2002 Australian Open 2002 Australian Open

  Posted: Sunday January 27, 2002 2:53 AM
Updated: Sunday January 27, 2002 2:53 AM's Marc Lancaster breaks down the stats and strategies from Thomas Johansson's 3-6, 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 (4) win over Marat Safin in the final.
 Safin   Johansson  
First-serve % 63%
90 of 142
64 of 115
Aces 13 16
Double faults 2 4
36 43
Winning %
on 1st serve
60 of 90
55 of 64
Winning %
on 2nd serve
28 of 52
27 of 51
(incl. service)
39 53
Break point
3 of 6
3 of 14
29 of 53
36 of 49
points won
121 136
  Thomas Johansson had never advanced past a Grand Slam quarterfinal before. Mark Dadswell/Getty Images

Safin broke Johansson's serve in the first and last games of the first set, then did it only once more in the match. Johansson was jittery throughout the opening set, but he turned it around right away in the second. He broke Safin's serve in the third game of the set, prompting the Russian to break his racket upon sitting down for the changeover. That break opened the door for Johansson, who visibly gained confidence while Safin crumbled for the next two sets.

Thomas Johansson served well and moved well, and best of all, he let Safin keep on digging himself a hole when the Russian got down. Johansson is not a flashy player -- he even calls himself dull -- but he certainly pulled out some nifty shots, especially at the beginning of the decisive tiebreaker. Twice he passed Safin with ease, building himself a comfortable lead that would prove handy when nerves took over for a couple of points.

Marat Safin has plenty of years of competitive tennis ahead of him, but the bet here is that we'll never be able to figure out exactly what is going on in that head of his. A little overconfidence is perhaps understandable, but you'd think dropping the second set would have awakened the birthday boy. Instead, Safin grew more and more lackadaisical. The most surprising part of the match was that he even got to a tiebreaker in the fourth set, considering how poorly he had played and how little he seemed to care late in the match.

This may very well be the pinnacle for Johansson, and that'd be OK with him. He's closer to the end of his career than the beginning, but now he can always claim a Grand Slam championship, and that's pretty remarkable. Sure, his half of the draw resembled a Tier IV event in mid-September, but the guy did what he had to do. Only one of his seven matches was finished in straight sets, so he definitely earned his shot at the title, and came through in the end. As for Safin, he'll play on the second weekend of Grand Slams for as long as he wants to, and he'll probably take home a couple more titles too. And it'll always be entertaining to watch.