Bjorkman surprised by Birmingham surface

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The Independent Online

The opening shot of this week's Davis Cup tie between Britain and Sweden took the form of a psychological ground-stroke from Jonas Bjorkman yesterday concerning Britain's choice of court surface and ball.

"We are very surprised," said Bjorkman, Sweden's most versatile player, who eliminated Tim Henman, the British No 1, in the fourth round of the Australian Open. "We expected them to pick something really fast, but this is heavy and slow."

Britain, as the home nation for the World Group first round match over three days at the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham, starting on Friday, chose to play on Taraflex, a rubberised carpet court. Both Henman and Greg Rusedski, the British No 2, have won the ATP title in Basle on this surface. A Dunlop ball made in Germany has been selected by the British team.

Roger Taylor, Britain's captain, said: "The court is medium fast, not lightning fast. The ball stays down a little bit lower when you make a slice and shoots a little bit rather than kicking and lifting. It doesn't win you the match, but the boys feel that it plays a bit more like on grass.

"Tim and Martin Lee have been hitting on it and Greg and Jamie Delgado have been playing tournaments. If you can do well in a tournament there is no better training than that."

Bjorkman, defeated in the quarter-finals at the Australian Open by his team-mate Thomas Johansson, who went on to win the title, is the world's No 1 doubles player. "The doubles is always important, but especially so in this match," Bjorkman said. "We know what they will play with – they are a two-guy team. We have tended to have a strong doubles team over the years, whether it's me or not, but at the moment we are struggling because we don't really have a guy next to me. It could be Thomas Johansson, Thomas Enqvist or Magnus Larsson, and we'll have to do a lot or practice to see how it is going to play."

He added: "I heard that there is a phenomenal atmosphere for the tennis in Birmingham, and I would rather play in front of a full house even if they are cheering against me. Sweden and Great Britain are having a nice rivalry at the moment, and this match will really set things up nicely for the football in the summer."

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