Johansson delivers Wimbledon warning

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The Independent Online

Thomas Johansson is unlikely to earn much attention in the build-up to Wimbledon, but the bookmakers would be unwise to underestimate him after he picked up his first grass-court title here yesterday.

Johansson beat Fabrice Santoro 6-3, 6-7, 6-2 in a slightly ill-tempered final to win the Gerry Weber Open. The 26-year-old Swede served for the title at 5-4 in the second set, but let himself be distracted as Santoro took a deliberately slow injury time-out to swallow an aspirin. The Frenchman was irritated at being kept waiting while Johansson had problems with strapping on his left thigh, which at one stage required him to ask the umpire for a pair of scissors.

"I don't know where his problem came from," said Johansson, "but you shouldn't do that. It's not nice. He was wrong." Whether right or wrong, Johansson was the architect of his own temporary downfall, serving two double- faults as Santoro broke back for 5-5. But after losing the second set tie-break 7-5, the Swede reasserted himself to break twice for his fifth career title.

Johansson's delight with a result which will take him to around 16th in the 52-week world rankings will be tempered with the knowledge that none of the eight previous Halle champions has gone beyond the fourth round at Wimbledon.

Neither has Johansson, which is odd given his prowess on fast surfaces. His best at a Grand Slam was squandering two match points in a 1998 US Open quarter-final against Mark Philippoussis, but the way he beat Santoro yesterday and Yevgeny Kafelnikov 6-3, 5-7, 6-2 on Saturday suggests both his reputation and that of the Halle champion are due some rehabilitation at Wimbledon. He travels to the Nottingham Open today, but will take medical advice on whether the mild pain in his left thigh ­ which did not affect him in yesterday's final except for the troublesome strapping ­ should cause him to withdraw.

* Alex Corretja's expected withdrawal from Wimbledon was confirmed last night when the All England Club revealed he had pulled out "due to a leg injury". The Spanish clay court specialist, who lost to Gustavo Kuerten in the French Open final earlier this month, has strongly opposed the Wimbledon seeding system for several years.

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