Oct 17 Once a conveyor belt of tennis greats like Bjorn Borg, Mats Wilander and Stefan Edberg, Swedish tennis now finds itself in the doldrums but two old warriors have helped lift the mood at the Stockholm Open this week.
Former world No.4 Jonas Bjorkman, aged 41, came out of retirement to partner compatriot Robert Lindstedt in the men's doubles and Joachim Johansson, once regarded as the next big thing before injury struck, made a rare singles appearance.
Both shook off the rust to win.
Bjorkman, who quit five years ago, was approached by Lindstedt after breaking up with his regular partner before the U.S. Open and jumped at the chance of a one-off appearance.
"It's not a comeback, just here in Stockholm," Bjorkman, who is also the tournament's marketing director, said in an interview on the tournament's website.
"Robert is one of the best in the world and I hope he can carry me on his shoulders. The aim is to win the title."
Bjorkman, who won all four majors in doubles and reached two grand slam singles semi-finals, and Lindstedt beat fellow Swedes Isak Arvidsson and Andreas Siljestrom in the first round and were up against Ernests Gulbis and Dmitry Tursonov in the second round.
Johansson, nicknamed Pim Pim, rolled back the years to when he reached the 2004 U.S. Open semi-final, with a 6-1 6-3 victory over Colombia's world No. 112 Alejandro Falla.
The former top tenner's performance was remarkable as it was his first main tour match for four years, although he has performed Davis Cup duties for Sweden on occasions since.
Johansson burst through in 2004, defeating Andy Roddick on his way to the semis at Flushing Meadows, but after reaching the top 10 the following year the shoulder problems that forced him to retire in 2008 surfaced.
The 31-year-old, who once served a then record 51 aces against Andre Agassi at the Australian Open in 2005, will face one of the big-hitting new generation in Canadian Milos Raonic later on Thursday.
Win or lose he has said his comeback is for one event only.
Johansson's brief return masks the sad state of Swedish tennis, especially in the singles ranks, where their top player is Markus Eriksson, ranked 406th in the world. (Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Pritha Sarkar)