Larsson speak out about the difficult time as world nr 10 and Swedish nr.1.

On the surface it looked as if the tennis life was great for Magnus Larsson. In fact, he fought a hard battle against anxiety.

- It was a tough time and I was not feeling good at all. But I kept it to myself. Talking about the kind of illness was more taboo then than today, says the 46-year-old Swede before the Kings of Tennis which begins on Wednesday in Stockholm Waterfront.

Then, after just over half an hour seems time to round off the interview, Larsson  begins candidly tell me about the difficult period during the first half of 1995. The season before, he had been in Sweden's victorious Davis Cup team, has been in the semi in the French championship and took the title of richest Grand Slam Cup.

Everything seemed to go upward Larsson. Since the summer of 1995, he broke his leg in an exhibition match in Gävle, at this time he also lost his continued upward trend and he would would never again place in the  top ten.

- Of course I thought about what could have happened if I did not hurt myself, and above all, there are many others who speculate what would have happened as well.

What do you think?

- I had every opportunity to go to the Masters (playoffs with the eight best ranked) and I had a shot at being in the  top-five. I had no points to defend in the summer.

After saying this  Magnus Larsson opens up about this time.

- In a way, the injury was good for me. It was nice to get away from the attention. Previously, I had been able to play without pressure, but now I was ranked before Stefan (Edberg) and Mats (Wilander), and this changed my situation. I felt pressured to not loose. It created anxiety and concern.

How did it manifest itself?

- I a lot of pain in my stomach and underwen at gastroscopy but they didnt find anything that was wrong. The stomach ache was caused by something else.

Despite not feeling 100% psychologically, he continued to produce good results.

- Cooperation with Calle and Stefan (coaches Carl Axel Hage Forest and Stefan Simonsson) worked very well and I had a lot of fun on the court. But not otherwise, he says.

My situation had done more damage than good.  

- It was also a nice break when I was with family and friends. I was able to get back on my feet  and get back to who I was before. I dont know what could have happened if I just continued to play, says Magnus.

He is in the tennis circuit known as a relaxed and comfortable guy with distance to both himself and his athletes, all seasoned with a large dose of humor and quick responses.

But behind the facade is a sensitive person deep down, which may not have had as much confidence as he radiated.

This is what he says about his career:

- I never really believed in myself, that I, for example, could take a Grand Slam title has not been in my thoughts. My big goal was to win the Davis Cup, where the team had so many good players who can help.

"But Magnus took the title in Grand Slam Cup," it's probably several readers who object.

Yes, he did and won $ 1,500,000 which then - in 1994 - was one of the largest money prizes distributed. The tournament was started by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) and was dispute with player-owned ATP and a sky-high sum of prize money wanted to trump the ATP's Masters finals.

But the Grand Slam Cup never got the high status of the ITF hoped. ATP refused to award ranking points and only then the tournament after ten years buried, ATP decided that the  Grand Slam Cup titles would be included in the statistics.

On his way to the title, Magnus defeated in turn, Stefan Edberg, Andre Agassi, Todd Martin and Pete Sampras.

What do you remember best?

- Nothing really.

What?

- I really did not care in the tournament, and most went there to go straight home again. I was exhausted after DC, completely finished at this point.

Yet he won.

- I slept, trained and played some games. I played relaxed, without any expectations. But it was as if I still was not quite there, said Magnus and continues:

- At the same time, it was of course a bit bewildering to win the tournament and had it been at any other time than right after the DC-final, it would have felt huge.

- But there are many who talked up that victory and many confuse the Grand Slam Cup with the Masters, of those who are not really familiar with, it is certainly 90 percent who believe that I won the Masters.

National Team Games was number one for the Swede and right victory in DC-final against Russia in 1994 is his fondest memory of his career.

- Throughout the autumn, the DC-final my only real goal, how it I played in other tournaments didn’t matter as much. I had been playing well in DC semifinal but was still not sure of playing the final. I barely slept the week before, so high was the tension.

With the 3-2 victory against Russian star Yevgeny Kafelnikov got Magnus  a lead for Sweden 2-0 after Friday's singles title was secured in the doubles by Jonas Bjorkman and Jan Apell.

Even three years later Larsson participate and lift the trophy. 5-0 at home against the United States and Larsson got after 1-1 in sets see the injured Pete Sampras give up early on the third.

It was precisely the Davis Cup that got Magnus Larsson to play.

- I saw the finals since Sweden in 1975 defeated Czechoslovakia won the Davis Cup for the first time. The day after Dad bought a racket to me.

When did you first think you would manage to turn pro?

- There is no such thing where special moment, but it came in small steps. I moved to Växjö at age 16 and had to start training with Kroon (Niclas), Gunnarsson (Janne), Järrryd (Anders) and Calle (Hage Forest) and felt that I hung out with.

- The big step was -89 when I climbed from 300 to 120. I felt that it is not more difficult than that which I will be able to play a part in any case.

The season before he had reached fifteen minutes in a Challenger in Bergen for the week after making debut in the ATP Stockholm Open.

It was in the same time that Magnus Larsson ran into a what would be one in a series of mishaps caused by his forgetfulness and that over the years brought a lot of humour onto the tour.

On the way home from Bergen, Magnus made a stopover at the airport, and with it he had hitherto biggest prize check (2137 dollars).

- I went into a phone booth to call and tell Dad when I would be home. Inside the phone booth, I found a wallet with ten, fifteen thousand. I left it in, and then went back to call dad again.

Once on the plane Magnus ordered a drink.

Then I discovered that my wallet was gone. It was money, credit cards and so prize check. I had forgotten it in the phone booth, says Magnus.

He got back the wallet.

- It was good karma or something, he says, laughing.

Magnus, I wonder still a bit of what you said that you never knew you well enough to take a Grand Slam title. You were still in the semi in Paris, reached three times the quarters at the US Open and had wins against all the big names. So why would not it be enough for a Grand Slam title?

- Yes, I know, but the feeling that I was not enough, there were still there. -95 I had 2-0 in the eighth against Sampras in Australia. I was in good shape and had been the week before the final against Stefan in Doha. If I just hit Sampras where I'd been in the quarter OCN first seeded would have been eliminated. In retrospect, I feel it right there could have gone better than I there and then felt that it could do.

Magnus had mutually 2-0 against Alberto Berasategui before their semi-final at Roland Garros 1994.

- He had no backhand. But where in Paris he suddenly dried running around and hitting the forehand all the time, says Magnus, who fell in straight sets.

 The Spaniard fell short in the final against countryman Sergi Bruguera but was otherwise victorious from seven of his nine finals that season. Berasateguis rise aroused suspicions of doping and it was rumored that he had been granted an exemption for the use of unauthorized drugs. It is important to point out that Berasategui not convicted of doping but one should also keep in mind that the tennis anti-doping activities during the period was primarily a desktop product.

How did it feel to lose the semifinal where?

- Well, it is clear that ... says Magnus continues:

- But I would not like to put myself in those politics. And I would surely have had to face Bruguera in the final, it would not have been much fun.

Then he adds:

- I had not beaten any other player either that day. Played pretty mediocre this year in French. Had good draw and maximum buoyancy which I missed many years in Paris.

Magnus Larsson defeated Sampras, Agassi, Courier, Edberg, Becker, Kafelnikov, Chang, Ivanisevic, Stich and have actually 2-1 against Federer (one of the winners in a display).

All your three meetings were in 2000 - did you then understand that  he would be as good as he was?

- That he would be very good, there was no discussion on but 18 Grand Slam titles? No, I could not see that.

Which players have you felt most no chance against in a match where you still playing well?

- There should be two. Bruguera and Corretja (Alex) in some clay matches. It was that feeling that I was a mile away from them and did not want to be left on the court.

 

17 years ago Magnus played in Memphis and won his seventh and final singles title. He was up in eight finals and took six titles in doubles, where he arrived in 1995 in the Paris final with Nicklas Kulti.

Along with Edberg and Hageskog, Magnus runs Ready Play in Växjö. He spends a lot of time on the court but not very much of this time does he get to play himself.  

 

- I plays some league tennis in Germany in mens 40 category. It’s about six or seven games a year.

A few weeks before Kings of Tennis, he got a  stomach bug.

- I'm training, not as much as when I was active, but it will probably be fine. Moreover, I’ve lost a few pounds and that doesn’t hurt, says Magnus Larsson, laughing.

Jonas Arnesen, tennis reporter

Kings of tennis

8-10 Mars 2017