Stockholm syndrome: Swede talkers eye off our Davis Cup orange boy LINDA PEARCE
January 26, 2010
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One for the future ... Lindahl beat Bernard Tomic in a wildcard play-off last month to earn a place in the main draw for the third time. Photo: Getty Images
Australia may be forced to fend off a Swedish recruiting raid on promising youngster Nick Lindahl, as two of the faded powers of world tennis prepare to jostle for the allegiance of the Malmo-born athlete whose family emigrated to NSW when he was three months old.
If Australia's tennis stocks have become depleted in recent years, then one of the leading nations of the 1980s has fallen on even harder times. With Joachim Johansson and Andreas Vinciguerra both beset with injuries, world No.8 Robin Soderling is the only Swede in the men's top 200.
Lindahl, ranked 235th, would thus become an instant No.2. Ola Lindahl, a business consultant, his wife Linda and sons Davis and Nick live in lakeside Eleebana, 10 minutes from Newcastle, having migrated from Sweden in 1988.
''Why couldn't he be able to do like [Greg] Rusedski?'' asked Sweden's Davis Cup captain Thomas Enqvist, a reference to the native Canadian with the English mother who represented Britain for the majority of his career. ''But it's important where he has his heart.''
Enqvist's deputy, Magnus Larsson, told Stockholm newspaper Aftonbladet: ''We're interested. No doubt about that. We're not going to Australia, so the federation will have to act.''
Larsson said contact had been made with Johan Sjogren, the sports director of the Swedish Tennis Federation.
Lindahl could not be contacted yesterday, although his coach Marc Kimmich said he was unaware of any approach. Nor was there any comment from Tennis Australia, although the athletic Lindahl is not the type of player it would wish to lose. The 21-year-old travelled to Switzerland as a hitting partner, or ''orange boy'', for the Davis Cup team in early 2006, although is yet to earn squad selection, and is not considered a contender for the March tie against Taiwan.
A finalist in the Australian Open boys' event in 2006, Lindahl beat Bernard Tomic in a five-set final of the wildcard play-off last month to earn a place in the main draw for the third time, but lost to Finn Jarkko Nieminen while troubled by a shoulder injury in the first round. He qualified for the Brisbane International this month, and was granted a wildcard into the Sydney International.
Two weeks ago, Soderling, the French Open runner-up, was asked at Kooyong's AAMI Classic about the flagging fortunes of both Sweden and Australia, and replied that his country's small population was part of the reason it had been difficult to unearth and develop players of the quality of Bjorn Borg, Mats Wilander or Stefan Edberg, or even the recently retired Thomas Johansson and Jonas Bjorkman.
''But I think it's going in the right way again, and we have a lot of good juniors coming up, so hopefully in a few years' time we have at least a few more guys on tour,'' Soderling said.