Have the tennis fortunes of a country ever changed as
dramatically as Sweden's? The axis of Bjorn Borg, Mats Wilander
and Stefan Edberg accounted for 24 Grand Slam singles titles from
1974 to '92. Since then, Swedes have claimed just one
major--Thomas Johansson's unexpected 2002 Australian Open
victory--and last year, for the first time since 1973, no Swede
won a tournament. But there are signs of a renaissance. Robin
Soderling, a lanky 19-year-old with metronomic consistency from
the backcourt, is one of only two teenagers in the ATP's top 50.
Joachim Johansson (above), 21, a 6'6" behemoth who routinely
serves in excess of 125 mph, has moved up from No. 133 at the
beginning of the year to No. 50, thanks in part to winning his
first ATP title, in Memphis last month.
What's more, with contributions from veteran Thomas Enqvist and
doubles doyen Jonas Bjorkman, the Swedish team last month kicked
off Davis Cup play by making herring salad out of Australia, the
defending champ. (The upset win was freighted with extra
significance for Joachim Johansson, who dates the younger sister
of Lleyton Hewitt, the top Aussie player.) The Swedes will now
face a U.S. team headed by world No. 3 Andy Roddick on April 9-11
in Delray Beach, Fla. "I'm not predicting we're going to win,"
says Soderling, "but we definitely have a lot of confidence for
the future." --L.J.W.