From the French version of Eurosport.com, an in-depth analysis on the persistant crisis of Swedish tennis that, with Robin Söderling's long absence, is becoming more and more evident. Twenty-five Grand Slam titles in the Open Era, no player in the top-300 now...
On the path of Björn Borg, the man who started it all, Swedish tennis has experienced a golden age in the '80s. Before a slow but irreversible decline. Whether the Davis Cup, the Grand Slam or ATP, the contrast between the golden age and the current period is striking.
GRAND SLAM: '80s, THE TIME OF DREAM
Four Swedish players have won at least one Grand Slam title in the Open era. Björn Borg, Mats Wilander, Stefan Edberg and Thomas Johansson. But the first three have offered 24 of these 25 wins to their country. Johansson’s in 2002 at the Australian Open had been a huge surprise. Before that, he had never gone past the quarterfinals in a Major tournament. Since then, he came there only once, reaching the semifinals at Wimbledon in 2005. Difficult, therefore, to place him in the same category as his illustrious seniors. We can distinguish three periods in the Swedish tennis since 1970. The first boils down to one man: Borg. It extends from the mid-70s to 1981. At that time, Sweden is Borg and nobody else. But winning eleven Grand Slam titles, he placed his country alone at the top.
Then the era of heirs. These are the '80s. The golden era of Swedish tennis. Borg won his last three titles (1980 and 1981 Roland Garros, 1980 Wimbledon). Then, a great generation took over. As you can see below, Sweden will earn no fewer than thirteen titles and ten major finals in ten years. Thirteen titles, this is more than the ‘70s, ‘90s and 2000s combined. And the same for the finals. Borg, Wilander and Edberg were of course the main contributors, but the density of Swedes at the highest level behind these three monsters was significant. Mickael Pernfors (finalist at Roland Garros in 1986), Anders Jarryd (semi-finalist at Wimbledon in 1985) or Jonas Svensson (semi-finalist in Paris in 1988) have also made their reckoning. Thanks to Edberg, the generation remained successful in the first half of the '90s. Since his retirement, one title, as we wrote, and four finals (Enqvist, Norman, Söderling).
DAVIS CUP: NO FINAL SINCE 1998
Again, sacred contrast between the current period and the ‘80s and ‘90s. Sweden won the Davis Cup for the first time in 1975, with Bjorn Börg as leader. But the star was still too lonely and, until the end of his career, the Swedes have never advanced to the final again. But from the ‘80s, the surfacing of the Wilander-Edberg generation, a duo fully supported by Jarryd, Nystrom, Sundstrom or Pernfors, would allow the Vikings to become the terror of the event. From 1983 to 1998, Sweden has played no fewer than eleven finals in sixteen editions, winning the Silver Bowl six times. Since then, nothing. Not any final and only two small semi-finals in 2001 and 2007. Worse, twice Sweden suffered the agony of relegation. In 1999, the thesis of the accident could prevail. But losing to Belgium in the play-off last month, the Swedes found themselves in purgatory again. This time, the recovery could take much longer.
ATP RANKINGS: THE DESCENT TO HELL
2012 will go down as the worst year ever for Swedish men's tennis. Since the start of ATP rankings in 1973, never the yellow and blue number one had been so misclassified. Of course, Robin Söderling’s lingering absence for health problems partly explains this gaping deficiency. But only in recent times without him the profound emptiness of Swedish tennis appeared in broad daylight. In nearly forty years, never the Swedish number one at the end of the season had been worse than the 41st ranked. This was Söderling in 2007. Now, the national "leader" is Patrick Rosenholm, 24, just back in the ... top 400, thanks to his first-round victory in Stockholm against Gaël Monfils. His first victory on the big circuit.
From 1974 to 1997, the Swedish number one at end of the season has always been in the top ten. The next fifteen years, this has happened only four times. Another sign of the decline of this great nation. Today, 36 countries have at least one player among the first hundred in the ATP rankings. This figure rises to more than 70 if we take into account the Top 300. 70 countries, not Sweden. Once again, the absence of Söderling changes. But even if he had been there, behind him there would be nobody. Now we see that 20 countries have at least two players in the Top 100.
- Book on history of Swedish tennis available in English
- Edberg and Järryd defeated in Båstad doubles exhibition
- Legends shine in Båstad
- The verdict on the future of our tennis: total darkness
- Tennis Magazine, an unlikely ranking of the best grasscourt players
- "The same Slams as Edberg and Becker? I got shivers..."
- Happy birthday, Stefan!!!
- Stefan Edberg, last winner on grass
- Merry Christmas from... Stefan Edberg :-)
- Celebrities queued in Södra Climate Arena
- Enqvist, 38, Sweden's top player
- Junior Peliwo completes Grand Slam finals poker
- Södra Climate Arena: all the details
- The Växjö tennis hall is open!
- STE...fans, your life has just begun!