, Greg Rusedski and Marat Safin in a difficult draw.
Of his seven victims, only one -- first-round opponent Fredrik Jonsson -- would never feature in the top four in the rankings.
"It was an unsolved mystery how I won, but I felt after the second round that I was going to win," Ivanisevic said. "I could not say it loud because they would think I was completely nuts.
"I felt for the first time after so many months, actually a year, the racket (that I played with had a special sound). I lost the sound for a year and a half and that (first) Monday I got the sound back. I said, 'This is a good sign.'"
The sound had vanished when Ivanisevic began the year by playing in qualifying at the Australian Open. Stuck on a back court after playing in some of the world's grandest stadiums, he tanked -- a tennis term for not trying.
Although unpleasant at the time, it proved to be that year's turning point for Ivanisevic.
"I had a long journey to think about what I was going to do, then I went to play a challenger in Germany," Ivanisevic said. "I played the final. Then I started to play better. I didn't have great results but I started to enjoy it again.
"Wimbledon came and it was actually my time," added Ivanisevic, who can still be seen on the seniors' tour, while he also helps run a tournament in Zagreb and dabbles in commentating.
"It was written somewhere that it was my time. I did everything in my life the harder way. Why do it easy if you can do it the hard way?"
But by doing it the hard way, the larger-than-life Ivanisevic has ensured his achievement at Wimbledon will never be forgotten.