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Bjorkman & Mirnyi Begin Title Defense
Defending champions Jonas Bjorkman and Max Mirnyi begin their quest to salvage a disappointing year with a bang Sunday as Tennis Masters Cup begins in Shanghai. Bjorkman and Mirnyi had to wait until October to claim their only title of the season (Stockholm) and were the last team to qualify for the circuit finale.
On Sunday the duo plays 2006 US Open champions Martin Damm and Leander Paes and Bjorkman says he and Mirnyi will go in confident despite their lean year.
"We're very happy to be back and we can now play without the pressure we were under the last five or six weeks as we were attempting to qualify," Bjorkman says. "We can really go for it this week and it's always nice to come back to a tournament as the defending champions."
Mirnyi added: "Winning the Stockholm title reminded us of the form we had this time last year in Shanghai. We're very excited to be back here defending the title."
Bjorkman and Mirnyi charged to the title in 2006 with an unbeaten 5-0 record and Bjorkman said that the team was looking to make a fast start this year. "You always want to get off to a good start but at the same time we began 2-0 last year and still weren't guaranteed to qualify. Yet in the other group a team got through with only one win."
In the other doubles match on Day 1, Paul Hanley and Kevin Ullyett tackle Israelis Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram, who came in at the last minute to replace Bob and Mike Bryan (injured right arm). Hanley and Ullyett are playing their final event together.
Ullyett, who will play with Bjorkman after January's Australian Open, said: "The feeling is quite weird. The last time I split up with a partner was in Shanghai two years ago when Wayne Black retired. We've had two great years together but we're both optimistic of trying something new. And we're trying to finish strong in Shanghai this week."