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Old 06-23-2006, 06:22 PM   #56
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Bjorkman on course for unique treble

After watching Richard Gasquet (France) narrowly clinch his place in tomorrow’s final, the second semi-final of the Red Letter Days Open provided spectators with another gripping display of world class grass court tennis.

Having watched his opponent, the world no.72 Italian, Andreas Seppi defeat British no.2 Andy Murray yesterday, Jonas Bjorkman, the 34 year-old Swede and twice winner of the Red Letter Days Open title (1998 and 2002) knew today would be a stern test of his grass court play.

Bjorkman, whose career ATP titles include six ATP singles titles took the first set 6-3 in a match that was to be packed with hard hitting serves, long rallies from the baseline and deft drop shots.

The second set continued with long rallies, Seppi keeping his nerve to win his first service game despite relentless pressure from the experienced Bjorkman. In the second game, Bjorkman fought back to 1-1 then broke Seppi’s serve to lead 2-1 and draw loud applause from the appreciative and sizeable centre court crowd.

Seppi fought hard with powerful forehand and backhand drives but it was an inspired Bjorkman who took the next game to lead 3-1. After taking the second set to 4-1 in the second set it seemed that after just 1 hour and 2 minutes of play, the world no. 77, who last captured a singles title in Vietnam last year, was on course to seal his place in tomorrow’s final.

After taking his game with serve to lead 5-1, Bjorkman was in touching distance of setting up a thrilling final against young gun Gasquet. After 71 minutes of play it was indeed Jonas Bjorkman who advanced into the final with a 6-3, 6-1 win over the young Italian.

Bjorkman said, “I surprised myself today. I’ve been playing better and better (here this week) and was very happy to come through against (Agustin) Calleri in the first round and then another (match). It’s all about confidence … I just had the goal of getting through the first round.”

After defeating Seppi he added, “The game is never over until it’s over … I keep fighting for every point which is mentally tough for your opponent because they know you are not going to give up until the last ball.”

Bjorkman commenting on his opportunity to win a third title said, "It would be nice but then again I don’t think anybody has ever won a back to back title (that Gasquet will be chasing).”

“The grass courts are getting tougher and tougher these days … it’s quicker here than at Stella or Wimbledon … which suits my style. I think (the Red Letter Days Open) allows me to create my style of shots … it’s always nice to come back to a place where you have won.”

Bjorkman has been drawn against fellow countryman Thomas Johansson in first round at Wimbledon and said, “I have the worst draw … I’d almost rather play Federer than play Thomas who is my closest friend. The draw could have been better for me.”

http://nottingham.lta.org.uk/News/060623Bjorkman.htm
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