Biofile: The Thomas Johansson Interview
Thomas Johansson's first tennis memory came courtesy of Donald Duck, but the Swede with the solid all-around game is hardly a cartoon character on court.
The 30-year-old Swede enters Wimbledon on Monday coming off a semifinal performance at Queen's Club. The 12th-seeded Johansson, who resides in the softest section of the draw, could reach the second week.
Stockholm was stomping when Johansson put his foot down with finality today last October. Winless in his prior six meetings with Andre Agassi, the unseeded Swede overcame a one-set deficit to topple the top-seeded Agassi, 2-6, 6-3, 7-6(4) and win his second career Stockholm Open. Johansson never trailed in the third-set tiebreak, reaching match point at 6-3. Agassi drilled a passing shot winner to save one match point. As the crowd stomped its feet and clapped in unison, Johansson calmly stepped up to serve and delivered an ace down the middle to capture the tournament title for the first time since 2000.
"This was probably my best match ever," said Johansson, who has won eight career championships. "I can't remember when I played this well. Even if I had lost, I would have said this was one of my best matches."
Scoring tournament victories over Xavier Malisse, compatriot Robin Soderling, Andrei Pavel and Michael Ryderstedt to reach the final, Johansson won all five tiebreak sets he played during the week.
Johansson's greatest career victory came in 2002 when the 16th-seeded Swede upset Marat Safin, 3-6, 6-4, 6-4, 7-6(4) in the Australian Open final to become the first Swede since Mats Wilander in 1988 to win the Australian Open and the second-lowest seed in history to claim the championship. The self-effacing Johansson, widely respected for his sportsmanship and competitivness, celebrated that monumental victory in a Melbourne bar with a throng of enthusiastic Swedish fans.
2002 Australian Open champion.
5-foot-11 Weight: 165 pounds.
March 24th, 1975 in Linkoping, Sweden.
"I really like to play golf. I really like to go to the movies. I really like to go and watch concerts, ice hockey games. And spend time with my friends, of course."
Early Tennis Memory:
"I played a tournament called Donald Duck Cup. It's very famous in Sweden. It's like the first big one that you play. I think I was eight or nine. And I played a guy that was four years older than me, and he was a top-seeded guy. So my dad said, If you get a game from this guy, I'll buy you ice cream. And it was like 6-0 and 4-0 and then I got the first game. So that was good."
"Would be...I really like Scent of a Woman, Good Will Hunting, Shawshank Redemption is probably the number one."
"I really like U2, Depeche Mode and a Swedish group called Kent."
"Just try to focus on my game. That's the most important thing. And then it doesn't really matter who you play — it's just try to go out there and do your best. And try to focus on your strokes."
Greatest Sports Moment:
"When I won Australian Open 2002 (vs. Safin 3-6, 6-4, 6-4, 7-6). (What moment in particular? Match point?) Match point was very strange. It was a lob that went over me that I thought for sure was gonna go in. It went like 5 centimeters out. And then, of course, the celebration in the evening with all the Swedish fans. It was in a bar — Lotus, in Melbourne. That was a thing that I'm probably not going to experience again."
Most Painful Moment:
"Was when I decided to have an operation on my left knee. That was February 2003. After that, I did not think I was gonna be able to come back, 'cause it hurt a lot. And it took a while before I could even walk on my knee. So that was very tough."
"I really like, of course, Swedish meatballs. But I really like Japanese and Chinese food."
Favorite Ice Cream Flavor:
"Haagen Dazs cookies and cream."
Closest Tennis Friends:
"I have a good relationship with the Swedes...Enqvist, Magnus Norman, Jonas Bjorkman, Mikael Tillstrom — though he's not playing anymore. Those are probably my best friends."
"A player that I really liked to watch was (Marcelo) Rios. And Agassi is always a lot of fun to watch. But outside of court, all the guys have different humors. Rios...I think he was one of the best players, ever. Because I remember one year when he was gonna play Thomas Muster in Rome. And I saw the press conference before the match. And they asked Rios, How are you gonna be able to beat Muster, because he only had lost one or two matches on clay so far. And Rios said [smiles], The guy should be happy if he gets like a couple of games. And he went out there the next day and killed (Muster). 1 and 2. And that's, for me, unbelievable. I really like to watch him. I didn't like to play him though. But I really liked to watch him. (Why? Why was he so hard to play?) He could make you feel like it was the first time you were standing on a tennis court, you know [smiles]? So, I hated to play him. You could get killed by him easily, 1 and 1 or something like that. And you could have played a good match, you know [smiles]?"
"Well, I haven't been able yet to beat Federer. I've played him, I don't know, seven or eight times. And Agassi is very tough."
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Funny Tennis Memory:
"A lot of things made me laugh. In Davis Cup we have a lot of fun together. I think that's the most fun you have in the year, when you go out with your friends and you're trying to compete for your own country. We have a lot of fun when we're traveling together."
People Qualities Most Admired:
"Honesty. I really like guys that are down-to-earth. Not arrogant. And nice people, of course."