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“All the sponsors, players and organizers are getting ready, I’m really excited,” tournament spokesman Christian Ahlqvist told The Local over the phone, with the sound of tennis balls thwacking around in the background.
Held inside Stockholm’s Royal Tennis Hall, the tournament has been played every year since 1969, attracting some of the biggest tennis names in Sweden and the world.
“All the big Swedish players have played in the Stockholm Open, Björn Borg, Mats Wilander. Former world number one Roger Federer won the title in 2010. We’ve had some really great players, its always been one of the tournaments to play in,” explained Ahlqvist.
Headlining this year’s contingent is Spanish world number four David Ferrer who is tipped to take home the trophy.
“Ferrer is coming from Shanghai, he’s a great player and he’s always performed very well here,” said Ahlqvist.
But if you thought it was a one horse race, think again. Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov and Polish giant Jerzy Janowicz (who is over two metres tall), both 22, are two young players looking to challenge Ferrer and show the tennis world that they belong at the top.
However the odds are against Sweden netting the championship. World number 444 Markus Eriksson is the only confirmed Swedish player so far, although more may find their way through in Friday’s final qualifications. But statistically, the odds aren’t historically in the Swedes’ favour, with the last winner, Thomas Johansson, in 2004.
A strong Swedish presence in the singles may be lacking, but the Swedish men are expected to do better in the doubles.
“Jonas Björkman is making a comeback in the doubles with one of the best doubles players in the world, Robert Lindstedt. So that will be interesting to see,” said Ahlqvist.
As for a tip for the winner, Ahlqvist likes world number 41 Jarkko Nieminen from Finland.
“Jarko is someone who’s been a bit on and off the court with injuries. He’s played here so many times before, he’s almost a Swede. Everyone would love to see him win one.”
Saturday marks the opening ceremony for the Open, which will be held on centre court and is free for everyone. The tournament begins on the same day, with the final scheduled for Sunday the 19th.