Radio Roland Garros - Interviews
Day 9 - An interview with Jonas Bjorkman - Monday, June 4, 2007
Q. It seemed you had your chance in the first set, but you didn't take it. Do you think things could have been different if you had won the first set?
JONAS BJORKMAN: I think it still would have been very tough for me today. The only good, positive thing was I saw that he was pretty nervous today in the beginning, and, you know, I could control the points, which I was hoping.
But he starts being much more aggressive and making sure that I did not be in a position of controlling him. And on that court, I was already, when I saw the schedule to be schedule on Suzanne Lenglen, I know I was in trouble. It is so much heavier, that court, and it doesn't benefit me at all.
If I win the first, maybe, you know, it is still possible to win. But it's a long way just to win the first. I still think it would have been very tough to beat him today on that court.
Q. You seemed to have some treatment for your shoulders. What was happening in the end of the second set?
JONAS BJORKMAN: Oh, you know, I'm 35. I had just been having a sore shoulder on and off. And especially on that court, when the ball gets a lot heavier, it is so much clay on the boards, so I haven't had any pain for the clay court season.
But then being on that court it was so much heavier to hit the balls. And my shoulder just got more tired than it normally does. Just needed some treatment to get it more relaxed, because it just got really tight.
Q. So is it your right shoulder?
JONAS BJORKMAN: Right shoulder, yeah, yeah.
Q. You say you're 35. Does that mean that you now attack these kind of matches with more of a devil‑may‑care attitude? Is it that enjoy yourself on court because you know it's the other side of the career, and that you've perhaps become a much more dangerous opponent, because you're trying shots which you wouldn't have tried 15 years ago?
JONAS BJORKMAN: Well, it could be. I think I'm obviously, hopefully, more smarter on the court with all the experience I have. I guess in a way, I might be dangerous to play, because I am relaxed and I'm enjoying everything to be here, and I'm enjoying the atmosphere around the tennis much more than ten years ago. You were so focused, you didn't realize that there were some people here that maybe said hi, but you didn't say hi because you didn't see them.
So, in a way, that might benefit me at this stage of my career.
Q. Are you enjoying the Grand Slams where you do get to the second or third round, do you feel this is much more fun than you remember it?
JONAS BJORKMAN: No, I think for me, it's always been something special to come to the big events. The four Grand Slams, the Masters Series events, that's where you're really looking for the atmospheres there. It couldn't be anything better when you play on the big stadiums where there are a lot of people watching. That's where you really want to be.
So I always felt that it was something special to come to the Grand Slams.
Q. Physically, how is it different to play at 35 than it was at 25?
JONAS BJORKMAN: There's no aching the day after. When you're 25, you probably could play every day, four hours a day or six hours a day. And, you know, at 35, you've got to be smarter and try to save energy.
But fitness‑wise, I'm feeling great. I'm still feeling that I can compete, and as long as I do my fitness training and keep healthy, it's obviously still okay. But the recovery is not the same. That is probably the only difference.
Q. So after a really difficult match, can you describe exactly how you feel the next morning when you step out of bed?
JONAS BJORKMAN: It could be tough, sometimes, to put the socks on. (Laughing).
Q. Bearing that in mind, and knowing that you were playing on Suzanne Lenglen, how did that effect the way you were thinking before the match?
JONAS BJORKMAN: Well, I knew already before the game that I needed to take more risks than I have done in the past matches. So my game plan had to change a little bit. But then he started a little nervous, I think, and wasn't that aggressive. So I could still be surprisingly in control from the beginning.
It was just unfortunate I just couldn't take that first set. At least it would have put some more pressure on him. Then I think he had a better idea of how to play me, because we've known each other for such a long time. So he made sure that I was never in a position to try to dictate the points. He made sure that he was doing that, and that made it so much tougher for me.
Q. Do you have any memory of the first time you played him? It was about 11 years ago?
JONAS BJORKMAN: Yeah, I think we played in Marseilles. Never heard of him at that stage. I think it was his first indoor event ever, and I lost.
Q. Reports before the tournament were that the Davis Cup was going to be played on a fast court. Is that still the case or is it up in the air? What is the status on that?
JONAS BJORKMAN: We have no possibility to change. It was already a deadline a couple weeks ago. So it's going to be the case, that if you look to my results in the past 11 years, I still think it's a good choice that we play on fast and play on the best surface we have.
Q. No remorse then?
JONAS BJORKMAN: This is great day. I obviously surprised myself to make the fourth and still having a great match today.
But Soderling and Thomas Johansson's best surface is definitely the one we're choosing for that match. And I have seen so often in Davis Cup people thinking too much about their opponents and forget about what's their strength in their own team.
We played Holland one year. They were putting in clay because they were going to take away Edberg. Then we brought in Larsen, and I think Gustafsson, and we won 5‑Love.
So I think you've got to go with your strength. Even though the U.S. is going to love that court as well.
Q. On a totally different topic, you have some of the most delightful, celebratory gestures in all of tennis. If you were a journalist, how would you describe them in a word?
JONAS BJORKMAN: In a word? In a word. Emotional.
Q. Did you just create them on your own?
JONAS BJORKMAN: Well, the hug was just something in Wimby that just came up, because I was so happy because it was just such a surprise to make the semis after winning three matches going in that event, more or less. It was an event that I'd always been hoping to do well and almost gave up, because I didn't really believe that I could make it that far.
So to have that atmosphere on that day, I think we played a total nine hours, the hug was just such a spontaneous gesture, because I just wanted to hug everyone out there because I was so happy. I felt that was the same in my last match. The victory step has been there for many years. It's more a crazy one.
Q. I was struck by what you said a few moments ago about Suzanne Lenglen. Why is it so much slower than the other courts?
JONAS BJORKMAN: It's a good question, but they have done it differently. They must have done that court differently because it's much darker, even if it's a sunny day with the new balls, you start with the new balls, you get clay on the ball, and it's more or less ‑‑ like if it's water coming underneath. It's just a different system there. It makes your balls a lot bigger and fluffier and heavier.
Q. Do most of the players feel this way?
JONAS BJORKMAN: I think so, yeah. There was some guys straight in the locker room saying he played on the wrong court. Not that I ‑‑ Carlos is just in great form now, so I'm not saying that I should have won on another court, but at least it would have helped me to put some more pressure.
Q. And on another topic, you don't play the type of game you normally associate with Spanish players. But do you subscribe to the theory that certain regions can produce certain types of players, or even the national psyche has something to do with the way people play?
JONAS BJORKMAN: I'm not sure. I think me and Mats coming from the same place, we're very opposite, even if we have the same opportunities of practice. We had a lightning carpet in our club. But he was more natural to play clay, and even thought their indoor season longer, and for me, that sort of matched my practice much better to be an aggressive player.
So I'm not really sure. But maybe it comes up with the idols. You follow up some players and you like to be like that guy or something like that. But otherwise, I think it's just instincts what you like to play.
Q. Speaking of idols, it's sort of a perfect segue to what I wanted to ask you. If Carlos and Rafa played in the next round, do you think even with all of Rafa's accomplishments, that there's still a bit of a psychological dynamic there that he'll have to overcome playing Carlos, someone he admired?
JONAS BJORKMAN: I'm not sure. I think Rafa, when he came up, he was winning most of the matches against the Spanish guys, which maybe was surprising that early stage already, taking that edge from everyone. But I think now he has also seen Carlos playing. I think Carlos now may be playing his best tennis than in the past years, because his shoulder seems to be better.
He had a great match in Hamburg; he nearly won that one. If Rafa, first of all, comes through this match, I think he feels that Carlos is playing much better now. So it is definitely going to be an interesting match. Who knows if he will have some more respect for Carlos, purely because his idol.
Q. Can you relate that to yourself? Were you ever in a situation like that with a player that you grew up admiring in?
JONAS BJORKMAN: I played Mats, and I couldn't sleep the night before, '94, in where was that, Washington. Then I played in 110 Farenheit, which is just perfect for him, because he's just the opposite of all the Swedes. He's loving the heat. Barely get a sweat when it's over 100. So, but that's different. That was the first time I met Mats.
And Carlos and Rafa, are they spent so much time together, I think it was mainly first and second match they played against each other that you had that chemistry on court, that is maybe sometimes a little tougher when you play a friend. Now they've been around for so many years, I wouldn't say that it would be putting something extra in it.
Q. When you're a veteran like you are, do you think that helps or hurts you to be playing serve‑and‑volley tennis as opposed to say baseline tennis? What are the things that start to go a little bit soft first, the things that work for the clay court game or fast court game?
JONAS BJORKMAN: Well, I can't play in a serve and volley anymore. It's impossible on the surface we have these days. I stopped. I think, in general, you've seen Henman, myself, most of the guys who have been playing serve and volley before, we all stopped, because, you know, it's just not possible to do that anymore purely because the competition is so good. All of the players are hitting it stronger. But then the strings, racquets, the heavy balls, slow surfaces, obviously making it more or less impossible.
So I wouldn't say that has something to do with age. I feel if I have a quick court, I can still play a great serve and volley. But it's just you've got to have some benefits. Especially when you hit a volley, you need to see that the ball takes off and not just sits up.
Q. Do you think the courts ought to be speeded up? Do you think it's unfair now toward the slow court players?
JONAS BJORKMAN: No, I wouldn't say it's unfair, really. It's part of the game to have ‑‑ you know, I think, what was it, midnight is when we had this lightning courts. It was not so much fun to watch Becker, Ivanisevic hitting 45 bombs each. But sometimes we can look for what is the medium. I think like on clay, we have really heavy balls in Hamburg, but it makes no sense. It's only going to be 7, 8° every day. So maybe we can have a quicker ball in Hamburg, a little bit slower one in Monte Carlo. So you're just finding a better balance sometimes. Or if you have a slow court, you can have a quicker ball.
That's more that you can work on. Because I think it's good to have a variety of different type of player styles.
Q. One of the fun things in our game is you see certain countries rise up and get really hot. The Spaniards and the Argentines and the Serbs today, and others sort of struggle, the Aussies to a degree. We Americans are sort of in a tough patch. Things get kicked off sometimes like when there is a big star like Bjorn Borg or the Barcelona Olympics or federation, but what are the keys in the cycles of the rising of a nation and sustaining it, and then one that falls off? How can you try and prevent that?
JONAS BJORKMAN: I think it has to come a downside. In our case, we were so successful since Bjorn, '75, more or less, '74. Then it kept going on, more or less, to the end of the '90s, that we had just a bunch of players. At one stage, I think Nystrom was Number 10 in the world, he didn't even get to the Davis Cup squad because he was not good enough.
And it has to come to a stage where you will drop off a little bit. Then it will peak again later on. If you can manage to stay in the top and producing great players all the time, I think that's exceptional. The only countries who can do that is obviously the ones that have money.
Some federations wouldn't have the same possibilities, like the French, you know. They have one coach to each junior player from probably 14 to 18. And in Sweden, Mats Wilander nearly works for free for Davis Cup. So it's just a different situation. Some teams can always maybe have a little bit easier, but it's got to be ups and downs in all sports, I think.
Q. Can you describe how your shoulder felt out there as you hit those heavy balls. Was it more achy or a sharp pain?
JONAS BJORKMAN: No, it's not really sharp pain. It's more it's just so tired. It's no energy left, really, in the muscles. It just gets so tight, and it gets like a big knot out there. So I just needed Stephane to release it, and I got a painkiller just to see if it could drop the pain a little bit.
Q. Can you describe your regimen after the first round or second round after the match? Do you have a masseuse, or do you have to sleep extra?
JONAS BJORKMAN: My wife (laughing).
No, no. I think, yeah, everyone is taking massages down in the locker rooms. You know, you go on the bike and try to get the muscles smoother. You know, I felt great after the first two, three matches. There were no problems at all.
But Carlos is playing at a different pace than all the other guys I played. It was putting so much pressure, so I had to do a lot more running today.