In his autobiography, Uncovered, Pat Cash remembers his days on the junior European tour:

My third European trip showed that great things were by now a distinct possibility. To start with, I finally managed to win the Avvenire Cup singles prize in Milan. First I had to beat two players who could certainly go on to make their mark on the game: Emilio Sanchez in the quarterfinals and Karel Novacek in the semis. My reward was a place in the final, and a first confrontation with another young Swede who would figure prominently in my career.

In those days Stefan Edberg played the traditional Borg way. Like all the others he rarely strayed from the baseline, hit with a double-fisted backhand, and seemed to regard the net as something carrying rabies. Although feeling extremely nervous, I beat him without too many problems, and my rapidly rising junior ranking escalated still further. However, my supposed knowledge of Stefan Edberg tested the strength of my friendship with Wally Masur a year or so later.

The two young Aussies arrived in Lisbon to try and qualify for a tour event. Wally was drawn against Edberg, and I told him there was nothing to worry about because he was a typical Swede who just stayed back on the baseline. But sitting courtside, I couldn’t believe what I saw: there was this supreme young fair-haired athlete who served and volleyed everything with the crispest single-handed backhand I’d ever seen.

To pretty swift sets later, a soundly beaten and decidedly pissed off Wally stumbled his way from the court to the locker room. On his way, he gave me the unfriendliest of looks and I thought I heard him utter, thanks for the tip mate. I’d like to think they were the exact words he used, but I know for a fact they were interspersed with other considerably stronger.

By Alan Trengove, Australian Tennis, August 1991

What makes two-time Wimbledon champion Stefan Edberg the great player he is?
Many will nominate Edberg’s backhand as the one shot that distinguishes him from most of his rivals. Others will cite his graceful and usually very effective service, or his crisp, instinctive volley. How does the Swede himself perceive his main strength?

When the question was put to him during Wimbledon, he had no hesitation in saying that his mobility is the key to his success. Certainly, no player of comparable height (he is 6 feet 2, or 188cm) covers the court with so much speed and flexibility.

“This is the area in which I have improved the most in the last couple of years,” said Edberg. “I’m surely a yard quicker than I was two or three years ago.

“That means I have more time to hit my shots. I can stay in the back of the court if I want to, and it gives me more freedom to do other things.

“Movement is really the key to modern tennis. It doesn’t matter how hard you hit the ball – if you are not there you are not going to be able to hit it.

“That is my strength today, and also I have more experience now. I have just kept improving every year. That’s always been the strategy.”

Despite his triumphs, Edberg has never lost the characteristic he shares with some of the old champions – Tilden, Kramer, Rosewall and Emerson, for instance – of continually working on his weaknesses and building up his strengths.

Many players would have been content to stick with the beautiful service action that to Edberg, from the moment he picked up a tennis racquet, has come so naturally. But the stress he places on his back and stomach by such an excessive arching of the body has caused him to break down (twice at the Australian Open, for example). And he has not been able to avoid serving lapses like the one that cost him victory against Ivan Lendl at the 1991 Australian Open, when he put in a spate of double-faults.

During Wimbledon it was noticed that he has shortened his ball-toss. In addition, he threw the ball more to the right than in the past and did not try to make it kick so much. He opted more for flat or slice serves than kickers.

“I’ve found the timing on my serve. I feel a lot more comfortable serving now, and that helps my game,” said Edberg, “because really my game hinges on my serve.”

Though at Wimbledon Edberg served beautifully up to his semi-final with eventual champion Michael Stich, and even there did not drop his delivery in going down 4-6, 7-6, 7-6, 7-6, his half-dozen double-faults were a little reminiscent of his trouble against Lendl in their semi-final at Flinders Park.

Edberg’s serve is integrated into his court speed. Nobody moves faster to the net from the moment of impact with the ball.

“That’s always an advantage I have had, maybe because my toss is quite a way forward, and a lot of guys throw it just straight up,” said Edberg.

“The thing with coming quickly to the net is timing, and you have to be very quick with your first two or three steps. That’s something I’ve worked on for years.”

No youngster could do better than try to emulate most facets of Edberg’s style, including his calm demeanor. His forehand may not be as brilliant as his classical backhand, but it is only a relative weakness. Stefan hits numerous winners with his forehand, too.

His wonderful shot-making, his speed and strength of character were seen at their best in his match with John McEnroe, whose vile temper and tantrums (which cost him a $US 10,000 fine for the cowardly abuse of a linesman) did not throw Stefan off his stride one iota. He is very close to being the complete champion.

Roger Federer and Stefan Edberg, Roland Garros 2015

By Mauro Capiello

Stefan Edberg will no longer be Roger Federer’s coach. With a message on his social channels the Swiss communicated to his fans a decision he and Stefan must have already agreed since long. The original deal was for at least 10 weeks in 2014, it became a successful partnership that saw the Swedish legend travel the main events of the Tour again for two years, almost like in the old days.

Although the media emphasized Roger’s role in the decision, it is clear that such an effort in terms of time and energy must have been a huge stress for the quite and reserved Stefan, who would have never imagined to get back on the stage until only a minute before receiving the Swiss’ call. So we can reasonably suppose that celebrating his 50th birthday in Australia was not in Edberg’s plans and that even if Federer had asked for a further extension of the agreement, this time Stefan would have said no.

As the New York Times reports,

«Edberg confirmed that he had coached in 2015 with the “clear understanding that it would be my last year given the time commitment.”

On the other hand, Roger has always liked to add new persons to his team in order to both bring new elements to his game and renew his motivations. From this point of view, his new coach Ivan Ljubicic (whose analytical skills we’ve been appreciating in Italy since he started commentating for Sky Sports) will probably insist on the mental side of the game better than Stefan could ever do, the Croat having played tennis against many of Roger’s rivals until just a little more than three years ago.

But also Ljubicic, who will join the long time members of the team Severin Lüthi and Pierre Paganini, will necessarily need to start from the huge contribution Edberg gave in refreshing Federer’s tennis, taking the 17 time Grand Slam champion back to his top level of form after a disappointing 2013 season and to compete for the Major titles against opponents averagely 5-8 years his juniors.

In the last two years, Stefan was at Roger’s side in 17 events of the tour (11 in 2014, 6 in 2015). With him in his team, Roger:

– won 11 titles (5 in 2014, 6 in 2015);
– won 3 Masters 1000 events (2 in 2014, 1 in 2015);
– reached three Grand Slam finals and two ATP World Tour Championships finals (all five lost against Novak Djokovic);
– won a Davis Cup with Switzerland;
– won 136 singles matches, losing just 23;
– beat a top-10 ranked player 31 times losing only 12;
– beat current number 1 Novak Djokovic 5 times, losing 8 (one was a walk-over in last year’s London final)

These already outstanding results would have surely been even better, hadn’t Novak Djokovic played two amazing seasons, losing just 14 matches in 2014 and 2015 combined. I think nobody could deny that against any other player Federer would have won at least two of those three Grand Slam finals he played and Team Fedberg would have taken that Major title that has been Roger’s obsession since he took his last Wimbledon crown in 2012.

But even without it, never in the history of tennis a guy well in his thirties has showed this kind of consistency at the top and this is obviously thanks to Roger’s unique qualities, but partly also thanks to the game style adjustments suggested by Edberg. Considering the average level of today’s players, this new approach will keep Roger competitive for at least two or three more seasons (should he decide to still keep playing for such time) and I’m sure that this is something Roger will always pay Stefan tribute for, after any success that should come in the future.

Still, through these two seasons that we followed closely in the Fedberg section of our website, we’ve always had the impression that the partnership between Stefan Edberg and Roger Federer was something going beyond sports goals, statistics, strategies, technique, possibly even beyond tennis. It was the perfect duo, based on a common sensitivity, made up by two similar spirits who have been inspired from each other.

The link between the two is something meant to stay. You can bet that in the future Majors, looking back to his corner after converting a set point, Roger will miss the support of the calm angel he had transformed in his most passionate fan, just like, for a moment, Stefan will regret not being there to root for his pupil from the crowd.

Check out Mauro’s website STE… fans

Also read:
Roger Federer and Stefan Edberg at practice, Roland Garros 2015
Federer and Edberg at practice, Cincinnati 2014
Coach revival: top players choose great from the past

Billie Jean King

From Love Thirty: Three Decades of Champions, by Rex Bellamy (published in 1990)

Like Ashe, Billie Jean King had a pioneering zeal that made her an inspiring leader of many causes. If there was no crusade available, she invented one. They included her campaign for parity of prize money and draw numbers between men and women; the introduction of professional ‘team tennis’ and the concept’s expansion to other levels of the game; her famous ‘Battle of the Sexes‘ with Bobby Riggs, an occasion that had implications and effects outweighing the showbiz razzmatazz; her role in forming the Women’s Sports Foundation and re-enforcing the women’s liberation movement; and a maze of associated business ventures. For all that, King will most obviously be remembered for her supreme tally of Wimbledon titles during a span of 23 years. She began that Wimbledon saga as ‘Little Miss Moffitt’ and ended it as a self-styled ‘Old Lady’ who seemed to be part of the furniture. By that time she had graduated to the same class of all-time Grand Slam champions as Helen Wills and Margaret Court. But neither of these (nor any other woman, for that matter) matched King’s revolutionary status. consequently, because of her combined achievements on and off court, she became the most important figure in the history of women’s tennis.

King’s father, an engineer in the Long Beach fire department was an all-around athlete but had no interest in tennis. Her mother was a good swimmer and her brother Randy became a major-league baseball pitcher. When she first played tennis, at the age of 11, King used a racket borrowed from a friend. Then she popped spare nickels and dimes into a jar until she had $8, which was all she needed to buy a racket from the local sports shop. She made the most of the free lessons available in pubic parks at Long Beach and seized the chance to study celebrities in action at Los Angeles. King particularly liked the serve-and-volley style of Louise Brough and at 15 she spent three months receiving weekend tuition from another one-time US and Wimbledon champion, Alice Marble, who had a similarly aggressive game. Aspiring climbers are taught not to reduce the leverage of fingers and toes by getting too close to the rock. For different reasons, Marble warned King not to get too close to the ball.

Moffitt spent three years at Los Angeles State College, where she met a law student called Larry King. They were to marry in 1965. Meantime she was developing a liking for Wimbledon. In 1961, aged 17, the tomboyish Moffitt won the Wimbledon doubles with Karen Hantze, 18. King built rapidly on that early success and in 1963 she reached the Wimbledon singles final. But the road to full-time tennis was rather bump in those days and King as 21 before she could press the accelerator hard down and keep it there. Late in 1964 Bob Mitchell, the Melbourne businessman who had previously helped Margaret Court, offered to pay King’s way to Australia, where Mervyn Rose improved her groundstrokes and service and put her through a sharpening programme of training and practice drills. With a remodeled game and a total commitment to the circuit, King brought increasing confidence and intensity to her 1965 campaign. Court stopped her in an Australian semi-final and US final. Bueno stopped her in a Wimbledon semi-final. But King had beaten both in previous years, before Rose brought a bloom to her tennis, and thee could no longer be any doubt that the Court-Bueno duopoly of grass was not going to last much longer.
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Andy Murray at Sanchez Casal Academy

Belgium chose to play the upcoming Davis Cup final on clay, Andy Murray‘s “worst” surface. Clay doesn’t really suit Belgian players David Goffin and Steve Darcis, but they probably think this surface is their best chance of beating Murray.

Even though the world number 3 has only won his first two titles on clay this year, he is a 3-time Roland Garros semifinalist (he lost to Rafael Nadal in 2011 and 2014, and to Novak Djokovic this year) and has spent 3 years training at the Sanchez Casal Academy in Barcelona.

In 2002, aged 15, he left Scotland for Spain. He had made the decision to train abroad the previous year, after a discussion with Rafael Nadal, who had been telling him about his four-hour-a-day hitting sessions in the heat of Majorca and his practices with former world number 1 Carlos Moya. Andy was then practicing only about 4 hours a week.

At the Academy, under the tutelage of tennis guru Pato Alvarez, he learned how to play on clay, and when he could attack. The Sanchez‐Casal system that splits the court into 3 zones: defence, transition and attack, improved Murray’s patience and movement.

Murray partied with Alvarez in 2005, he explained at the time that Alvarez wanted him to be less aggressive and play like the Spanish players, and that’s not the way he plays.

A few pictures taken at the Sanchez Casal Academy in November 2004, two months after Andy’s US Open junior title.

Andy Murray and Pato Alvarez

Andy Murray and Pato Alvarez
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