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Bjorkman Bows Out; Nalbandian, Ancic Make Strong Starts

Stockholm, Sweden

Mario Ancic© Getty ImagesMario Ancic In Action

Swedish veteran Jonas Bjorkman played the final singles match of his career Tuesday at the If Stockholm Open, as he fell to Argentine lucky loser Juan Monaco 6-2, 6-4 in the first round. Bjorkman, who received a standing ovation afterward, dropped serve five times during the 69-minute match to finish his singles career with a 414-362 record.

"It was a very emotional match," said 1997 Stockholm titlist Bjorkman. "I felt I could have played a lot better than I did because I was playing well during practice during the last weeks."

Meanwhile, fellow Swede and wild card recipient Joachim Johansson enjoyed a win in his first match since coming out of retirement, defeating Frenchman Nicolas Mahut 7-5, 7-6(5) in one hour and 29 minutes. The 26-year-old Johansson had originally retired from the ATP circuit in February after suffering from shoulder injurires for three years, and had played his last professional match in Stockholm last year.

"I'm very happy for the win," said the former World No. 9. "I didn't feel anything on my shoulder, so that is very positive. Regardless on how I do in Stockholm I want to take things slowly, and get back on the circuit little by little. If I can't use my protect ranking in the next six months I will go back to playing Futures and try to get back tp the top step by step."

Johansson will next play top seed David Nalbandian, who dropped only eight points on serve and converted five of seven break points as he dispatched American Bobby Reynolds 6-1, 6-1 to claim his 30th match win of the season. World No. 7 Nalbandian is currently No. 26 in the ATP 2008 Race – 114 points back of James Blake in the No. 8 spot – and can gain 40 points by winning the Stockholm title.

The Buenos Aires resident reached consecutive ATP finals in February, clinching his eighth title at Buenos Aires (d. Acasuso) and finishing runner-up at Acapulco (l. to Almagro). In November he will lead Argentina in the Davis Cup final against Spain after factoring in their semifinal win over Russia in his last appearance in September.

Croatian second seed Mario Ancic (pictured) bounced back from a first round upset last week in Metz by firing 19 aces to claim his 30th match win of the season with a 7-6(2), 6-2 victory over Belgian Olivier Rochus. He will attempt to reach the Stockholm quarterfinals for the third time in four event appearances when he faces Belgian No. 1 Steve Darcis, who defeated Olivier's brother Christophe Rochus 2-6, 6-3, 6-3.

The 24-year-old Ancic has made just two ATP main draw appearances since a quarterfinal showing at Wimbledon (l. to Federer) due to a recurrence of glandular fever. The former World No. 7, currently No. 31, began the season well, reaching his 10th ATP final at Marseille (l. to Murray) and the Zagreb semifinals.

Fifth-seeded German Rainer Schuettler also made a strong start to his campaign, allowing Australian Chris Guccione just three games as he raced to a 6-0, 6-3 victory 54 minutes. The 32-year-old Schuettler, who only surrendered 10 points on serve throughout, reached the Stockholm quarterfinals in 2000 (l. to Grosjean) and 2005 (l. to Sanguinetti) and has a 6-5 tournament record.

The right-hander kick-started his season at Wimbledon, where he reached his second Grand Slam semifinal defeating No. 8 James Blake in the second round before ultimately losing out to eventual champion Rafael Nadal. In the past two weeks, he reached the Beijing semifinals and Tokyo quarterfinals.

Sixth seed Jose Acasuso of Argentina saved one match point down 2-5 in the third set before battling back to defeat German wild card Matthias Bachinger 7-6(5), 3-6, 7-6(4) in two hours and 15 minutes. He will come up against Oscar Hernandez in the second round after the Spaniard needed just 55 minutes to defeat Czech Ivo Minar, 6-4, 6-3.

 

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