Tennis: Bjorkman serves reminder

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The Independent Online
THE spectators were getting better practice for Wimbledon than the players yesterday. As rain drove the Nottingham Open semi-finalists to the soulless echoes of indoor carpet courts, 200 or so of the paying public, denied access to the live tennis in progress, sat in the damp seats of an empty Centre Court to watch plastic court covers billowing in the wind.

At 3.30pm they were informed from indoors that Jonas Bjorkman of Sweden had beaten France's Jerome Golmard 6-2 2-6 6-3 in the second semi-final and would now play Zimbabwe's Byron Black, a 6-4 6-2 winner over Armenian Sargis Sargisian, in a final which they hoped to start, outside, on the grass, in an hour or so.

The sun had blasted the clouds away by the time Bjorkman and Black emerged to cheers at 5pm and took to a court still fresh through under-use. But they did not entertain the crowd for long as world No 9 Bjorkman blew his 40th ranked opponent away in a rapid 6-3 first set and broke serve to lead 2-0 in the second.

Black briefly maintained interest by breaking straight back with the confidence of a player who had beaten his opponent in two of their previous three meetings.

But Bjorkman hit back with the panache of a six-time tour winner who has won over pounds 4m in prize money. He quickly broke again and comfortably closed out the second set 6-2 to complete an impressive 57-minute win.

Just as at Queen's, (winner: Scott Draper. Wimbledon record: played three, lost three), this final did not seem to produce a reliable form guide for Wimbledon, but that may be a bit harsh on Bjorkman.

He has a cool head, volleys superbly and can disarm many a sonic serve with aggressive ground strokes, particularly with his backhand. But the fact remains that previous winners of the Nottingham Open (Rusedski, Siemerink and Frana) have never gone on to win at the All England.

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