Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Sweden may finally have found its next great tennis star -- in the form of rapidly-rising Joachim Johansson.
The 6-foot-6 bomber is fresh off his second title of the year, which came indoors at the Open 13 event in Marseille last week. "Pim-Pim" already owned an '05 title from an Australian Open tune-up in Adelaide in the second week of January.
With only three career championships to his credit thus far, it's hard to lump Johansson in with Sweden's former greats/Grand Slam champions Bjorn Borg, Mats Wilander and Stefan Edberg, but the 22-year-old from Lund is starting to show his potential. Johansson was born in Lund, but spent all of his childhood in Sodertalje, the same hometown as the 11-time major titlist Borg.
By the way, Johansson's father Leif was a former Davis Cup player for Sweden and a teammate of the legendary Borg in 1974.
The towering Johansson is an exciting player to watch, with a massive serve and an equally-as-massive forehand.
Joachim Johansson got the attention of the tennis world last year when he stunned American superstar Andy Roddick in the quarterfinals at the U.S. Open, where Roddick had been the defending champion. The great Wilander all but predicted the surprising outcome before the match. Unfortunately for Johansson, he gave way to former world No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt in the semis at Flushing Meadows.
The towering Johansson is an exciting player to watch, with a massive serve and an equally-as-massive forehand. He's already captured two of his five tournaments this season and made a run into the fourth round at the Aussie Open, where he succumbed to another former No. 1, the ageless Andre Agassi.
Johansson has won 15 of his 18 matches in the early part of 2005, including a six-match win streak to open his campaign, and has already pocketed more than $200,000 this year thanks to his hardcourt prowess (all three of his career titles are on hardcourts, with the other coming in Memphis last year). He prefers and excels on indoor hard surfaces in particular.
By the way, Johansson is not related to former Aussie Open champ Thomas Johansson, but, unfortunately, did lose to his countryman in a second-round match in Rotterdam this week. Thomas Johansson captured Sweden's last Grand Slam title with a big victory at the 2002 Australian Open, which marked the first major win by a Swede since the gentleman Edberg titled at the 1992 U.S. Open.
Joachim Johansson's stellar performance currently has him fifth in the 2005 ATP Race and ninth in the official world rankings. His victory in Marseille propelled him into the top 10 for the first time in his blossoming career.
He finished 2004 as the top player in Sweden for the first time in his career and jumped 101 ranking positions to do so.
I wouldn't expect Johansson to be a big threat at the clay-court French Open, but he'll certainly be among the favorites at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open later this year. He's 0-1 lifetime at Roland Garros, while going an impressive 8-3 in his combined appearances on the quick surfaces at Wimby and Flushing.