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  Sunday, 27 January, 2002, 14:25 GMT
Johansson surprises himself
2002 Australian Open champion Thomas Johansson
Johansson is not sure he can win another Grand Slam
BBC Sport Online's Colin Banks reports from the final day of the 2002 Australian Open.


Thomas Johansson - the unassuming Grand Slam Champion

If someone had told you two weeks ago that Thomas Johansson would be lifting the Australian Open trophy aloft today, you would never have believed it.

Johansson clearly didn't read the script, upsetting the heavily favoured Marat Safin in four sets, for a well-deserved victory.

He is possibly the most unassuming and unknown Grand Slam champion since Gustavo Kuerten burst onto the scene to win the 1997 French Open when he was ranked only 66.

Johansson, though, was the 16th seed here, but up until a few days ago he was only known within tennis circles, so quietly has he gone about his job.

He even admits himself that he is not the most interesting of characters, but that is all about to change.

"Maybe I'm not that interesting as a person. I've been playing for a long time now," he said.

2002 Australian Open champion Thomas Johansson
Johansson dropped the first set

"I am 27 after all. I just never thought I would win a Grand Slam one day, so this is unbelievable."

"Today was a dream come true. I don't have words to describe how happy I am."

The match was a strange affair with the majority of the crowd remaining subdued throughout.

Only a party of about 20 fanatical Swedish supporters, whom Johansson had arranged entry into the players enclosure, created noise.

They chanted and cheered after every point, and most sportingly even gave a rendition of Happy Birthday to Safin during the final speeches, at which point the whole crowd joined in.

Johansson was the more sluggish player at the start, perhaps because he had only arrived a short time before the match was due to start.

His coach had forgotten to book their courtesy car, so they were forced to head onto the streets of Melbourne and hail a taxi to the Tennis Centre.


I thought I had a small chance to win. Maybe if he broke his leg or something
Thomas Johansson

Johansson joked that he would be looking for a new coach after the incident.

When he stepped on court, he admitted that he did not give himself good odds on winning today.

"I thought I had a small chance to win. Maybe if he broke his leg or something," he said.

Johansson clearly underestimates his own ability.

He completely controlled the tempo of the match after dropping the first set.

The key was his returns, which kept Safin pinned to the baseline and his double-handed backhand, which was more potent than usual.

Although he made as many unforced errors as winners, he took the game to Safin and controlled the direction of play.

Safin displayed negative body language throughout, as if the self-confessed 'playboy of tennis' would rather be anywhere else than playing in a Grand Slam final.

He did get down to the task though, but admitted afterwards that he just couldn't find his game.

"I just didn't feel comfortable on the court today," he said.

"He was even overpowering me from the baseline, backhand to backhand, which is very unusual for me. I just didn't my play my best tennis."


I don't know if I'll ever win another Grand Slam. I definitely won't win the French, but I have a small chance here again, at Wimbledon and the US Open
Thomas Johansson

It was here two years ago that Safin was fined for not trying in his first round loss to qualifier Grant Stafford.

But by reaching the final and displaying some of his finest shot-making throughout the tournament, he finally laid the ghosts of two years ago to bed.

Johansson now cracks the top 10 as a result and secures a place in the Tennis Masters Cup in Shanghai at the end of the season.

Asked if he could do it again, he looked bemused at the prospect.

"I don't know if I'll ever win another Grand Slam. I definitely won't win the French, but I have a small chance here again, at Wimbledon and the US Open," he said.

"By winning, mentally it changes you though. You become more confident and know that you can go out there and beat all the top guys.

"I've just been working really hard. I did lots of running, lifting weights and playing squash in the off-season.

"My physical strength was always my weakness, but now it's my strength. That's the big difference from all the other years."

After the customary round of media interviews and photo-shoot, the celebrations could begin.

He was planning to take all of the Swedish fans out for a beer, before finally relaxing with his fiancée and coach.

Then it is back to Stockholm to start preparations for the Davis Cup tie against Great Britain in Birmingham in two weeks time.

Johansson joked: "My serve out wide was my biggest weapon today. Just don't tell the Brits." His victory adds a new dimension to what was already going to be a difficult Davis Cup tie.


Hantuchova finally gets her title

Daniela Hantuchova finally had reason to celebrate today after securing the mixed doubles title alongside Kevin Ullyett.

The first-time partnership defeated the Argentine pair of Paola Suarez and Gaston Eltis 6-3 6-2.

Daniel Hantuchova won the Australian Open mixed doubles with Kevin Ullyett
Hantuchova is the Wimbledon mixed doubles champion
Hantuchova now has a 11-0 career mixed-doubles record having won both events she has competed in.

She won the Wimbledon title last summer with Leos Friedl.

She was also runner-up in the ladies doubles here with Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario.

Hantuchova said: "After losing on Friday, I really wanted to take home one title, so I am really happy about today.

"I never would have expected to win two Grand Slam titles at 18. Mixed doubles should be fun though too. I like enjoying myself on court." Asked how the pair had got together, Ullyett responded: "She was on holiday in Cape Town when I was there so we practiced a little.

"After she killed me on the court, I pulled her coach (Nigel Sears) aside and asked if she had a mixed doubles partner for here.

"He said the list was as long as his arm, but he would add me to it. But luckily I got the green light."


Strycova spoils the party

Sixteen-year-old Barbara Strycova spoiled the Grand Slam debut of 14-year-old Maria Sharapova by defeating her 6-0 7-5 in the final of the girl's singles championships.

Sharapova has been the most-hyped player in the girl's event, storming to the final unseeded after recently signing lucrative deals with IMG and Nike.

Her inexperience was the key today though as Strycova blunted her opponent's power with a greater variety of shot making.

Both girls have to wait until they are 18 before being allowed to compete full-time on the Sanex WTA Tour.

France's Clement Morel dashed local hopes of claiming their only title this year when he defeated Melbourne's Todd Reid 6-4 6-4 in the final of the boy's singles.


Time to say goodbye

After two weeks of intense action and drama that at some stages has rivalled an episode of Eastenders for its collection of sub-plots, the 2002 Australian Open has finally drawn to a close.

British number one Tim Henman
Henman squandered a great draw

Looking back, it has been a strange tournament dominated from the start by injuries and latterly by its old friend, the weather.

It has been an unequivocal success with 518,248 people passing through the turnstiles, the second-highest figure ever, despite the poor performances of the Australians.

It has also created some memorable moments dominated by Capriati's historic victory from match point down.

But from a British point of view, you leave with a sense that a great opportunity passed here for either Tim Henman or Greg Rusedski.

Will an Open draw ever open up for them like here again?


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Jennifer Capriati defended her title against a resurgent Martina Hingis Aussie verdict
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