Bjorkman gives Sweden 1-0 lead
Seasoned Jonas Bjorkman turned in a professional display to defeat Prakash Amritraj 64 64 64 to put Sweden up 1-0 against India in the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group Play-off at the RK Khanna Stadium on Friday.
In a match between two players of stark contrast, Bjorkman showed nothing would affect him -- the mixed bounce or the stifling heat -- as he played solid tennis against the Indian who mostly competes at the Challenger level.
Bjorkman, who has been playing the Davis Cup for 11 years now, showed that whatever be the workload, his passion to play for Sweden remains undiminished. The most fit players on the circuit would struggle to find their bearings in this kind of humidity where one sweats in buckets. But from the first point till the last one, where Bjorkman rifled in an ace, he looked a picture of poise and perfection against the Indian journeyman.
Bjorkman got the first break of serve in the seventh game of the first set when he slammed a beautiful drive volley from mid-court.
Bjorkman plays more doubles these days and is the world No.1, so for all the connoisseurs who still love to watch brilliant volleys, Bjorkman was the advertisement on a court where controlling pattern of play was not easy.
For his part, Prakash Amritraj, son of legend Vijay Amritraj strove hard. But this was a match between two players who are very different in terms of sheer experience.
Amritraj did smack aces now and then, but to get the ball back on Bjorkman's effective serve was not easy. In the second set, the Indian was sluggish and his footwork not smart.
Non-playing captain Leander Paes was offering his ward words of advice. It worked in bits and pieces but that was not enough against a player of Bjorkman's calibre.
Bjorkman went up 2-1 in the second set when Amritraj double-faulted on the last point. But the Indian, who has was at the receiving end all along brought some cheer by breaking back to make it 3-3.
The next game was a test of character and at 40-30 the Indian rifled in a kick serve. The reply from Bjorkman was a smart return winner. Bjorkman then reeled of two winners to force another break and go up 4-3.
From that stage there was no doubting the verdict as Bjorkman won the second set 6-4.
In the decider, both the players were drenched in sweat. Bjorkman looked comfortable and showed that the preparation he had put in over the last four days stood him in good stead.
Bjorkman broke for a 3-2 lead in the third set after Prakash pushed a high volley into the net. It took the Swede minutes after that to seal victory.
"I played solid today. It was hot and humid but I knew I had to be prepared for it," said Bjorkman, who has been working hard to be ready to play on all three days of the tie.
In the second singles, former Australian Open champion Thomas Johansson faces Rohan Bopanna.
Rock on Sweden