Photo: Susan MullaneMikael Pernfors (SWE)
He was Top 10 in the real world of professional tennis and a former French Open finalist. Now Mikael Pernfors, who this year turned 50, is playing in the ITF Seniors World Individual Championships in South Florida.
While many of the other competitors had a little or no international tennis experience, the eighth-seeded Pernfors arrived at the BallenIsles Country Club to play his first round match against Edwin Donoso of USA with a world-class tennis resume.
So why is he playing? There’s two very valid answers to that question.
“The main reason is I still enjoy playing,” said Pernfors, who lives about an hour away from Palm Beach Gardens. “And the second reason is it’s so close to home. It was just driving down from Vero Beach. We went to Vero eight years ago when we wanted to move to a smaller town than Atlanta.”
For Pernfors, much of his life now is participating in charity and corporate outings, and a number of tennis exhibitions. He also remains one of the owners of Global Caps, a company that manufactures and sells baseball caps with the flag of different countries designs. Fellow Swede and multiple Grand Slam champion Mats Wilander also has a stake in the company.
The ITF Seniors event offers Pernfors an opportunity to focus on being competitive. And that is something he has a past reputation for having a very good command of doing.
Pernfors, who ranked No. 10 in 1986, won three career singles titles: Los Angeles 1988, Scottsdale 1989 and Montreal 1993. At Montreal, he not only rebounded from a 2-5 deficit in the third set, but starting in the round-of-16 he beat some top ranked players: No. 2 Jim Courier, No. 16 Alexander Volkov, No. 11 Petr Korda and No. 20 Todd Martin.
At Roland Garros in 1986, Pernfors journeyed to the final where he lost in straight sets to Ivan Lendl, who happens to also be a Vero Beach resident and someone Pernfors occasionally practices with these days.
On Sunday, word quickly filtered around the BallenIsles grounds that a former tour star was playing. Pretty soon a small crowd of watchers and fellow players were out seeing how Pernfors at 50 is still capable of strutting his tennis talent.
“I take it serious as I’m going to go out there and do my best but if I lose it’s not going to make that big a difference to me,” Pernfors said. “Most of the stuff I play is not that serious so it’s always fun every now and then to come out and be competitive. I played in the one in Ft. Lauderdale 12 years ago. I play them when they’re close to home.”