Joachim Johansson: The Tennis-X Interview
Posted on September 12, 2004
By Richard Vach
Six-foot-six Swede Joachim "Pim-Pim" Johansson shot to prominence at the 2004 US Open, upsetting defending champion Andy Roddick in five sets in the quarterfinals before being halted by Lleyton Hewitt in the semis. Last year Johansson's ranking was not high enough for direct entry into any of the slams and he spent much of the time playing Challengers, but he qualified at the 2003 Australian and US Open, losing both times in the first round to American Mardy "Silver" Fish. Tennis-X caught up to Johansson at the Open, just days before he would face Roddick:
Tennis-X: What's your current status on the Swedish Davis Cup team? I know they've been working you in the last couple ties, what do you see for the next couple ties?
JJ: Hopefully the old guys are still going to be playing (laughing), (Thomas) Johnasson is coming back right now, (Robin) Soderling, we've got (Thomas) Enqvist and (Jonas) Bjorkman who is a little bit older, hopefully they can keep playing, especially Bjorkman for the doubles. If he stops playing then the doubles team is going to get weaker. Me and Soderling are upcomers, I think it been working good for us because me and Robin played this year, and I was in the team last year, I played dead rubber against Australia as well. We've got (Andreas) Vinciguerra who is coming back soon, so we have three guys who are normally around the Top 50, even if the others guys quit we have a strong team.
Tennis-X: Was there any panic in Sweden when the older guys were approaching retirement age and there didn't seem to be any young players coming up? Because in the U.S. there is a great panic when it looks like the old stars are retiring and there isn't anyone on the horizon.
JJ: Yes, yes. Because I'm the same age as Roddick and Fish is one year older, I knew there was pressure because they were telling me and it was actually the same in Sweden. They were asking when the next guys were going to come and I was pretty high up in the juniors and the same with Soderling, so it was good, but apart from us there weren't that many guys, so they were hoping that apart from us some other guys would come up.
Tennis-X: We know where Pim-Pim came from because that's been talked about a lot, but is that your preferred nickname, are there any other nicknames?
JJ: That's about the only one I think. If your name's Joachim you get the nickname Jocke (pronounced "Jorka"), that's what I was called in school but in tennis everyone calls me Pim-Pim.
Tennis-X: And that came out of your family, right?
JJ: Yeah my brother said "You are Pim-Pim." So I've had it just about my whole life, sometimes I even introduce myself as Pim-Pim.
Tennis-X: For about four years it looked like you were struggling outside the Top 100, then your game kind of took off, is that because your serve developed more, or what do you attribute that to?
JJ: After I played juniors, when I turned 19 I had an injury in my wrist, I got injured in March 2001, then I played one tournament that year, then I started to play in February the year after. So in 11 months I played one tournament, so that held me up a lot. Then the year after I was struggling a lot because I was losing a lot of matches. Last year I started to play well, last year here I qualified (at the US Open) then I lost to Fish, after that I play well, I won a Futures, then I won or made finals in every Challenger I played for the rest of the year.
Tennis-X: What about the injuries now?
JJ: It's been good so far, this year. In Davis Cup I had some injuries in my back and shoulders because I played a lot at the beginning of the year, I played in Australia, in Memphis (his first title) then back for a few days and I played Indian Wells, Key Biscayne and Boca Raton (Davis Cup vs. the U.S.), that was a little too much for me. Because I played in October and November -- I played seven tournaments, I made final in all of them, then straight after that I didn't have any preparation season because I had three weeks in Australia, I went straight there because I was just trying to get into the Australian Open. I've always served pretty good, but I think it's more consistent now, I get a lot on my second serve, I think my return is getting better and better. Before I could always hold my serve but it was always tough to break them so they didn't feel the pressure, but I think now they start to feel the pressure more and more and I'm trying to develop it more and more.
Tennis-X: Well you must have developed it pretty well with (Swedish Davis Cup captain) Mats (Wilander) putting you in the Davis Cup doubles?
JJ: Yeah, so that was good for me.
Tennis-X: What about facing (potential brother-in-law) Lleyton Hewitt on tour for the first time?
JJ: Sydney this year, I lost to (Arnaud) Clement second round, I would have played him. Last week I thought there was a pretty good chance when I was up 5-4 against (Paradorn) Srichaphan, so...
Tennis-X: So you know where he is in the draw at tournaments?
JJ: Yeah (laughing).
Tennis-X: What would it be like, to play Lleyton?
JJ: I would enjoy it, the pressure's not on me (laughing). Obviously we both know how we're playing, he gets a lot of balls back. Normally I like to play guys who don't do much with the ball because my game is to be aggressive, but it would be tough against him...I would like to see it if I play him.
Tennis-X: Thanks Joachim.
Johansson got his wish a couple rounds later when he faced Hewitt in the US Open semifinals, with Hewitt's superior return-of-service skills seeing him to a straight-set win. Johansson was born in Lund, Sweden and has residence in Sodertalje, and also spends part of his year in Australia with girlfriend Jaslyn Hewitt.