Proton Malaysian Open
Johansson Impresses On Long-Awaited Comeback
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
by ATP Staff|
In his first ATP World Tour match for nearly a year, Sweden’s Joachim Johansson recorded an impressive 7-6(7), 6-3 victory over eighth seed Lleyton Hewitt in the first round of the Proton Malaysian Open, Kuala Lumpur 2009 Tuesday.
Johansson took a wild card into the inaugural event, an ATP World Tour 250 indoor hard-court tournament, to see how his game, and more importantly his shoulder, would hold up ahead of the If Stockholm Open, which begins on 19 October.
The 27-year-old Johansson reached the US Open semi-finals in 2004, defeating Andy Roddick in five sets before falling to Hewitt, and broke the Top 10 of the South African Airways ATP Rankings at No. 9 on 14 February, 2005, after clinching his third ATP World Tour title at the Open 13.
However, the right-hander was forced to retire from the tour in early 2008 after three years of battling shoulder injuries. At that stage, following three surgeries, shoulder specialists advised Johansson that, at that time, no further surgery would help him overcome his problems.
“When I quit at the beginning of last year and then I picked it up at the end of last year I said to myself that my goal was that, within the next year, I would come to the If Stockholm Open, which is in three weeks,” explained Johansson. “To put myself in the position where I can choose if I want to play or if I don’t want to play.
“When I quit last year, I felt like I had to quit because I could not keep on with my shoulder. That was the only goal I set up by coming back, to get my shoulder in good shape because I tried to get it in good shape for three, three and a half years and I couldn’t do it.”
While admitting to feeling “really tired” towards the end of the second set in his first-round match with Hewitt, Johansson said overall he was “very happy with my performance today. I had a good serve and I tried to play aggressively from the first point so I didn’t give him any rhythm at all.”
Former World No. 1 Hewitt, whose younger sister, Jaslyn, used to be engaged to Johansson, was playing his first match since pushing Roger Federer to four sets in the third round at the US Open. The Australian has been approaching top form since his recovery from hip surgery, making the quarter-finals at Wimbledon and clinching his 27th tour-level title at the US Men’s Clay Court Championship, making Johansson’s victory all the more impressive.
Johansson, who goes by the nick-name “Pim-Pim”, made a brief comeback to professional tennis at the 2008 If Stockholm Open, where he defeated Nicolas Mahut to reach the second round (l. to Nalbandian), before taking time to get his shoulder back in shape.
He played at four ATP Challenger Tour tournaments at the start of 2009, notably reaching the semi-finals in Izmir, Turkey, but has spent much of the year caddying for his fiancée, Johanna Westerberg, a professional golfer on the women’s PGA Tour. The couple is expecting their first child in early 2010.
After his campaign in Kuala Lumpur, Johansson intends to play at the If Stockholm Open before making a decision on whether or not to attempt a full comeback in 2010. First on the agenda for the Swede, though, is a second-round clash with either Richard Gasquet or Victor Crivoi.