Bjorkman busy before big test

Click to follow
The Independent Online

While seven of today's men's quarter-finalists were putting their feet up or hitting a few gentle practice balls yesterday, the oldest man in the last eight by a margin was grafting on court until after 4.30pm. Jonas Bjorkman is 34, making him six and a half years older than the next oldest man remaining - his opponent today, Radek Stepanek, 27 - and 14 years older than the whippersnapper in the pack, Rafael Nadal, 20.

Yet instead of taking time out to relax ahead of his biggest Grand Slam singles match for nine years, the Swede was competing in the men's doubles. To add spice, his partner was Belarus' Max Mirnyi, whom he beat in five sets in the singles on Monday. The spice evidently helped. He and Mirnyi advanced to the doubles quarter-finals by beating Martin Garcia and Sebastian Prieto of Argentina 6-1, 6-4, 6-7, 6-3.

Today Bjorkman stands one victory away from only his second Grand Slam semi-final. His first, at the US Open in 1997, ended in defeat to Greg Rusedski. The secret of being in the quarters here aged 34, he says, is "no expectations".

"I try to enjoy the moment of being here because obviously I know well my age," he said. "I don't have too many more Wimbledons, and that's why I need to be even more in a situation that I'm going to have to enjoy it."

Of his chances today, he added: "Obviously it's going to be tough to play him because he's one of those guys who's knocking on the door to be a solid top 10. I have to play really good tennis to beat him."

Victory would set up a semi-final with Roger Federer or Mario Ancic. The bottom half of the draw pits Lleyton Hewitt against Marcos Baghdatis for the right to face Jarkko Nieminen or Rafael Nadal. Eight different nations are represented, and for the third consecutive Grand Slam event, seven are European.

Federer, seeded to meet Nadal in the final, stoked the rivalry between them yesterday by apparently doubting the Spaniard's credentials to go all the way on the grass of Wimbledon.

"Obviously it will be interesting to see what happens on grass," said the world No 1. "We still don't know how good [Nadal] is because he's had a pretty good draw so far, even though Andre Agassi is a tough player.

"If Rafael made the final that would be quite a surprise to many, even though he's such a good player you might expect him to get there."