Hugs All Round for Jonas
Wednesday, 5 July, 2006
When three-times Wimbledon doubles champion Jonas Bjorkman wins a big match he usually celebrates by throwing his arms around his partner. But on No.1 Court today the Swede had no-one to hug but himself. The 34-year-old was elated following his five set win over No. 14 seed Radek Stepanek in the men’s singles and could not hide his happiness.
He hugged himself at least three times and, as he was leaving the court, he performed a jig of joy before making his leave. Almost as delighted in the stands was his coach and former doubles partner Todd Woodbridge, who two years ago played with the Swede in this same stadium and shared a similar dance to celebrate victory in the men’s doubles.
On that day it was the record-breaking Woodbridge who was centre stage but today Bjorkman did not have to share the limelight with anyone else. This was his moment and he paused to enjoy it as long as he could. And it is not surprising. Jonas Bjorkman entered the tournament without any expectations. It is a philosophy Bjorkman has employed throughout the Championships and look where he is now – the semi-final of Wimbledon for the first time in his career.
His attitude has much to do with his age. The easy-going Swede knows time is not on his side and a few months ago vowed to enjoy every match that passed his way regardless of the result. His optimistic outlook was fuelled after a poor start to the year which prompted Bjorkman to sit back, take stock and change tactics.
Rather than worry about winning every match, he decided to simply savour the moment of playing the singles tour while he still could. It was a good game plan and one which has clearly served to take the pressure off. Two weeks ago he was competing in the final of Nottingham; today Bjorkman booked his place in the Wimbledon semi-finals, despite being a match point down against Radek Stepanek.
It is only the second time he has reached the last four of a Grand Slam singles event. The last time he achieved that feat was nearly nine years ago at the 1997 US Open, when he beat another Czech, Petr Korda and is, perhaps, yet another reminder of his age. In fact, Bjorkman’s victory makes him the oldest man to reach the semi-finals on the lawns of SW19 since Jimmy Connors in 1987.
The Swede may well be in his mid-thirties but if he is hoping to catch up on rest before his encounter with Roger Federer on Friday, he will have his work cut out. He still has the quarter-finals of the men’s doubles and the third round of the mixed doubles to play. But whatever happens you can bet he will enjoy it.
Written by Helen Gilbert