[TENNIS] Behind every cloud, there’s always a silver lining, as Thomas Johansson of Sweden learnt after an injury-plagued year last year. He’s now back playing the sport he loves, but it’s not the be-all and end-all of his life anymore.
The Swede was on the verge of breaking into the world’s top 10 after finishing 2002 at No 14, and was his country’s No 1 player for third time in his career.
“I could have broken into the top-10, had the injury not come so early,” said Johansson, who won the 2002 Australian Open, becoming the first Swede to win a Grand Slam singles crown since Stefan Edberg captured the US Open in 1992.
“It was sad that it happened like that. But I had to move on. Because of the support from my family, my girlfriend and my coach, here is where I am today,” said the 29-year-old.
Winning only one Grand Slam and then quickly sinking out of the top-100 must have had some pundits thinking that Johansson was going to follow in the footsteps of other one Slam wonders like 1998 Australian Open winner Petr Korda of the Czech Republic, 1987 Wimbledon champion Pat Cash of Australia and Dutchman Richard Krajicek, who took the 1996 Wimbledon crown.
“I disagree with that. It is not a fluke for a player to win seven straight matches in a best-of-five tournament. It’s not an easy task at all. But, it’s just about the moment that makes thing go round,” Johansson said.
“I’ve proved that I’ve been playing well. I hit the ball well. I play very solid. I’ve got the game I used to have and the only thing missing is my consistency,” said Johansson, who has won six other titles in his 10 years as a professional.
Johansson fought his way back into the top-100 within six months of his comeback. He almost ended his 30-month winless drought since the Australian Open in January 2002 when he was 6-1 5-2 over Thai ace Paradorn Srichaphan in the final of the Nottingham Open in June.
“I played very well and honestly, Paradorn played really bad. To hold such a score, I couldn’t believe that it happened. Paradorn suddenly started to play brilliantly. And he won,” said Johansson.
Johansson overcame the disappointment and aims to finish this year in the top-30.
“I know that it’s tough but I’ll try my best,” he said. “Tennis is not number one for me anymore. I prefer to enjoy my life with my family and do things that typical people do. Relax and do something else that I like,” said Johansson, who plays golf in his spare time and is working on improving his handicap of 12. “I just play for fun but I’m not going to change lanes,” Johansson said with a smile.