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After 17 years on Tour, Bjorkman bows out


 

Originally published on: 26/02/10 15:03

It wasn’t what you’d describe as a fairytale finish to Jonas Bjorkman’s 17 years as a tennis professional.

The 36-year-old Swede, who announced at this year’s Wimbledon that he would not continue beyond this season, and teammate Kevin Ullyet lost a champion’s tiebreak to Polish pair Mariusz Fyrstenberg and Marcin Matkowski, denying them a semi-final spot at the Tennis Masters Cup.

But the ever-popular character was far from downcast about his last stand, as he was honoured after the match with a montage of his best moments from the past two decades.

“I still think it’s great to end my career in the biggest event of the year,” said Bjorkman. “I was trying to do everything possible to stay alive one other day, maybe two. But you can’t get everything.”

“All the trash talk in the locker rooms will be something I will miss”

“I’m mentally very ready to retire,” he added. “I’ve been very fortunate to be able to play for so long. It started as my hobby and I’ve been able to do it for 17 years, which is great. I’m really looking forward for the next step in life.”

It probably helps that those 17 years have been so richly rewarding. Bjorkman played in 58 of the last 60 Grand Slams, only missing the 2003 and 2008 Australian Opens for the births of son Max and daughter Bianca.

And throughout that time, the Swede has been fiercely competitive. He may not have reached a Grand Slam final, but his 1997 US Open and 2006 Wimbledon semi-final appearances show he wasn’t just making up the numbers during his singles career.

But it was in doubles that the Swede truly found his calling. Bjorkman completed his career doubles Slam in 2005, finally capturing the French Open with Max Mirnyi – eleven years after first making the final.

All in all he won nine Grand Slam doubles titles and two Tennis Masters Cups, as well as three Davis Cup titles for Sweden. But, at an age when he qualifies for the seniors events as well as the main draws, Bjorkman will be relieved to have stopped chasing the sun with the ATP Tour for a while.

“The travelling is the one that’s been the toughest in the end”

“I think the travelling is the one that’s been the toughest in the end, obviously when you do have a family that can’t go with you all the time,” he admitted. “You miss so many friends’ weddings, great occasions for parties and everything back home with your friends. Now you can be part of that a little bit.”

But there are other elements of the Tour that he will miss. “The locker room – it’s very unique. You’re all in a way enemies and everyone wants to win, but you can still sit next to each other preparing for a game. I think everyone treats each other with great respect.

“It’s also a lot of fun to be around everyone. All the trash talk in the locker rooms will be something that I will miss.”

But even more than that, the Davis Cup atmosphere was a personal favourite.

“I think Davis Cup weeks are probably one of the best weeks during the year, to be part of that,” Bjorkman said. “The whole camaraderie is something that I definitely will miss. But hopefully I’ll come as a spectator to watch and maybe be part of it a little bit.”

He might find himself in the stands a little more often, but Jonas Bjorkman’s tennis life is far from over. He became editor of a Swedish tennis magazine in 2006, is involved in junior tennis coaching, and plans to start competing in occasional events on the seniors tour.

“I’m going to take advantage,” he said with a smile. “I’ve been playing so long that I can go straight into seniors.”

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