By Craig Gabriel, Australian Tennis Magazine, September 1988

Stefan Edberg wants to be the best player in the world and he knows this is a mission that demands a day in, day out routine. Most days are typical for him during a tournament as he juggles the hours between practice sessions, PR appearances and matches.
Edberg rises each morning at about 8.30 a.m., when he showers and eats breakfast, which is never heavy. A fruit juice would be followed by cereal and then toast and cold cuts of breakfast meat.
“I eat a meal depending on when I am going to play a match,” said Edberg. “I don’t like to get loaded down with food before a match because it feels uncomfortable on court and you find it difficult to move.”

Edberg returned to the Graden Plaza Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee, where he was playing the Volvo Tennis/US Indoor, and did a couple of push-ups on the floor of his room. He does not usually make use of the fitness centres that more hotels are providing because he mostly likes to be on his own.
The 22-year-old Swede may play a game different from most other Swedes, in that he prefers to serve-and-volley rather than sit on the back-fence and drill groundstrokes from corner to corner in a battle of attrition, but Stefan is still very much like his compatriots in his reserved manner.
This was a match-day for the world’s number two ranked player. He was the defending champion at the tournament and attempting to make the final for the fourth consecutive year. It was a very attainable feat, because the draw for the tournament was one of the weakest in the event’s history.

Tony Pickard, a former Davis Cup player and Edberg’s longtime coach from England, was not with his charge this week, and Stefan was quite happy to arrange most ot his own schedule. He is developing a more mature and confident attitude. He called the Racquet Club of Memphis, where the tournament was being played – it was almost next door to the hotel – and made arrangements for a practice session.
Edberg flopped back onto his bed, looking at the ceiling, thinking how most hotel rooms look the same after so many years on the pro tour. He had taken off his shoes and t-shirt and was relaxing with his eyes closed when the phone rang. It was his agent, Tom Ross, from Advantage International, the Washington-based company, calling to say that he was in town. Ross reminded Edberg about his commitments regarding appearances for the products he endorses.

It was now 9.30 and the day was already an hour old for Edberg. As a rule, he is not the type to waste time and he started to get things into gear.

“I have so many things that have to be done in a day that I don’t have time to relax or delay. People think we only play matches and then have the rest of the day off. It is just not the case,” he explained.

Tom Ross had made his way down to Edberg’s room and said there was a car waiting downstairs to take them to an adidas reception. adidas created the “Stefan Edberg Collection” two years ago. The endorsement contract was said to be worth millions of dollars, including royalties, so the more appearances Stefan made the better for his bank balance. No matter how much Edberg was prompted, he would not disclose any figures.
On the way to meet the buyers, a stop was made at the home of Lars Nilsson, who is a Swede on a tennis scholarship in Memphis. He and Edberg were friends back in Sweden and they came from the same town. Lars would be Stefan’s practice partner later in the day and his doubles partner for the week.

In the car, discussions were taking place about scheduling and where Edberg would need to make appearances over the next few weeks and what advance interviews would be needed, whether in person or over the phone.
His itinerary included tournaments in Canada and Cincinnati, which would feature the likes of Becker, Wilander and Mecir, and then Japan, where he was the defending champion.

“I like going to Japan,” said Edberg. “I have won quite a few times there and I am always looked after so well. I look forward to the trips there.”

The adidas function took about an hour, with the Edberg clothing range on display around the room. He handled himself in his usual quiet manner and then excused himself, explaining that he had to leave for a practice session as he had a match that night.

“It is a great feeling to see my name on the clothes,” said Edberg, getting back into the car. “I feel very proud. I feel the same way when they make the announcements on the courts to introduce me for a match.”

Normally, wherever Edberg goes, he is followed by hordes of screaming girls. His fair Scandinavian looks make him very attractive to the teenyboppers, whether he is in Japan, Australia or the American midwest. On this occasion, they were absent and Edberg probably felt a little relieved about that because there is a time and place for everything.
As a promotion for the tournament, Edberg agreed to go to a city store and sign autographs for half an hour. The event needed some attention. There, he was almost besieged by the girls and he tried to oblige all requests. He was constantly saying “thank you” in response to the dozens of compliments that were paid to him. The smile never left his face.

“It is part of the job,”he said. “It is hard sometimes, but it has to be done. There are so many things I like to do, such as going to the movies or out to dinner, and I like listening to music.”

It was a little after midday when he returned to his hotel room. Racquets were piled up in one corner, shoes – about a dozen pairs – somewhere else and packets of gut strings were spilling out of a bag. Even so, the room looked relatively orderly for that of a tennis player.
Edberg’s lovely girlfriend, Annette Olsson, Sweden’s top model, was not travelling with him. He took a little time to call her, but didn’t say where she was.
Room service was ordered for lunch, and again nothing too heavy was chosen. He ordered pasta. He then did an interview by way of an interpreter, for a tournament in Japan, and followed up with a one-on-one interview for a newspaper in Memphis. By this time, lunch had arrived.
Edberg phoned Tony Pickard in London, where it was about 8 p.m. They talked about the match that night against Damir Keretic, who has a solid all-round game. The West German could be dangerous if Stefan was tired; after all, Stefan had been in town only a day following his win at the tournament at Rotterdam for the second consecutive year.

It was now now a little before 2 p.m. and Edberg decided to go to the courts a little early and do some exercises. When he got to the courts, he took out a skipping rope and used it for a few minutes to loosen up and “get myself on my toes”. He then did a couple of sprints up and down the sideline, and various stretching exercises that most pros do as a protection against pulled hamstrings or groin muscles, etc.
Hitting with Nilsson, the pace soon picked up. Edberg worked on his approach shot down the line. After 20 minutes, they stopped for a breather and a drink. For Edberg, even that is an endorsement, a sports drink called Pripps.
They returned to the court and Stefan slammed down his big serve and also his hard-to-handle kick second serve. They played a tiebreak, which the higher ranked Swede won hands down. After the set was over, Edberg did some wind sprints. He said he does not like to run distances on a track or road.

On returning to the hotel, the players took showers and Edberg got onto the phone once more, this time to call his family in Sweden. He calls his parents and brother about three times a week. His father is Bengt, his mother is Barbro, and his 15-year-old brother is Jan, a good player.

“It is nice to call home,” said Stefan. “When I call them, we talk about what is happening at home and how my matches are going. We talk about a whole lot of things.”

Once the call is over, there is another meeting with Tom Ross to discuss more scheduling and business deals. Edberg likes to keep the Grand Slam weeks free from any distractions, such as interviews and endorsement appearances, so that he can just concentrate on his tennis.

“I keep an interest in where my money is going,” he said. “I think it is important to know what is happening all the time and what is being done with my investments. I find it very interesting.”

Edberg handles the unnatural lifestyle with ease. He took a bit of time to relax and lay on his bed with the television on. It was now about 5.30 p.m. and his match was in two hours, so he went back to the club for a warm-up practice session.
Match time. The stands around the main court had a capacity of 5,200 and were almost full as Edberg and Keretic walked out. Edberg was surrounded by three bodyguards, one a former secret service agent, as protection from the fans. For the multi-millionaire sportsman, this was not an uncommon practice.
Edberg won the match 7-5, 6-4, but he looked tired, and, once all the post-match interviews were finished, he went out to dinner with Lars Nilsson. As he pointed out, there were no late nights for him because of his commitment to be always at his best. Although he wanted to go to see the movie, “Shoot to Kill”, his busy schedule did not allow it.

“I know there are many sacrifices and plenty of special requests,” he said. “I don’t get to go sightseeing very often. I like to go shopping, but it can be difficult. I knew what I was getting into and I enjoy it with the travelling, but I also like to see my friends.”

It was now past midnight after a long day. And this was only the start of the week.

Surviving stardom

Jennifer Capriati

By Cindy Hahn, Tennis Magazine, October 1992:

Jennifer Capriati, her ankles still encrusted with the red clay of Il Foro Italico, faces a den of crass, middle-aged sportswriters. One, an Italian journalist, will write a story tomorrow whose headline screams that she looks like a pig. The 16-year-old, sweat-soaked and exhausted, hasn’t yet suffered that cruelty, and good thing, for her heart aches enough: She has just lost in a miserable, third-round match at the Italian Open – to a player ranked 25 spots below her. Her eyes swim with tears.

A cool shower – and time alone to soothe her anguish – might have made this post-match grilling less painful. But at her father’s command, Capriati was shuttled from the Campo Centrale directly into the interview room… Do not shower, do not pass go, do not change into you favorite Grateful Dead tie-dyed T-shirt. After all, Diadora is paying Capriati several million dollars to be seen in its tennis togs. Better for her to appear before the TV cameras as a disheveled Diadora girl than as a freshly scrubbed heavy metal-head – the identity Capriati currently prefers.

“Do you think you lost because you’re overweight?”

an Italian reporter asks.
Capriati cannot hear the interrogator and asks him to repeat the question. softening his query, the reporter responds: “Do you think you lost because you’re not in good physical condition?” But Capriati suddenly compehends his original question: He has announced before a roomful of international journalists that she is … fat. New tears glisten on her eyelids as her face flushes crimson.
Mercifully, another question is asked. Capriati concentrates hard, trying to block out the notion that she is fat. The moment of tears, of truth, passes.
When the press conference ends, Capriati retreats through a door into the locker room, where she collapses onto a bench and drops her head to her hands. More moments, more tears. There was no time for a shower, but there is time for tears.

This isolated scene, played out this past May, poignantly dramatizes the tragedy of pro tennis in any season: A parent placing mercenary interests before the emotional needs of his child; a girl forced to answer to uncaring adults; and a teenager’s private problems, such as weight gain, showcased as a media event. Threaded together, these plot lines form a disturbing, if familiar, story in professional tennis.

This report is not about a person but a process; it does not focus on a single star but rather on the constellation of problems in a system that embraces talented children, and then exhausts them. Capriati is just one of the handful of tennage pros whose gifts have launched them on a shuttle-ride to success: Michael Chang, French Open at 17 … Boris Becker, Wimbledon winner at 17 … Andre Agassi, Nike’s multi-millionnaire celebrity at 18 … Steffi Graf, at 19 only the fifth person to win the Grand Slam … Pete Sampras, handed a $2 million winner’s check at 19 … Gabriela Sabatini, a 15-year-old French Open semifinalist … and Monica Seles, the youngest world No.1 at 17.

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