By Andrew Longmore, The London Times, 1991

For a man who lives so close to the edge on court, Stefan Edberg is one of life’s supreme conservatives. He abhors disorder, is disconcerted and upset by it. Edberg is the sort of man who washes up coffee cups before you have drunk the last mouthful, and he would no more leave the top off the toothpaste as he would be seen on Centre Court with his shirt outside his neatly pressed, neatly tailored shorts.

He dresses modestly, talks and drinks in moderation, still takes the underground to work, and lines up for his meal tickets just as he did when he first came on to the tour nine years ago. He does not own a car and would eat Italian food seven times a week if he could.

Nothing in Edberg’s manner signposts the genius beneath; nothing on the surface illuminates the depths of his soul. The face, fixed in a look of almost permanent wonder, like a child who has seen Father Christmas for the first time, melts the hearts of mothers from Japan to Djibouti, but it discourages curiosity.

Edberg is Edberg. Too good to be true. Boring.

“The boring Swede?” He laughs.” It doesn’t upset me. It makes me think, ‘Can I do anything about it?’ The answer is not a lot. My job is to play my best tennis and I do that when I am controlled and cool. I’ve seen myself on television and I admit I don’t look the happiest person on earth, I know. I can start to fool around, but I don’t think it would help my tennis and, I can tell you, it used to be a lot worse.”

Edberg laughs a lot more these days. Not a guffaw, you understand. Just a chuckle, delivered quickly and nervously as if there were some embarrassment in being caught in the act.

He has also mastered the art of the understatement, possibly the result of living in Britain for the past five years, or just possibly the real Edberg, more familiar with the English language now, emerging from a decade of hibernation.

It is hard to tell. Either way, his conversation is punctuated by gentle self-deprecating asides which come with the confidence of being the best in his profession, the No.1 player in the world.

That too was typical of Edberg. Boris Becker reached No.1 thunderously by beating Ivan Lendl, the defending champion, to win the Australian Open. Edberg fulfilled his ambition five months ago at the GTE Thriftway championships in Cincinnati. It was in the quarter-final and very probably only Edberg and Tony Pickard, his coach, really understood the significance of the win.

He even fluffed his second entrance. Having been briefly deposed by Becker, Edberg resumed the No.1 spot in the semi-finals of a tournament in Brussels. He lost. Hardly a clash of cymbals.

But then, unlike Becker, Edberg is not one of life’s percussionists. The agonizing public confessions that have marked Becker’s growth from child to man have no part in Edberg’s thinking. Or if they do, very few know of them.

And yet Edberg has had to cope with the excesses of stardom from almost the same age as Becker. In 1983, the year he won the junior Grand Slam, Edberg beat Becker in the first round of junior Wimbledon, the first battle in what both vaguely understood would be a long war. Their paths have crossed ever since, including the finals of the last three Wimbledons.

“We are two very different people, Boris and me. It has been much tougher for him. You only have to look at how much goes around tennis in Germany. The pressures on him are unbelievable. I was lucky that I came up with 3,000 other Swedes. Borg was still huge and most of the attention was still on Mats Wilander.”

But there is more to it than that. Cleverly, imperceptibly, naturally, since he first set foot outside the industrial seaside town of Vastervik, Edberg has kept the world at arm’s length. Everyone knows the face, but only Pickard, Annette Olssen, Edberg’s longtime girlfriend, and perhaps a few old school friends fully understand the man.

“I am naturally suspicious. It takes a lot of time before I let people come close. I like to keep my distance. You meet a lot of weird people in this business, so you have to be cautious.”

Caution permeates Edberg’s life, from the investment of his vast wealth to his vision of the future.

“I want to have a stable life. Not too many surprises. Have my things in order, a nice house and good friends around me. Maybe a nice dinner once in a while. But I don’t need a helicopter in the garden to take me there.”

The one exception to this ordered existence is Edberg’s tennis, which, despite his arguments to the contrary, is still beguilingly eccentric. Articulate as he is, only on the tennis court does Edberg express himself fully, and even then you have to watch carefully and wait patiently for the genius to flow. It can take a long time.

The main tension in Edberg’s life comes from his lust for perfection and, because he alone among the top players knows the true meaning of the word, the search can be lonely and frustrating. When you can play tennis as faultlessly as Edberg did in the Wimbledon semi-final against Lendl last year and for the first two sets of the final, mediocrity is very hard to accept.

“I am very determined and sometimes I put too much pressure on myself, expect too much of myself. Semi-finals and finals are no good to me anymore. I have to win tournaments, and if I lose I get edgy and I have to get back to work, I’ve always been disciplined. It comes from childhood.”

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.

Rafael Nadal, Australian Open 2015

The Happy Slam is already around the corner! On the men’s side, Novak Djokovic will be once again the huge favorite, but the women’s draw is open than ever: all four of the top-ranked have withdrawn from tournaments they entered this week due to injury.

Enjoy our Australian Open coverage on Tennis Buzz, and follow us on Twitter and Instagram.

A trip down memory lane:

Australian Open trivia
The tragedy of Daphne Akhurst
The Norman Brookes Challenge Cup
1960 Australian Open: Neale Feaser, a costly volley
1960: first Grand Slam title for Rod Laver
1960-63 Australian Open: Jan Lehane four time runner-up
1974 Australian Open: Jimmy Connors first Grand Slam title
1975: John Newcombe defeats Jimmy Connors
1981: First Australian Open title for Martina Navratilova
1983: Mats Wilander defeats Ivan Lendl
1984: Mats Wilander defeats Kevin Curren
1985: Edberg wins in Australia and Sweden changes look
1987-1988 Swedes spoil the party
1987: Stefan Edberg defeats Pat Cash
January 11, 1988: first day of play at Flinders Park
1988: Mats Wilander defeats Pat Cash
1990: John McEnroe disqualified!
1990: Ivan Lendl’s last Grand Slam title
1991: Monica Seles first Australian Open title
1994: First Australian Open title for Pete Sampras
1995: Mary Pierce defeats Arantxa Sanchez Vicario
1995 QF: Pete Sampras emotional comeback win over Jim Courier
1995: Andre Agassi defeats Pete Sampras, wins first Australian Open title
1996 Australian Open: Mark Philippoussis defeats Pete Sampras in the 3rd round
Impressions from the 1996 Australian Open: Monica Seles and Boris Becker last Grand Slam titles, Stefan Edberg last appearance in Australia
1997 Australian Open: Pete Sampras defeats Carlos Moya
2001 Australian Open: Pat’s last chance
2001 Australian Open final: Andre Agassi defeats Arnaud Clément
2002: Capriati scripts a stunning sequel in Australia
2003 Australian Open: last Grand Slam title for Agassi
2009 Australian Open: Rafael Nadal defeats Roger Federer

Recap:
Fashion and gear:
Polls:

Who will be the 2016 Australian Open champion?

  • Novak Djokovic (45%, 66 Votes)
  • Roger Federer (22%, 32 Votes)
  • Andy Murray (9%, 13 Votes)
  • Rafael Nadal (9%, 13 Votes)
  • Stan Wawrinka (7%, 10 Votes)
  • Other (3%, 5 Votes)
  • Kei Nishikori (3%, 4 Votes)
  • Tomas Berdych (2%, 3 Votes)
  • Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (1%, 1 Votes)
  • David Ferrer (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Richard Gasquet (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 147

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Who will be the 2016 Australian Open champion?

  • Serena Williams (38%, 41 Votes)
  • Maria Sharapova (22%, 24 Votes)
  • Other (14%, 15 Votes)
  • Garbine Muguruza (9%, 10 Votes)
  • Agnieszka Radwanska (7%, 8 Votes)
  • Angelique Kerber (5%, 5 Votes)
  • Simona Halep (2%, 2 Votes)
  • Karolina Pliskova (1%, 1 Votes)
  • Petra Kvitova (1%, 1 Votes)
  • Venus Williams (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Timea Bacsinszky (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 107

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Monica Seles and Martina Navratilova, 1991 US Open final

From Monica Seles’ autobiography, Getting a grip:

I love the US Open. The New York fans can’t be beat and no other Grand Slam gets as rowdy. At Wimbledon there is total silence, but at the US Open fans will scream your name in the middle of a serve. I thrive on that kind of energy. The flow of tennis was back in my life and I jumped out of bed every morning with a newfound motivation. Tennis was what I wanted to do. It was the only thing I wanted to do.

I got to the semi without any problem, where I met Jennifer for another long, drawn-out three-set match? They were becoming our trademark. We were both power players and we shared the same hatred of losing. It was just a matter of who hated it more on any given match day. Back and forth we went, both of us hugging the baseline, each of us putting her entire body into pushing the ball’s power to another level. Just when I thought she couldn’t hit it any harder, she did. And I’d answer her right back. Some of the points seemed endless, and I could tell from the astonished gasps from the spectators that this wasn’t like most matches. We were playing a new kind of tennis and the crowd loved it.

We each took a set 6-3 and each went into the third determined to come out as the victor. The fans were on the edge of their seats and yelling for Jennifer, America’s tennis sweetheart, as loudly as they could. But I was in the zone. Don’t let this get away from you. Stay in control. Jennifer served for the match two times but couldn’t capitalize on it. I was ready to pounce. I won the next two games and we were tied 6-6 in the third set of a US Open semifinal. The pressure was cranked up. It was time for a tiebreaker and the race to reach the lucky number seven was on. THe match could have gone either way. It went mine. I held my serve and raced to reach seven points. The crowd went crazy and Jennifer looked crushed. It had been an intense battle of wills and we were both used up. I don’t know that I could’ve played another point. It was time to go back to the hotel and rest for my final against Martina.

I chose a pink and white Fila ensemble for the big day – tame by US Open standards. It is the most lenient of the Grand Slams when it comes to the players’ outfits. Some of Andre Agassi’s craziest getups were debuted there. My hair was growing at a torturously slow pace, so I piled on the hairspray, hoping it wouldn’t double in size once I started running and sweating all over the court. I was focused on tennis, but I was still a girl and I didn’t want to look ugly out there.

The first set felt like a continuation of my last set against Jennifer. We traded points back and forth until we were tied 6-6. I had to stop myself from obsessing on being the first to get to seven. Instead I played my dad’s voice in my head: Play every point as it comes. It was just what I needed to hear: I won the tiebreaker 7-1. My quick tiebreaking victory did a number on Martina‘s confidence, even though we’d been tied at 6-6, and I took the second set 6-1.

Here’s a quick breakdown of how you can fall apart the moment you lose one game: if you don’t have games on your side, you don’t have momentum. If you don’t have momentum on your side, you’ve got to dig deep to come up with some confidence. If you can’t find the confidence, fake it. If you can’t fake it, it’s over.

My victory in New York gave me my fourth Grand Slam, my third that year. I was so thrilled after the last point that I forgot about looking cool and I pranced around the court like a pony.

Also read:
1991 US Open: Seles and Capriati introduce power in women’s tennis
Australian Open 1991: Monica Seles defeats Jana Novotna
Optima Open 2015: Seles, Clijsters, McEnroe and Bahrami

2015 US Open coverage

2015 US Open

Relive some of the best moments in the US Open history and follow our coverage on Tennis Buzz:

If you attend the Open and wish to share your stories or pictures, please leave us a comment below.

Fashion and gear:

A trip down memory lane:

Top 5 strange events at the US Open
US Open biggest upsets
1970 US Open: Margaret Court completes the Grand Slam
1971 US Open: Chris Evert becomes the “It Girl”
1972 US Open: Ilie Nastase defeats Arthur Ashe
1973 US Open: Margaret Court defeats Evonne Goolagong
1978: the US Open moves to Flushing Meadows
1978 US Open: 4th consecutive US Open title for Chris Evert
1978 US Open: Jimmy Connors defeats Bjorn Borg
79 US Open 2nd round: McEnroe vs Nastase, chaos on court
1979 US Open: John McEnroe defeats Vitas Gerulaitis
1980 US Open: John McEnroe defeats Bjorn Borg
1981 US Open: Tracy Austin defeats Martina Navratilova
1981 US Open: John McEnroe defeats Bjorn Borg: Borg’s last Grand Slam match
1983 US Open: Career Grand Slam for Martina Navratilova
1984 US Open: John McEnroe last Grand Slam title
1990 US Open: Linda Ferrando upsets Monica Seles
1990 US Open: Alexander Volkov upsets Stefan Edberg
1990 US Open, the spitting incident
1991 US Open: Connors, 39 qualifies for the semifinals
1991 US Open: Seles and Capriati introduce power in womens tennis
1991: Monica Seles first US Open title
1991 US Open: playing to perfection, Edberg grabs first Open
1991 US Open: Edberg’s final dominance doesn’t diminish Courier
1992: Stefan Edberg defeats Pete Sampras
1992 US Open: Edberg takes Sampras, US Open, No.1 ranking
1993 US Open: Pete Sampras defeats Cédric Pioline
1994 US Open 4th round: Jaime Yzaga defeats Pete Sampras
1994: first US Open title for Andre Agassi
1995: Pete Sampras defeats Andre Agassi
1996 US Open: Class act Edberg making one last run at US Open
2001 US Open: Venus defeats sister Serena
2001 US Open QF: Andre Agassi – Pete Sampras
2001 US Open: Lleyton Hewitt defeats Pete Sampras
2002 US Open: last Grand Slam title for Pete Sampras
2004 US Open: First time to NYC for a French fan of Agassi
2005 US Open: Roger Federer defeats Andre Agassi
Andre Agassi gives the Open crowd one more thrill ride, August 31st, 2006

Reports:

Polls:

Who will win the 2015 US Open?

  • Roger Federer (47%, 74 Votes)
  • Novak Djokovic (28%, 44 Votes)
  • Rafael Nadal (10%, 15 Votes)
  • Andy Murray (8%, 12 Votes)
  • Stan Wawrinka (3%, 4 Votes)
  • Other (2%, 3 Votes)
  • Kei Nishikori (1%, 2 Votes)
  • Tomas Berdych (1%, 2 Votes)
  • David Ferrer (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Marin Cilic (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Milos Raonic (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 156

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Will Roger Federer win another Grand Slam title before the end of his career?

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Who will win the 2015 US Open?

  • Serena Williams (70%, 63 Votes)
  • Maria Sharapova (9%, 8 Votes)
  • Other (8%, 7 Votes)
  • Simona Halep (7%, 6 Votes)
  • Ana Ivanovic (2%, 2 Votes)
  • Lucie Safarova (2%, 2 Votes)
  • Caroline Wozniacki (1%, 1 Votes)
  • Garbine Muguruza (1%, 1 Votes)
  • Petra Kvitova (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Karolina Pliskova (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Carla Suarez Navarro (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 90

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