->> - JOHANSSON RETURNS TO HERO'S WELCOME... Newly crowned Australian Open champion THOMAS JOHANSSON and his girlfriend Gisella Kaltenecker arrived back in Sweden to a host of waiting reporters at Arlanda Airport. At a press conference in the SAS VIP lounge, Johansson told the large delegation of Swedish press that his achievement in Melbourne was starting to dawn on him. "It still feels a little unreal, but very good," said Johansson. "I was in a state of shock immediately after the match point, but it's beginning to sink in now." Johansson, who joined an elite group of Sven Davidsson, Bjorn Borg, Mats Wilander and Stefan Edberg in the list of Swedish Grand Slam winners, said: "It's great to be part of that group, It's something I've dreamt about ever since I was a kid." After a well-deserved rest, Johansson did an afternoon feature with TV4 in Stockholm before talking about his success to Swedish TV host Christer Ulfbage in the Sportnytt studio. As a wrap up to the 30-minute interview, fellow Swede JONAS BJORKMAN had filmed an impersonation of his friend Johansson, with his ears taped out, making fun of his low-key celebration. After a few days at home in Linkoping, Johansson was to join his Davis Cup teammates on Friday to prepare for next week's tie against Great Britain.
->> - GAMBILL SNARED BY ARMANI...After being selected as one of People Magazine's 50 Most Beautiful People in the World two years ago, JAN-MICHAEL GAMBILL is no stranger to the catwalks. As someone who has modeled for the Ford Agency, the 24-year-old pin-up was right at home in the fashion capital of Milan this week. Making the most of an afternoon at the shops, Gambill was introduced to famous Italian designer Giorgio Armani in his office at the Armani Manzoni store by Lea Pericoli, the former female Italian No. 1 who is now a tennis and fashion journalist. After Gambill presented Armani with a Prince racquet, Armani invited Gambill to take part in his men's fashion week next year as well as doing a potential shoot with GQ USA. Just to top off a great day, Gambill also got a discount on his shopping basket.
AGASSI-GILBERT PART WAYS... ANDRE AGASSI and BRAD GILBERT have mutually decided to end their relationship after eight years together. Under Gilbert's tutelage, Agassi captured six Grand Slam titles since March 1994 and finished the year as the World No. 1 in 1999. "Brad is clearly the greatest coach of all time," said Agassi. "I have been lucky to have him as my guiding force during the past eight years of my career. More importantly, I am lucky that I have been able to call him a friend for eight years and that our friendship remains intact." Gilbert added: "One of the biggest highlights of my 22 years in professional tennis has been spent coaching one of the greatest players of all time, Andre Agassi. After eight amazing years, we have decided on equal terms to end our professional coaching status and remain the best of friends."
IN MILAN...Italian No. 1 ANDREA GAUDENZI made an appearance on the popular TV show "Quelli che... il calcio" on Raidue. After the program, Gaudenzi met with show presenter Simona Ventura and TV star Natalia Estrada...Diego Nargiso, who announced his retirement from tennis at the end of last year, was given a proper send-off in Milan on Wednesday night. During a special party organized by the tournament, Nargiso was presented with a Waterford Crystal globe by the ATP, while Tennis Italiano Magazine gave him an Italian soccer shirt with "Nargiso 32" printed on the back in recognition of his Davis Cup matches...ROGER FEDERER and JUAN CARLOS FERRERO took part in a game of tennis in front of the Duomo, the famous cathedral which is the landmark of Milan. Federer and Ferrero, the top two seeds at the Milan Indoors, amused the crowd by playing some rallies in front of TV cameras and photographers.
INJURY UPDATE...GUSTAVO KUERTEN has withdrawn from Brazil's Davis Cup first round tie against the Czech Republic because of a right hip injury. Guga, who is currently undergoing physical therapy in Brazil, said: "It is the first time since 1996 that I will not be able to play for Brazil in the Davis Cup. After talking with my coach [Larri Passos], we have decided that the best thing for me is to fully recover." On the injury itself, Kuerten added in a statement: "I am feeling better each day and while practicing on clay I don't feel any pain, but I want to back in full force."
COACHING CAROUSEL...Italy's Federico Luzzi is to begin working with Roberto Brogin, who also coaches Irakli Labadze.
MEDIA MONITOR...THOMAS JOHANSSON'S victory in Melbourne deservedly grabbed this week's headlines around the world. In the UK, Stephen Bierley of The Guardian wrote: "Now his name is indelibly written in the pantheon of champions, joining his Swedish boyhood idols, Stefan Edberg and Mats Wilander. And there was nothing the least bit fluky about his 3-6, 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 victoryÖJohansson, who had never previously progressed beyond the last 32 in Melbourne in seven attempts, overcame first-set nerves to perform with immense resolution, interwoven with moments of considerable panache."....In the United States, Bud Collins wrote in MSNBC: "Some may recall another Swedish long-shot by the name of Johansson. That was Ingemar Johansson, astounding knocker-outer of world heavyweight champ Floyd Patterson, a New Yorker, in 1959 to assume the crown. Ingemar did it with a right hand he called 'toonder and lightning.' 'No,' laughed the latest exported Johansson, a 26-year-old from Linkoping who visits his money in Monte Carlo where he has an apartment. 'No, I'm not related to Ingemar, but I wish I were.' Nevertheless there was thunder and lightning in his right hand, with which he served 16 aces and 18 service winners. And even more when coupled with the left for a menacing both-handed backhand that struck for 17 winners. That backhand even scored a knockdown as the Swede built a 4-0 lead in the fatal tie-break with Safin tumbling vainly to parry the weighty stroke. He was stretched out on the cold green asphalt slab, and knew he was out."
NEW PRESS SECTION ON ATP WEB SITE...The Press and Media section on ATPtennis.com has been given a new look for 2002, with easy-to-access ATP Champions Race, ESP and Prize Money standings, together with By the Numbers stats, ITW and ATP Insider archives, Media Guide downloads and Media Links.
PLAY WITH THE PROS IN CLUB MED'S TENNIS BASH...For one fantastic week this winter, the sweet spot for tennis fans is Club Med Paradise Island, Bahamas. From only $399, you could spend three nights in paradise at a beachfront village with celebrity players. Club Med also is offering three nights at tennis-loving Sandpiper, Florida for only $299 (kids $99) on selected dates in January through April. Tennis Bash space is limited so call now,
"I'm lazy by nature, and [Magnus Tideman] almost has to force me to go running. But in the final against Safin I felt like I could run for ever."
- Thomas Johansson talking to Swedish reporters at Alanda Airport.
"I brespect all the players on the [ATP] circuit, but I don't admire anyone because I have to be the 'beast' and beat them!"
- Max Mirnyi in Milan.