About Stockholm Open
World class event with over 50 years of tennis history.
The Stockholm Open over the years
The Stockholm Open was founded in 1969 on the initiative of former world-ranking player Sven Davidsson. Today the Stockholm Open is played during one week in October with the involvement of about 350 volunteers and over 30,000 visitors. The Stockholm Open is the world's oldest ATP indoor tournament, and the only one on the ATP tour that is played in a real tennis hall. Names such as Björn Borg, John McEnroe, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Boris Becker are some of the major figures who have participated in previous years.
The Stockholm Open is not just for tennis enthusiasts and players – it is a world class event in so many ways. There are excellent opportunities here for networking and talks for corporate clients, hospitality packages for those who want to raise the tennis experience a level, a major focus on activities for children and families with children during the daytime, as well as wonderful surroundings and a great food and drink experience. There is the something for most people at the Stockholm Open!
The entire prize money disappeared at the pub
Things didn't start well for the Stockholm Open. The first tournament was supposed to start on Sunday 23 November, however, the organisers had neglected to inform a number of the registered players of that, including several of the stars.
Total chaos on the first day, but after humble grovelling and skilful work with a new order of fixtures, it worked out in the end.
Sweden had no stars to talk of in 1969, and that was obviously a miscalculation. However, Leif Johansson rescued Swedish honour to some extent by taking a set from the world number one Rod Laver.
The Rumanian Ilie Năstase made something of a breakthrough in the tournament, which, however, was won by the Yugoslav Nikola Pilić. It was his first major tournament win, and he was overjoyed. Until he received the bar bill. He had invited that year's entrants who were still in Stockholm to the Stallmästargården restaurant for the final evening and ended up with virtually none of the SEK 32,000 prize money left.
Smith had to work for his victory
Nikola Pilić returned to the Stockholm Open to try to defend his title and get away with the winnings before his friends dragged him off for an expensive celebration.
However, on this occasion he ran out of luck and was knocked out as early as the first round by a comparatively unknown Australian.
The big crowd favourite also came from Australia, Ken Rosewall. He played well throughout the tournament but didn't reach the final. In the semi-final he lost to the big server Stan Smith after a match that many of those present still remember today. Smith won 8–10, 6–2, 9–7 and was completely finished afterwards.
But he recovered and also won the final against his countryman Arthur Ashe after another real test of strength.
For Sweden's part, there wasn't much for the audience to cheer. The experienced Bosse Holmström was the only home player to proceed to the second round, where he did well but nevertheless lost to the superstar Roy Emerson.
Södertälje lads in the main roles
Stan Smith, who had fought his way to victory in the 1970 Stockholm Open, returned in triumph one year later.
He had been taking the tennis world by storm throughout the season, with major successes in the Grand Slam tournaments and the Davis Cup and was the big favourite in the Royal Tennis Hall this year too.
However, this time he didn't progress beyond the first round, losing by 7–6, 7–5 against an inspired and over-performing schoolboy from Södertälje, Leif Johansson, and demonstrating great sportsmanship in praising his opponent and not blaming anything other than that he hadn't been good enough.
Leif lost in the second round to a second-rater from New Zeeland and was not even the most celebrated Swede in the tournament. It was the veteran Jan-Erik Lundqvist who received most attention, making a comeback and filling the hall, and another Södertälje boy who took a set from the experienced Yugoslav Franulović.
That young man's name was Björn Borg and he was then just 14 years old.
The future was spelt 'Björn Borg'
Björn Borg attracted people to the Royal Tennis Hall. At barely 15 years old he had made his début in the Davis Cup during the summer and was obviously a headliner for the Stockholm Open.
And it went well. He outmanoeuvred both the Finn Pekka Saila and the Spaniard Andrés Gimeno and was well on the way to the quarter-final after having won the first set against the American Andrew Pattison. But the American's experience then took control and it was the end of Borg for the 1972 tournament.
The organisers took it with composure. A lad who could challenge the global elite as young as 15 was an excellent guarantee of the tournament's future. Björn Borg attracted both audience and sponsors.
The sympathetic Stan Smith took revenge on himself and won the tournament with no major problems. It was actually only in the first match that he had any opposition to talk of, and it was Ove Bengtson who provided it. Ove had a really good day, but hit rather too many double faults to be able to win in the long run. Smith's winning figures were 6–7, 7–5, 6–4.
Best when it counted – apart from in the final
The order of games was dramatically structured for Björn Borg. True, he was going to start by meeting a countryman, Birger Andersson from Småland, but in all probability Ilie Năstase awaited him – and if against all expectation he should win the match, Nikola Pilić and the new star Jimmy Connors in the semi-final.
But the entire edifice was close to collapsing. Birger played surprisingly steadily, won the first set and pressurised Björn into a tiebreak in the second. The deciding set was, however undramatic, 6–0 to Borg.
The match against Năstase was a thriller. Long, tiring duels and a third set which was spiced up by unsporting conduct from the Rumanian who thought that the crowd was disturbing him when he served.
When Björn finally won the set 7–5, the crowd was even more boisterous.
It also worked out against Pilić – a tough three setter again – and in the first real test of strength of quite a few between Borg and Connors, Björn came out as the winner. It was a proper battle, and the figures were 6–4, 3–6, 7–6. It was clear that the boy had something absolutely extra, that capacity to be best in crucial situations.
However, the tough games drained him in the final. The American Tom Gorman won a tiebreak in the third set and is perhaps still boasting to this day that he beat Björn Borg in a final in Stockholm.
Thigh injury hampered Björn
Björn Borg was a big boy now, 17 years old, and favourite to win the Stockholm Open. Last year's victor, Tom Gorman, had injured his foot and cancelled.
Unfortunately, now Björn also managed to get injured. He stretched a thigh muscle against Brian Gottfried in the third round and was clearly inhibited despite the fact that he outclassed Manuel Orantes in the quarter-final by 6–1, 6–1.
The injury problems were obvious in the semi-final, and Björn lost to the Dutchman Tom Okker. It was 5–7 in the deciding set, but afterwards he didn't offer any excuses. On the other hand, Okker admitted that he wouldn't have had much of a chance if the Swede had been fully fit.
That was confirmed in the final, where he was outplayed by Arthur Ashe, losing 6–2, 6–2. Okker was quite simply not on Björn Borg's level.
Disappointment in the Royal Tennis Hall, but one Swede received warm applause, namely Jan-Erik Lundqvist, who played his last elite match when he was knocked out by Ove Bengtson in the second round.
Panatta charmed and won
Never before had the Stockholm Open been so packed with stars. Top seed was last year's victor, Arthur Ashe, followed in order by Jimmy Connors, Guillermo Vilas, Björn Borg, Ilie Năstase, Jan Kodeš and Roscoe Tanner.
However, none of them took home the prize money. That was the Italian Adriano Panatta, who found a perfect balance in his play and was a hit with the public. Especially in the final against Jimmy Connors, who had knocked out the home favourite Borg in the semi-final. Panatta used his entire repertoire, winning easily 6–4, 6–3 with everybody in the hall standing up to cheer.
It was not just that Panatta's style had been appreciated, Connors' arrogant behaviour had made him unpopular both on and off the court. And of course he had knocked out Björn Borg who everybody wanted to see as winner.
There were good reasons that expectations for the 18 year old from Södertälje were running high. He had had a fantastic season, not least in the Davis Cup, and was already a superstar.
A ladies tournament was also held this year, more or less as a trial. Virginia Wade from the UK won the final 2 sets to 1 against Franҫoise Dürr from France.
Nobody had reckoned with Cox
Could the tournament be more packed with stars than last year?
Well, yes, as a matter of fact. Just about the entire global elite were on site, and like Borg, Connors was even bigger than in 1975 after a summer where their meetings had included a memorable final in the US Open.
The dream was that they would win their way through on each side of the draw in Stockholm and meet in the final there too. But things don't always turn out as planned – Borg was a bit off-colour and out of form and was knocked out in the third round by Brian Gottfried. Jimmy Connors lost a hard semi-final against the Englishman Mark Cox who hit top form at the right time and irritated Connors with varied and winning tennis.
Cox, who nobody had reckoned with beforehand, actually won the entire tournament. His tactics also worked against Manuel Orantes in the final and he won 4–6, 7–6, 7–5. Despite the Spaniard having led 5–3 in the crucial set and having the opportunity to serve to win the match.
"My greatest victory, but what luck I had. Someone up there must like me," Cox said.
Borg boycotted, Johansson surprised
Björn Borg did not like the way that sections of the Swedish press described his effort in the 1976 Stockholm Open, so he got his own back by not registering for the tournament in 1977.
It didn't affect the newspapers, it hit the organisers. And they were not happy, particularly not his clubmates in SALK, but Borg was a stubborn devil and didn't give way.
Instead, a number of other Swedish players got the chance to show themselves, and several of them won a match or two. The one who got farthest was the 26 -year old from Västra Götaland, Kjell Johansson, who went all the way to the quarter-final against the experienced South African Ray Moore but lost by a narrow margin.
Moore advanced right to the final. However, he met his match there against the American Sandy Mayer.
Mark Cox, who had won in 1976, went out in the second round.
Jubilee with tennis history
Björn Borg came, as did the latest American star, John McEnroe. He had displayed both class and temperament since his breakthrough at Wimbledon the previous year.
Everything was in place for a real spectacle, and that's how it turned out. Borg won all of his matches 2–0, as did McEnroe. Right through to the semi-final, where they met.
It was a very good match, which did not end in the way that the audience wanted. McEnroe won 6–3, 6–4 with Borg consequently losing for the first time against a younger opponent. Björn was now 21, John was 19. At the press conference they were both very polite – Borg predicted a glowing future for McEnroe, and McEnroe saying that Borg was still the best in the world.
But in Stockholm the young American was best. His countryman Tim Gullikson didn't have a chance in the final, losing 6–2, 6–2.
"I'll be back next year," McEnroe said.
And he was.
Moore advanced right to the final. However, he met his match there against the American Sandy Mayer.
Mark Cox, who had won in 1976, went out in the second round.
McEnroe came, saw and talked
Björn Borg had not yet won the tournament and was not one hundred per cent happy on the fast vinyl court.
He realised that it would be very difficult to win against McEnroe on that surface, and perhaps that was why he chose a tournament in Tokyo instead.
But McEnroe came. He came, saw and conquered. And talked. Talked to the extent that he turned a large proportion of the spectators and press against him. Many people thought that he gained advantages in an unsporting way through constantly moaning at the umpire and decisions, others simply enjoyed the spectacle.
At any rate, he won, even though he had to work harder for his victories than the year before. Not least in the final, where his countryman Gene Mayer won the first set 7–6 and led 3–1 in the second. But McEnroe showed his class and turned the match to his advantage.
The Swedes did not distinguish themselves to any great degree, though 16-year old Jan Gunnarsson nevertheless impressed when he gave Peter Fleming a hard match. But lost.
After a three year break, a new attempt was made with a ladies class in the tournament. The American superstar Billie Jean King, who was 36 a couple of weeks after leaving Stockholm, won the final against Betty Stöve from the Netherlands.
A surface that suited Borg
Björn Borg liked what he heard when he found out that the Stockholm Open was to be played on a slower surface.
The reliable old Holmsund slabs had started to become worn, and it was now time to change them. However, there wasn't much time before the tournament, so instead of ripping out the old and putting in the new a bit like you do at New Year, it had to be an emergency solution.
A portable rubber mat with very slow properties was rolled out on top of the Holmsund slabs. The new surface was unfamiliar to the elite, and some of them thought that the balls behaved strangely. Including John McEnroe of course.
But Björn Borg decided to turn up. He was out after revenge on McEnroe, not just for the SO semi-final two years previously, but also for a final defeat in the US Open a couple of months previously.
McEnroe gradually got used to the surface and went all the way to the final without losing a set. That wasn't the case for Borg, he had major problems with Yannick Noah, but nevertheless went all the way. And in the final he finally got his revenge, winning 6–3, 6–4.
It was Björn Borg's first triumph in the Stockholm Open. He had played in the 1973 final but lost against Tom Okker, and in 1974 he lost in the semi-final against Okker again. But now the joy of winning reigned supreme and the spectators were beside themselves.
So it was a happy end to a tournament that had had problems – with the Swedish Migration Agency. Apartheid was in force in South Africa and the world was beginning to take action against it, and it wasn't until the very last moment that the South African players were let into the country.
Hana Mandlíková from Czechoslovakia won the ladies category, but this was to be the last time that the ladies were to compete in the Stockholm Open, at least up to now. It was almost impossible for it to work economically when there were no Swedish girls in the world rankings.
New flooring, new generation
Being a tournament organiser is not easy. John McEnroe was angry that he had not got to play on what for him was the perfect surface in 1979 so he wasn't present in 1981, despite the fact that the slow flooring was not going to be used.
Instead, the Holmsund slabs had been replaced with a Plexipave floor, which was widely considered fair as it suits baseline players and net players equally well.
Borg, who had been comfortable on the rubber mat, did not come either. But that was more to do with the fact that he had taken a break from playing.
The list of entrants suddenly looked quite weak. But then a call arrived from Jimmy Connors' agent. Jimmy would like to have a wild card, possibly because he had noticed the opportunity to once again win a major tournament, and of course he was granted it.
Though this time he didn't win. He was outplayed in the semi-final by the big server Sandy Mayer, who met his little brother and training partner Gene in the final, loosing clearly.
The audience obviously missed Borg, but on the other hand could take heart that a completely new generation of young Swedes was emerging. Not least 17-year old Mats Wilander. This was a boy who might be something.
The tournament's worst crisis
South Africa was at centre stage when the Stockholm Open was forced into its worst crisis prior to the year's tournament. Forced – by the Swedish government.
After winning the election in September, the Social Democratic government under Palme had immediately decided that athletes from apartheid South Africa would not be welcome to compete in Sweden. The ban was implemented with immediate effect.
The problem was that two South African players had already registered for the tournament and applied for visas.
After an emergency visit to Paris by the competition director Hans-Åke Sturén, the problem was resolved with a dispensation, but the Stockholm Open was fined 25,000 dollars by the Association of Tennis Professionals, which also decided that Stockholm would be dropped from the Grand Prix programme if South Africans were not able to play in the future.
Well, in the end it was possible to hold the tournament. Public interest was concentrated on Mats Wilander, who had no major problems in getting to the final against the Frenchman Henri Leconte, against whom he had clear plus statistics.
However, Mats was a bit burned out and Leconte was in form. It was a French victory 7–6, 6–3.
The Swedish tennis miracle
The South Africa issue was resolved for the moment by the South African players. They understood the Stockholm Open's dilemma and refrained from registering.
And neither did Björn Borg. He had ended his career at the age of 26.
But things were looking good anyway. Wilander was going to come, along with Connors and McEnroe. Gene Mayer as well, and Gerulaitis and obviously last year's winner Leconte.
However, problems arose at the last moment. McEnroe was suspended after having sworn once too often at an umpire, and Noah was injured as was Sandy Mayer. And Connors suddenly decided that he didn't want to fly to Stockholm.
Irritating obviously. But the organisers had an ace in their back pocket, namely the Swedish tennis miracle. Lots of promising players who comfortably filled the space left by Borg.
Above all Mats Wilander was a trump card. He had won seven GP tournaments during the year and arrived in Stockholm as the big favourite.
He was in trouble against the Swiss Günthardt but coped with the crisis and went through the tournament without having lost a set to anyone apart from Günthardt.
Sweden against USA throughout the autumn
The Swedish youngsters had played themselves into the final of the Davis Cup. It was to be played in Gothenburg in December, and the Stockholm Open was perfectly timed for the start of November.
All the best Americans turned up, including Connors despite the fact that he had been fined 10,000 dollars for cancelling the year before, and all the Swedes obviously. In addition, there were some other strong names, including the South African Johan Kriek. He was able to attend as he had changed citizenship to become American.
Three Swedes and three Americans got to the quarter-finals, two Swedes and two Americans to the semi-finals.
McEnroe knocked out Järryd and Wilander knocked out Connors, both after tough three setters – and there was consequently a Swede and an American left in the final.
McEnroe had disrupted Anders Järryd in the semi-final with his angry outburst, which was the worst behaviour witnessed thus far at this level at such a late stage in a tournament.
McEnroe skillful and decisive
John McEnroe had had a shoulder injury during part of the autumn and was really up for it when he once more arrived in Stockholm to try to put the Swedish youngsters in their place.
Well, he wasn't particularly old himself – not yet 27 – but much more experienced than most.
The first Swede he encountered was Peter Lundgren, who had impressed in the first two rounds but was outplayed by McEnroe, 6–1, 6–3.
It was in the quarter-final, and after that only four players were left. John McEnroe – and three young, hungry Swedes. And that was with Mats Wilander having disappeared as early as the first round.
Anders Järryd knocked out Jocke Nyström in one of the semi-finals, and McEnroe played cunningly against Stefan Edberg, always responding well to his big serves. Two straight sets to McEnroe.
And in the final he really showed his class. Järryd tried everything but fell 6–1, 6–2.
Yes, McEnroe was impressive. Not just with his tennis, he only had one outburst throughout the whole tournament.
Everything came good for Edberg in the final
John McEnroe too had now tired of travelling all over the world and mainly played doubles when it suited him.
He certainly also missed the charged encounters with Björn Borg – he said later that those matches were the only ones which really meant something during his career.
Jimmy Connors hadn't stopped playing but was on the way down in terms of his capacity and avoided long trips like the one to Stockholm.
So for various reasons the Stockholm Open had a European character this year. Of 16 seeded players, only four were Americans – seven were young Swedes.
And it ended up as an all-Swedish final. Stefan Edberg fought his way through and won two very even matches (against Richard Matuszewski and Henri Leconte) 7–6 in the deciding sets. Mats Wilander too had to work to get through to the final but didn't lose a set, so he was favourite in the all-Swedish final.
It was played as the best out of five sets – though only three were needed. Stefan was absolutely superior, winning 6–2, 6–1, 6–1.
Total Swedish dominance
Sweden was now totally dominant in the tournament. Of the eight highest seeds, seven were Swedes, and after four rounds played it was clear that the four semi-finalists were all Swedes. And even then, Mats Wilander had been knocked out in the second round!
True, stars such as Boris Becker, McEnroe, Connors and Ivan Lendl were missing, and if one them had been present they would probably have got to the semi-final at least. But Sweden was an uncontested superpower – nine out of the 30 top ranked players in the world were Swedes.
Public interest was obviously massive, and lots of people had to return home in disappointment without a ticket. Tens of thousands, in fact.
Stefan Edberg and Anders Järryd met in one of the semi-finals A moral final, you could say.
Edberg won easily – and Jonas Svensson did the same in the other semi-final against Magnus Gustafsson.
In the final Svensson succeeded in grabbing the third set, but was never really a threat. Edberg won 7–5, 6–2, 4–6, 6–4 thus becoming champion for the second year in succession.
More patience would have given Lundgren the prize
Mats Wilander had won three Grand Slam tournaments during the year and Stefan Edberg the fourth, Wimbledon, so obviously the Stockholm public assumed that they would meet in the final.
However, for different reasons they were both poorly prepared and were knocked out before the quarter-finals. Mats admitted that he had started to lose motivation and never really got back to the top level after this season.
Life as an elite player was certainly glamorous but also hard work. The search for ever greater prize money destroyed the playfulness on court, which old top players like Rod Laver and Ilie Năstase also lamented when Boris Becker was praised during the award ceremony.
Precisely, Becker. He had got to the final against the sensational Peter Lundgren – who rescued the tournament from a Swedish perspective – and won despite the fact that he played with an injured foot. He had considered withdrawing but took a chance, and it worked out.
Becker couldn't understand that Lundgren was in such a hurry out there.
"If he had stayed on the base line and played the ball he would have won. I would never have managed more than three sets."
And that's precisely what it was, three sets. Becker won 6–4, 6–1, 6–1
Rejoicing and jubilation in the new Globen
Public pressure during the 1980s when Sweden dominated world tennis had led to the Stockholm Open needing a larger arena. The Royal Tennis Hall is certainly a pleasant and intimate facility, but it wasn't nice having to say no to thousands of interested people every year.
So now the tournament moved to the newly built Globen – which actually does look like a gigantic tennis ball – where there was room for everybody around the centre court. And that capacity really was needed, because it turned out to be another successful tournament for Sweden.
Wilander and Edberg were not in top form but nevertheless reached the semi-final, as did the surprise Magnus Gustafsson. So, three Swedes in the semi-final.
Wilander lost his against Gustafsson and Edberg against Ivan Lendl.
Would yet another Swedish player have a major breakthrough? The fact that the 22-year old Gustafsson from Skåne was in the final was a sensation and a small signal that a new Swedish generation was well on its way.
However, he wasn't quite good enough against Lendl. The Czech won 7–5, 6–0, 6–3.
It was rejoicing and jubilation for the organisers. 118,000 people paid admission during the week of the tournament, the Stockholm Open had been a success both economically and in terms of propaganda.
On the Thursday evening, when Jan Gunnarsson knocked out Boris Becker in third round in straight sets, the jubilation was heard almost all the way back to the Royal Tennis Hall.
Edberg in the final but Kulti most celebrated
Many of the world elite were present – they were attracted by playing in front of 12,000 spectators, which no other indoor tournament could offer.
The lack of breadth among the top Swedish players was worrying. Of the 16 seeded players in the field, only two were Swedes: Stefan Edberg, seeded number one, and Jonas Svensson in 15th place.
In other words, Mats Wilander was unseeded and had the bad luck to meet Edberg in the second round. An easy match for Stefan, 6–4, 6–3, and he steamed ahead all the way to the final. Or...steamed ahead is probably not the right expression, he fought his way forward on experience and strength, never actually convincingly.
In the final he met a Boris Becker in great form and had no chance. The German won 6–4, 6–0, 6–3.
The major Swedish exclamation mark was 19-year old Nicklas Kulti, who went all the way to the quarter final and emerged as the great Swedish hope for the future.
Becker had to work for victory
The list of entrants was first-class. All four Grand Slam winners arrived, including Stefan Edberg who had had a new lease of life and won the US Open in the late summer. And furthermore, Ivan Lendl turned up again.
But it was not Lendl's tournament. He was knocked out in the third round by his countryman Petr Korda, who had once been a ball boy when Lendl played.
Edberg demonstrated that he remained in form, as did Becker. It was consequently a repeat of the final between these two. Though on this occasion it really was a proper match – Becker did indeed win again, but not without having to fight for every point. Stefan was 2–1 up in sets, but Becker was strongest in the end, winning both the fourth and fifth 6–2.
Another old combatant who returned to Stockholm was Jimmy Connors. He was now 38 and this time was a real public favourite. But he went out in the second round.
Ivanišević served his way to victory
The Croat Goran Ivanišević had displayed both his dreaded serve and his feel for dramatic effects in 1991, but was then forced to retire due to an injury.
Now he was back, and despite the fact that the organisers had selected a somewhat slower surface than previously, he smashed in his big serves in match after match.
In addition, his return was sufficiently good to win all his matches and accordingly to get the final victory and the prize money.
Stefan Edberg was close to knocking out Ivanišević in the semi-final, but had to capitulate with the figures 6–4, 7–6 – 10–8 in a tiebreak – and the final was consequently played without Swedish participation for the first time since 1981. The Frenchman Guy Forget was the opponent but wasn't good enough.
It was a high class list of entrants, but more strong Swedes would have been needed to fill Globen. Only Edberg and young Henrik Holm succeeded in reaching the quarter-finals.
Stich enjoyed being in Sweden
The public returned to Globen to some extent after the organisers reconsidered and presented some attractive new features. Unfortunately none of the Swedish stars made it as far as the semi-final, even though both Jonas Svensson and Stefan Edberg got pretty close.
1993 was the German Michael Stich's big year for beating Swedes. First he led his Germany to a Davis Cup victory 5–0 against Sweden in Borlänge and then he came to the Stockholm Open and knocked out in order, Micke Pernfors, Magnus Gustafsson and Stefan Edberg on his way to the semi-final. There he won against the Swiss Marc Rosset, before crowning everything by boring Goran Ivanišević and winning the final 3–1 in sets.
Or bored...rather he met the Croat with his own weapon. A really big serve.
Yes, Stich probably did enjoy being in Sweden in the early 90s.
Back in the Royal Tennis Hall
Continuing to play in Globen started to seem a bit meaningless now that Swedish domination of world tennis had ebbed away.
It was quite simply not possible to attract 100,000 to a tournament where the Swedes didn't even reach the semi-final. So it was completely natural to bring the tournament back to classic ground, i.e. the Royal Tennis Hall.
However, this final tournament in Globen could not be avoided.
Of the nine Swedes who took part, the 24-year old Magnus Larsson from Blekinge did best. He impressed over three rounds, but had no luck against Pete Sampras in the quarter-final. Larsson fell in two straight sets, and there was thus no Swede in the semi-final this year either.
The Croat Goran Ivanišević reached his third straight Stockholm Open final, but was probably not in his very best form. He had clear problems against both the Swede Jan Apell som the American Andre Agassi, but got through thanks to his blistering serve.
It also started well in the final against Boris Becker, with Ivanišević taking the first set, but Becker took command and won 3–1.
Enqvist lasted all the way
The move from Globen to classic ground at Lidingövägen was appreciated by the vast majority, despite the fact that the tournament was no longer classified as a Masters tournament.
Quite a few new players had the chance to display themselves in Stockholm. But not just new players – at 31 years old, Mats Wilander registered for the tournament for the first time in five years. The organisers rubbed their hands together, but Mats was rusty after a break of several years from competing and he went out as early as the first round. He was knocked out by Mikael Tillström, whose highest ranking in the singles was 39th.
Things went even better for Thomas Enqvist, who had a good season in 1995 with five tournament victories. One of them was in Stockholm – he had a hard time against the German Dreekmann in the first round but after that there were no hick-ups. During the course of the week, he knocked out Stefan Edberg among others, and in the final against the Frenchman Arnaud Boetsch his baseline play was perfection. He won in two straight sets.
Emotional farewell for Edberg
No Swede has been more faithful to the Stockholm Open than Stefan Edberg. He played his first match in the tournament in 1982 and then took part every year until 1996.
He won in Stockholm in 1986 and 1987 and also lost two finals, both times – 1990 and 1991 – against Boris Becker.
The farewell to both the Stockholm Open and his ATP career was emotional. Edberg loved the public in Stockholm and they loved Edberg.
He would have preferred to finish with a major success, but unfortunately he went out as early as the first round against his friend Nicklas Kulti. Who in the next round was knocked out himself by Patrik Fredriksson.
The entire tournament was a Swedish success. Three of the semi-finalists were Swedes, and Thomas Enqvist took first prize again. He won the final against Todd Martin in three straight (though even) sets: 7-5, 6-4, 7-6.
It could have been an all-Swedish final, but Magnus Norman was forced to abandon the semi-final against Martin because of an injury.
Reneberg a winner in the end
A real Stockholm Open battle bid farewell to the public in the Royal Tennis Hall this autumn.
The American Richey Reneberg had been travelling back and forth over the Atlantic to almost every tournament for eleven years, but had rarely got to play more than two matches before it was time to pack up and move on. The guy obviously liked Stockholm.
He was not a bad player, not at all, but every year was drawn against one of the big servers, and that was that. Stefan Edberg, Boris Becker and Todd Martin knocked him out twice, Micke Pernfors, Thomas Enqvist and finally the Frenchman Cédric Pioline once each.
And yet Richey was able to conclude his love story as winner of the Stockholm Open. For in 1997 he won the doubles tournament together with the German Marc-Kevin Goellner.
In the singles it was a Swedish victory for the third year running. But on this occasion it wasn't Thomas Enqvist who won but 25-year old Jonas Björkman from Alvesta, who lost the first set in the final against the Dutchman Jan Siemerink, but collected himself to win three straight sets.
Fiasco for Sampras
He had recently become Wimbledon champion. He was en route to becoming world number one again. He was tennis king throughout the 1990s.
And after four years' absence, Pete Sampras, the man with the most feared serve in tennis, came to the Stockholm Open.
Yes, we had had our own world number ones on site for many years, but this was nevertheless the biggest thing to have happened to the tournament for some time.
The reason that he turned up was that he needed ranking points and asked for a wild card,
which he received.
But it ended up a mess. Sampras was exhausted, almost burned out, and went out as early as the first round against the rather mediocre Australian Jason Stoltenberg (who was knocked out in the quarter final by Thomas Johansson in straight sets).
Thomas nevertheless advanced to the final, but lost against Todd Martin, one of Pete Sampras' bitterest competitors in the USA and the world. He had the bad luck to be at his peak at the same time as Sampras, Andre Agassi, Jim Courier and Michael Chang and called himself ”the fifth Beatle”.
But in Stockholm in 1998 he was the one who played the leading role.
All-Swedish final when the clay specialist got going
Borg, Wilander and Edberg had left the scene, but Swedish tennis was doing pretty well nonetheless. At any rate in the Stockholm Open, where ten Swedes were included in the list of entrants.
Three of them were actually still left in the semi-final: Thomas Enqvist, Magnus Norman and the veteran Magnus Gustafsson who made his eleventh start in the tournament and achieved his best result.
Magnus was best on clay and won Båstad four times during his career. In Stockholm he was unseeded but impressed from start to finish. Not least when he knocked out Jonas Björkman in the quarter-final 6–4, 0–6, 7–5. A real thriller which the public loudly enjoyed.
In the semi-final against the American Jean-Michael Gambill, Magnus won the first set by fully 6–0 and perhaps thought that it would be a walkover. But Gambill came back and took the second set, which made the third a new test of nerves. In the end the Swede won 7–4 after a tiebreak.
However, Gustafsson did not win the tournament. Thomas Enqvist had been playing top tennis all week and won the final in three straight sets. His third SO victory in five years.
Only Björkman could disrupt Johansson
The first year of the century belonged to Thomas Johansson. At any rate in the Stockholm Open.
The then 25-year old from Östergötland, at that time advancing strongly in world tennis, started by smashing the title defender Thomas Enqvist (6–2, 6–2) as early as the first round and subsequently only lost sets against a single player, namely Jonas Björkman.
Their quarter-final dual was something extraordinary, a moral final with the benefit of hindsight. Björkman won the first set 7–6 (8–6 tiebreak), Johansson won the second 7–6 (9–7 tiebreak) and they matched each other in the deciding set as well. Johansson finally won 7–5.
One of the new players in the tournament was a 19-year old Swiss. Perhaps he was a bit dazzled by playing in the same tournament as superstars like Thomas Enqvist, Thomas Johansson and Jonas Björkman, but he kept going and displayed his excellent talent. He went through to the second round but got a hiding there from the Swede Andreas Vinciguerra and had to pack his things and go home to continue working on his groundstrokes.
He did that pretty well.
His name is Roger Federer.
Finnish sisu all the way to the
It is not often in the history of the Stockholm Open that players from one of our neighbouring Nordic countries have advanced a long way in the tournament. But it happened in 2001 – the 20-year old Finn Jarkko Nieminen came, saw and almost conquered.
He was probably practically unknown to the general public, but competitors and tennis people in general obviously knew that he had won the junior title in the US Open two years previously and that he was en route to becoming Finland's best player of all time.
And yet it was regarded as sensational when he knocked out the title defender Thomas Johansson and got to the semi-final.
He met Thomas Enqvist there, but surely that's where it would end? Surely, a Finnish player couldn't knock out two seeded Swedish players?
Well, yes he could. Nieminen played fantastically, winning in straight sets.
In the final against the Dutchman Sjeng Schalken, he put up a good fight but ultimately lost in a dramatic five setter. It should also be added that Nieminen qualified for the tournament, thus becoming the first qualifier to get all the way to the final.
Otherwise, we note from the 2001 tournament that an exciting Swede made his début. His name is Robin Söderling, but he was a bit green about the gills when he had Thomas Enqvist on the other side of the net and lost in two straight sets.
Lots of new nations in the list of entrants
There were players from eleven countries at the first Stockholm Open in 1969, and on that occasion the organisers had really made an effort to attract as many nationalities as possible in order to give the tournament an international feel.
In 2002, 16 countries were represented – without the organisers making the slightest effort to achieve a wide range. Tennis had really grown during the 33 years that had elapsed. Just like the Stockholm Open.
One of the many exotic players was Paradorn Srichaphan, a 23-year old Thai who had had his breakthrough earlier in the year and won the Long Island ATP tournament. He was seeded number seven in Stockholm, so there was actually no surprise that he won his way through. Especially since players seeded higher such as Lleyton Hewitt, Sjeng Schalken and Thomas Johansson were knocked out early.
But it was nevertheless still a bit of a surprise that he would go all the way to the final against Marcelo Rios and win it quite easily.
By the way, Rios came from Chile, which further underlined the internationalisation.
The return of the Swedes
Paradorn Srichaphan came back to Stockholm as title defender and top seed – but went out immediately against the barely qualified Dutchman John van Lottum.
Instead it is possible to talk about Swedish revenge. In 2002 only one Swede had got to the quarter-final, now there were four. Jonas Björkman, Joachim Johansson, Thomas Enqvist – and the 18-year old Robin Söderling, who was given a wild card and reached the final against the American hard court specialist Mardy Fish. Robin was close to a major breakthrough, but instead it was Fish who won his first ATP title.
The final was a test of strength for both the players and the spectators. Fish won the first set 7–5, Söderling the second 6–3. In the deciding set they matched each other to 6–6, but in the tiebreak the American had the stronger nerves, winning 7–4.
In general, the trend of having more nationalities continued. In the 2003 tournament there were 18 countries represented at the Stockholm Open.
Everybody spoke about Agassi
That Agassi. He had competed at the Stockholm Open on two occasions. 1990, when he was knocked out by Nicklas Kulti in the quarter-final, and 1994 when he also got to the quarter-final but lost against Goran Ivanišević.
Nobody thought that he would return, but after almost ten years, he registered again. 34 years old.
This time, Andre Agassi went all the way to the final after having knocked out Jonas Björkman among others. However, the prize money went to Thomas Johansson, who had battled his way to the final and also to victory. 7–4 tiebreak in the deciding set.
But it was Agassi's comeback that everybody spoke about. And about the tournament's sensation, the almost unknown 20-year old Michael Ryderstedt who luck and skill took all the way to the semi-final. However, once there he only took five games from Thomas Johansson, who for once was able to win quite comfortably.
Enqvist's last Stockholm Open
Nobody knew it then, but when Thomas Enqvist lost against the German Rainer Schüttler in the first round, it was his last match in the Stockholm Open.
He had then played in every tournament since 1991 – with the exception of 2002 when he was forced to retire because of an injury in the very first match. But he was there.
15 seasons, 36 matches. Most of them victories.
Three times he won the first prize. Only two players have done better that that, namely John McEnroe and Boris Becker.
Yes, Thomas Enqvist is a proper Stockholm Open icon, and he would certainly have taken part in 2006 too if his body had not definitively said no. He suffered numerous injuries in later years, and in April 2006 was forced to quit.
In the 2005 tournament, Paradorn Srichaphan hoped to be able to repeat his victory from 2002, but his opponent in the final, James Blake, broke him with his serves and forehands. Blake won quite easily 6–1, 7–6.
Finns in front of all the Swedes
In the year's first match of the Stockholm Open, a 20-year old Spaniard named Rafael Nadal made his début. He demonstrated excellent ability, but didn't seem completely comfortable with the fast surface.
Nevertheless, he won against the Dutchman Sluiter but succumbed in the second round to the four year older Joachim Johansson.
Who obviously had no idea that he had just knocked out a guy who would become one of tennis's greats.
Pim-Pim, which is what Joachim Johansson is called, advanced to the semi-final but lost against the Finn Jarkko Nieminen. As Robin Söderling lost the other semi-final against the American James Blake, the best Swede – well, all Swedes obviously – for the first time in the Stockholm Open's history, had another Nordic player in front of them in the results list.
Though the excellent Nieminen had no chance against Blake, who won 6–4, 6–2.
The final was significantly less evenly balanced than the semi-finals, two real marathons. Nieminen's victory figures against Pim-Pim were 7–6, 6–7, 6–3, Blake's against Söderling 7–5, 7–6.
Johansson served into submission in the final
Thomas Johansson won the Stockholm Open in 2000. Thomas Johansson won the Stockholm Open in 2004. Thomas Johansson won...no, he didn't win the Stockholm Open in 2007, but wasn't far off.
He knocked out a young Juan Martín del Potro, he knocked out Michaël Llodra, Mario Ančić and title defender James Blake and was thus in the final.
Against Ivo Karlović. The gigantic Croat Ivo Karlović, six foot nine tall and with the tennis world's most blistering serve. And moreover, in the form of his life.
Thomas acquitted himself well in the final, bringing the sets level at 1–1 after losing the first. But Karlović was best on this occasion, winning the deciding set 6–1.
Aside from Johansson's effort, the Swedish contribution was slightly worrying. No-one else made the quarter-final, even though Pim-Pim Johansson pulled out due to injury and could have gone to the semi-final at least.
Nevertheless, the Swedish input can probably be viewed as a slight premonition that our men's tennis was heading towards something of a dip.
Only Nalbandian could give Robin a match
Söderling showed his class throughout the tournament, getting to the final without losing a single set.
In the final he met the Argentinian baseline player David Nalbandian, for whom he had well-founded respect. Robin had lost against him in a Davis Cup match a couple of years previously – and now he was beaten again. 6–2, 5–7, 6–3 to the Argentinian.
After his tennis career, Nalbandian didn't become a trainer or something else in the sport – rather he became a ...rally driver.
End to Swedish enjoyment
There was something missing in the Royal Tennis Hall this autumn, but what?
Well, Swedish enjoyment in the Stockholm Open.
Jonas Björkman had finished after 16 years in the tournament.
Thomas Johansson had also quit. 13 years there.
Joachim Johansson went out in the quarter-final.
Robin Söderling got to the semi-final but withdrew with an elbow injury and had to give a by.
But the audience in the Royal Tennis Hall always find something to cheer them up. The Belgian Olivier Rochus had been involved every year apart from one since 2002, so he was part of the family in some way. Felt almost Swedish and received support from the crowd which actually took him all the way to the final.
But the cheers didn't help him there. The 24-year old Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis, who was playing his first tournament in Stockholm, benefited from his somewhat chancy, but gentle, tennis and won 6–1, 7–5.
Federer back as victor
The former major players Thomas Johansson and Jonas Björkman were responsible for putting together a strong list of entrants, which they did with panache.
They succeeded in enticing Roger Federer, who hadn't played in Stockholm for ten years, and when it became known, ticket sales exploded. The tournament was a great success with the public, and even when the popular Swiss trained, it was full around the centre court.
It was a splendid tournament overall, with strong names such as Ivan Ljubičić, Florian Mayer, James Blake and Tomáš Berdych.
The only one who could try to compete with Federer for the public's appreciation were the Swedes Filip Prpic, Michael Ryderstedt and Robin Söderling. Robin reached as far as the quarter-final where he fought bravely but fell against Mayer.
Even though Federer had had some injury problems during the season, he still won the tournament. The only set he lost was against his countryman and friend Stan Wawrinka, who was making his début in the Stockholm Open.
When Federer stood alone as the winner of the tournament, he received the trophy from H.R.H Crown Princess Victoria.
Oh what a sad cancellation
Robin Söderling was in great form. He took ATP victories in Brisbane, Rotterdam, Marseille and Båstad and also did well in Roland Garros and Wimbledon.
Obviously he was going to be one of the hot favourites in Stockholm as well.
However, after Båstad week he caught mononucleosis and cancelled in Stockholm.
The fact is that he never did come back. He was totally focused on it, but his illnesses obstructed all attempts and just before Christmas 2015 he announced that he had played his last match at elite level.
Eleven SO débutantes took part, and one of them won the whole tournament. Namely the top seeded Frenchman Gaël Monfils, who beat Jarkko Nieminen in the final. The Finn had been really loyal, this being his twelfth straight start in Stockholm.
There was only one Swede, Michael Ryderstedt, in the list of entrants and he fell away as early as the first round.
Rosenholm ignited hope
24-year old Patrik Rosenholm thanked the competition management for his wild card to the tournament by causing an upset against last year's winner, Gaël Monfils. 2-1 in sets to Rosenholm.
However, the upset had such an impact that young Patrik did not achieve the same class in the next match, losing to the number seven seed, Mikhail Youzhny.
Jarkko Nieminen, who had entered for the 13th, but not the last, time, also fell by the wayside in the second round. In his case against Lleyton Hewitt.
You could say that the generational change was continuing. 13 players came to Stockholm for the first time , and one of them was the finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga from France. But the winner, the Czech Tomáš Berdych, had been here before. He had made his début as far back as 2004, but had never before got farther than the quarter-final.
Nice comeback by Pim-Pim
An old hero made his comeback. Joachim Johansson, Pim-Pim, had retired a couple of times but decided to make a temporary comeback in the Royal Tennis Hall.
He was given the chance to qualify and did surprisingly well in the qualifiers. Defeated three quality opponents and then won easily against the Colombian Alejandro Falla in the first round proper of the tournament.
He then ran out of steam. Pim-Pim lost against the Canadian Milos Raonic but nevertheless gave him a proper match. Old heroes are always loved by tennis followers.
The Spaniard David Ferrer was top seed and made the final without a hitch. There he met the Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov, who had been ranked number one in the world as a junior, but who had subsequently not fully lived up to the expectations.
The final also started well for Ferrer. He won the first set 6–2, but then Dimitrov took two straight sets, thus achieving his own and Bulgaria's first ATP title.
A glimpse of a bright future
Three Swedish players were given a chance in the tournament. Patrik Rosenholm, Christian Lindell and Elias Ymer.
Patrik Rosenholm had been a surprise two years previously and fought well on this occasion too. However, Bernard Tomic from Australia was a bit better, winning 6–4 in the deciding set.
Christian Lindell had grown up in Brazil, but his father is Swedish so he chose to represent Sweden. However, he went out in the first round.
18-year old Elias Ymer from Skara also lost immediately, but nevertheless displayed his talent to the crowd, which loves home players.
The Czech Tomáš Berdych came to the Stockholm Open for the fifth time since 2004 and won for the second time. He entered in the second round and, in order, defeated the German Dustin Brown, Marius Copil from Rumania, Matthias Bachinger from Germany and finally, the Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov. Even matches all the way through, but Berdych was a winner this autumn.
Second straight win for Berdych
Mikael Ymer received a wild card and fought well against the German Alexander Zverev, but he wasn't quite good enough in the deciding set.
The Czech Tomáš Berdych also received a wild card as the registration period had expired when he got in touch, and things went better for him. Knocked out Zverev in the second round and Grigor Dimitrov in the quarter-final. It was Dimitrov who had won the tournament two years previously and who Berdych had defeated in the 2014 final, so he was clearly a difficult opponent.
And it was a hard match. Berdych won 7–5, 6–4.
The semi-final was simpler. Marcos Baghdatis certainly was a skillful player, but now he was injured and should have dropped out. But he made an attempt and had to give up after one set.
Berdych was thus through to the final for the second year in succession. This time against the American Jack Sock, who was on the way up as a singles player but was not good enough this time. Berdych was in good form and had plenty of self-confidence. He took his second straight win in Stockholm.
No title for Sock but ultimately a Swedish triumph
Jack Sock came to Stockholm with high hopes. He was participating for the fourth year in a row and probably thought that the route to a final victory lay open.
Sock was not exactly spoiled with tournament victories, so he was really up for it.
But he had to work. Three sets and a tiebreak in the decider against the Tunisian Jaziri, three sets against the Jamaican German Dustin Brown, two hard sets against the Portuguese Elias – and then three even harder sets in the semi-final against Alexander Zverev. 6-7, 7-6, 6-4.
Not surprising that Jack Sock looked a bit weary in the final. He lost 7–5, 6–1, but it has to be said that the opponent was first-class. In fact, Juan Martín del Potro is a superstar.
Both the Ymer brothers took part. Elias went out immediately, but Mikael had better luck. He knocked out the Spaniard Verdasco but lost in the second round to Ivo Karlović from Croatia.
However, the brothers were a success in the doubles tournament. They won the whole thing after beating Mate Pavic and Michael Venus in the final.
Del Potro dropped just one set
This time it was Elias who was most successful of the Ymer brothers. Elias won his first match, but then fell against the top player Fabio Fognini from Italy.
The Stockholm audience love former champions so many people had their fingers crossed for last year's winner Juan Martín Del Potro. He plays powerfully and always has a special charm. And it certainly went smoothly for the Argentinian again. He won in two straight sets against the German Jan-Lennard Struff in his first match and had no problems in the quarter-final against the Japanese Yūichi Sugita either.
On other hand, the semi-final opponent Fernando Verdasco was a tough nut. It required a tiebreak in the deciding set, but Del Potro was under no threat there.
Grigor Dimitrov wasn't really himself in the final. He played feebly and with no inspiration, losing 6–4, 6–2.
"I think that my serving is decisive," Del Potro said.
Stefano's victory got Greece dancing
The 20-year old Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas had been in the Royal Tennis Hall as early as 2011 and 2012 to play in the Tennis Europe Junior Tour. The farthest he reached was the second round. Now he returned, making a historic effort and taking his first ATP title.
And not only that – it was actually Greece's first ever victory in an ATP tournament.
His mother has also been a professional tennis player in her time and his father a tennis coach, so obviously they celebrated. On site moreover, for they were both in Stockholm to see it happen.
Stefano lost just one set en route to the awards ceremony, and that was in his first match against John Millman from Australia.
In the final he outmanoeuvred the Latvian Ernests Gulbis, who had never lost an ATP final before.
"I have had a great time here in Stockholm," Tsitsipas said. "That was probably why it went so well."
Elias Ymer performed really well against Jack Sock. He took the second set and played elegant tennis with many spectacular moments.
"He has an interesting future," Sock said about the Swede.
Shapovalov won fairly
Just like Tsitsipas, the 20-year old Canadian (who was born in Israel but moved with his family before he was even one year old) took his first ATP title in Stockholm and was at least as happy.
He was seeded number four in the tournament, but when the three higher ranked players disappeared as early as the second round, he realised that he had a chance.
He played four matches and didn't lose a set.
Though the Ymer brothers are advancing every year, unfortunately Elias went out in the first round against the Japanese Sugita and Mikael in the second round against the German Stebe. Otherwise, Mikael had a really good year and is now in the top 100 rankings (74 at the time of writing) and has moreover been nominated ”Newcomer of the year” in the 2019 ATP Awards. The future feels truly exciting for Swedish tennis!
Highlights from 2021
2021 Singles winner Tommy Paul
Singles winner Tommy Paul and runner up Denis Shapovalov.
Gonzalez and Molteni, Stockholm Open Doubles Winners 2021.
Team Syd and Team Syd, Winners of the Sofias Cup and the Pirres Pokal 2021.