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September 23, 2007

Jonas Bjorkman


THE MODERATOR: We'll start the press conference for Jonas Bjorkman.

Q. When did you learn you would have to play singles and how unexpected was it?
JONAS BJORKMAN: I had a call from Mats in the morning that Thomas was not feeling a hundred percent. Obviously I knew that it was an opportunity to play maybe the second match. So we changed the practice schedule. Once I had my hit, we spoke to Thomas again and he still didn't feel great. So around close to quarter to 12 I think maybe I knew that I should play the first singles instead of the second one.

Q. How unexpected was it for you? And before the tie, were you thinking that they might need you for the singles, as well?
JONAS BJORKMAN: Before, on Thursday, I knew exactly how Mats was thinking because we'd been talking about it a lot. So I was definitely prepared to play on Sunday. So that was not hard to sort of get ready for. It was more a different mindset to go in and play Andy instead of James.
But anyway, you know, I prepared for playing today, so it wasn't really a tough call just to go out and play. I was well-prepared. I had a lot of time to go through the match. Unfortunately Andy just played too strong.

Q. It wasn't your return that failed today; it was very good.
JONAS BJORKMAN: Yeah, I think everyone speaks about Andy's serve, and obviously it is really, really good, but I think sometimes they don't give him enough credit on making a lot of returns himself. He definitely put the ball in play a lot. I can say, if I can find the right way, sometimes it doesn't look that he moves well, but he does. Sort of the way he moves, long steps, it looks maybe sometimes not so smooth, but he's always there.
Like I said, everyone speaks about his serve, but I think sometimes they forget about the variety of his game. He actually has good movement back from the baseline and also he makes a lot of returns.

Q. You hadn't played him in three years. Would you say that variety is much greater now than the last time you played?
JONAS BJORKMAN: I think he always has been a great mover because, you know, with his game, he's always been a great fighter. I think that's probably been the same. I think his backhand is much better now. I would say when I played him three years ago, you felt that if you came in on a good approach, it was really tough for him to make a pass. I think now he's much more confident to hit it.
I think what might be the difference is that he returns better. He definitely puts a lot of balls back. Maybe he don't get enough credit because purely everyone looks at his serve.

Q. I don't know if you're aware of this, but he's now 9-0 in Davis Cup matches where he had a chance to clinch the tie.
JONAS BJORKMAN: Good for him.

Q. As a long-time Davis Cup player yourself, I'm sure that's a statistic you can appreciate.
JONAS BJORKMAN: Not appreciate that much because it's not my stat. I would rather have that one.
I think he's done a good job. Obviously it's always a good opportunity to be ahead. Hopefully next time we can break that stat.

Q. In the second set you finally worked your way into a good position, I think you had 15-40. He came up with four huge serves, one ace at 234 maybe. What was going through your head at that time? How did that feel?
JONAS BJORKMAN: A little frustration because I think the lady in the chair was way too nice to him because he took about 45 seconds going into that first serve. Even though it was a few drops on the court, I think he should have had a code violation there, time code violation. She gave him an opportunity to have some extra seconds to think about it and get ready.
You know, like you said, he came up with four great serves. That was a missed opportunity for me. But that's part of the game.

Q. From what you've seen now of the United States - the Bryans, Roddick, Blake - do you feel they have all the necessary pieces to win a Davis Cup?
JONAS BJORKMAN: It always depends who you play. Obviously they have a great team, there's no doubt about that. They still have a weakness, and that's to play on clay. We all are in the same position. You know, we could be great when we play on the right surface. But when we play on clay, we have a lot harder time to come through and win matches. I think this is the same for them.
If they can avoid to play on clay against good teams, they have a great chance, obviously.

Q. Would you be saying then that your captain, Mats Wilander, probably should have chosen clay for this tie?
JONAS BJORKMAN: It wouldn't be that great quality this weekend if we would have played on clay, that's for sure, because both teams really have it as a weakness. Now we played on the strength on both teams, and I think the quality of the tennis we've seen this weekend was much better than it would have been on clay.
I'm not sure if we would have been better, especially with Soderling getting injured. If we would have had Soderling in the team, then yes, he would have had a great chance to win two matches. But it's also a gamble. I think now we should be very happy we didn't play on clay because it would have been very tough for us, as well.

Q. It felt like you started volleying quite late in the match. First set, I hadn't seen any approaches. How do you explain that?
JONAS BJORKMAN: I don't really serve and volley that much any more. To be honest, even on grass, I might serve and volley 20% during a match. So I just started to play like I normally play.
I think my problem, I've been hitting the ball really well in practice. I was a little too aggressive, too anxious to come to the net, missed a few approaches, then started to be a little too defensive. I worked my way in, find the right balance to mix up the pace a little bit more.
Andy loves when you hit hard all the time and struggles when you play a soft one in between. I think I found my balance much better in the second and even in the third.
But a few mistakes in my game, I lost my serve.

Q. You mentioned the quality of Andy's returning. What about his groundstrokes? Seemed to be getting a lot of depth on them. Were you surprised by that at all?
JONAS BJORKMAN: No. No, not really. I think he's always been playing the same way with his groundstrokes. He's always trying to move around and hit his forehand. So nothing new really.

Q. Is it a conscious choice not to serve and volley as much as you used to before? Is it due to a shoulder injury? Slow balls? Slow surface?
JONAS BJORKMAN: I would love to serve and volley a lot more. I think my serve was horrendous 10 years ago, but I still managed to play serve and volley on both first and second because the speed of the court was really fast, the balls were a lot faster. But the toughest adjustment is that everyone returns much better. With this situation like it is now, you have to adjust to the future of the game.
Now these days the courts are a lot slower. They even saw (sic) the grass different in Wimbledon to make it slow. The balls is a lot bigger, which creates a lot of injuries on the shoulders.
It's more that if I wanted to stick around and play good tennis, I have to adjust, and that's what I've been doing. I have no shoulder injuries.

Q. Does your team have any regrets this weekend? Maybe if Soderling was able to play, things could have turned out a little differently for you?
JONAS BJORKMAN: I mean, it's hard to say. Unfortunately he would have loved to play, but he hasn't been able to play a two-hand backhand for a couple weeks before Montréal. So we didn't have much choice of having a team. We gambled a little bit with Pim-Pim, and I think he did a great job in his first match to come back after eight months maybe off. That's some chances you just have to take. I think in the big picture, the Americans were just too strong for this match.

Q. And for you, was there any fatigue playing yesterday and having to play first today?

Q. Yes.
JONAS BJORKMAN: I've been playing professional tennis for 15 years, playing singles, doubles, every week. So to play a doubles match under two hours, I wouldn't feel anything like that. If I would have played five, six hours, then come out to play today - a singles match - then, yes, maybe would have been fatigue. But I've never had fatigue after a doubles match.

Q. Pim-Pim is back. Thomas Johansson played a great match on Friday. You're healthy. You said yesterday you're ready to continue playing Davis Cup as long as Mats will have you. What do you think of the future for Sweden's team?
JONAS BJORKMAN: Well, if we stay healthy, I think we would have a pretty good chance if we can get the old guys plus Soderling and Pim-Pim in the team. It helps to have options of singles players. Hopefully somebody behind Pim-Pim and Soderling is coming, a new future star. We've been looking for a long time, and hopefully something, maybe even a late-bloomer comes up.
You know, it all depends a little bit how long we play. But it's going to be tough for Pim-Pim and Soderling, to only have those two. But maybe at that stage a few new guys will be coming up, and that's what we're hoping for.

Q. How do you feel about some of the format changes that are being discussed for Davis Cup? Do you favor them?
JONAS BJORKMAN: The surface, I totally agree with what Patrick and Mats said. If they complain about the quick indoor surface, they should definitely have a look at having really, really slow clay because that's not fair as well. You can't only go one way; you've got to go both ways. It's got to be fair.
Same with conditions on the court. We played on clay courts that has been horrendous, grass courts. I think in general you've got to be fair and have, first of all, perfect courts. Then if you've got to go speed, you've got to also go the other way around.

Q. In terms of perhaps having it all played at once or trying to tweak the calendar a bit, how do you feel about that?
JONAS BJORKMAN: It's not a bad idea. I think even playing every second year would probably create Davis Cup more even bigger in a way. But then, you know, it's tough for the Federations. U.S. have a lot of money. You don't need more money. In Sweden, to have a home tie can help us a lot to have a few extra cash to improve something for the juniors.
But the problem is that ITF hasn't been listening to ATP a lot. We've been asking for a long time to have the Davis Cup week straight after the slams. I think now they say we might get it 2009, but more or less 2011 is the first time we're going to get the right weeks.
The problem is that everyone who fights for the right weeks now might not even be around for 2011. So I think you have Roger and Rafa and everyone trying to do what's best for the game, and you're not even guaranteed that those two might be around.
I think the communication needs to be much better.

Q. What are those right weeks?
JONAS BJORKMAN: I think 19 out of the top 20 guys signed a paper that we would like to have straight after Australian Open, Key Biscayne, straight after US Open, and the final as it is.

Q. It could be possible Russia against the States in the States for the Davis Cup final. Can you give your prognosis on the possible outcome? What do you think?
JONAS BJORKMAN: It would be very hard because at the moment I don't know where they're going to play, on which surface they're going to play. What I think is it's going to help Americans a lot, they have the option to choose the surface. Even though Russia got a great team, that today they don't even play with Davydenko and they still have such a solid singles team, that that's what you like to have in the Davis Cup. You like to have options on a lot of good players who can play on every surface more or less.
But, you know, I would think if it's possible, U.S. probably looking to play on grass, and that's probably the only weakness Russia have a little bit of.

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