Interview by l’Equipe, translation by Tennis Buzz:
Q: In 1997, you reached the Australian Open final, even though you had previously only won two matches at Grand Slam level. Do you think we’ll see that again one day?
Yes why not? But perhaps not in the next five years, because of the top guys.
Q: That year you had beaten the defending champion, Boris Becker in the first round…
People tend to forget I was world number 25 at that time. But there were only 16 seeds back then, so this kind of first round was possible. What had really helped me is that I had beaten Becker (then world number 6) two months before in Bercy. And I had just reached the final in Sydney. I was feeling good.
Q: Milos Raonic just captured the Brisbane tournament and has yet to lose a set in Melbourne. Players are a bit scared to face him…
Good.. Having beaten Roger sends a strong signal. Not everybody can do it. Milos is the only player born in the 90’s to have beaten Roger twice (the first time was in Bercy 2014). He has also beaten Rafa at Indian Wells last year, and Murray three times. Only Djokovic misses.
Q: What misses too is to beat them at a Grand Slam tournament. That’s why his match against Wawrinka, who leads their head-to-head 4-0, is so much expected.
Milos is 25. He has to do it step by step. He won’t win a Grand Slam all of a sudden.
Q: So you don’t think he will win this tournament?
I did not say that (smiles). But Milos needs to prove he can beat these players one after an other in a tournament. And that’s a hard task.
Q: Why did you decide to join Raonic’s team?
It was a good proposal to start my job as a coach. Milos’ project inspired me. There’s a clear goal: to be number one. Milos could not reach its maximum potential so far, mainly because of injuries. What I like is that Milos is mature. He knows what he wants.
Q: On how many tournaments will you follow him?
15 weeks including the four Grand Slams. I did notant to be too much away from home. I have three young children. But I know that in my absence things will be done right because he has a solid team around him, in particular Riccardo Piatti (former coach of Ljubicic and Gasquet).
Q: What has impressed you most since you work with Milos?
He’s one of the most professional guy I have ever met. He is fully committed: on court, in the gym, after his training…
Q: When you were playing would you have liked that a former world number one works with you? If so, who would you have chosen?
Of course, I would have enjoyed it. I would have chosen Stefan Edberg, even if our playing styles were completely different.
Q: We often hear that Milos’ game is boring, that he looks like a robot when he plays. Could these remarks affect him?
No no no, I don’t think so. If you watched his game against Troicki, I don’t think it was boring. These comments don’t bother me. We should even use them. That our opponents expect a difficult game, with no rythm, can be a weapon for us.
Q: Before Raonic, how many players asked you to coach them?
A few. But either it was not at the right moment or these players asked me to travel with them for too many weeks.
Q: For the last two years, there has been a constant rumour about a Moya-Nadal collaboration..
It comes from the media and John McEnroe. But we’ve never spoken even once about that possibility. I’m sure Rafa will end his career with Toni and with the same team that’s been with him all these years. I know Rafa well and I think he’d think it unfair to split with Toni because things aren’t going so well. I’ve never looked to be a member of his team. We’re good friends, we often eat together, and we trained together at Christmas. That’s all.
Q: Do you think he’ll win another Slam?
Of course I think so. He’s not 30 yet. He needs to improve in certain areas and he knows that. He works. It’s a normal process: first of all, you try new things at practice, and then you apply them in matches, under pressure, and then you don’t think about them any more. It worked at the end of last season, but not here. You can see he wants to play more inside the baseline. Against Verdasco, he was a metre inside the baseline, but he wasn’t doing any damage. Positioning isn’t everything. Being a metre inside the baseline and pushing the ball, that’s not the answer. Right now, Rafa is a bit confused when he plays under pressure. He should develop this game without thinking. And now, we see him thinking.
Photo credit: Andrew Robertson
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By Roger M. Williams, Australian Tennis Magazine, March 1986
During the fifth set of a semifinal match at the Australian Open last December, 19-year-old Stefan Edberg of Sweden faced what pop psychologists call a crisis of confidence. Holding three match points against Ivan Lendl, the world’s No. 1, Edberg proceeded to lose all three. No, he actually lost the first two and blew the third – a backhand sitter with Lendl off balance at midcourt.
The Edberg of old – that is, 18 or early 19 – would probably have crumpled right then. “Depression,” as he candidly calls it, would have taken command and, glowering and muttering, his head drooping like a dejected schoolboy, he would have gone on to squander the greatest opportunity of his career. As his coach, Tony Pickard, later reflected, “Those missed match points would’ve gotten to him something awful.”
But the new young Edberg is not the old young Edberg. Pulling himself together promptly and calmly, he proceeded to defeat Lendl 9-7 in the fifth. Then in the final two days later, he completed the greatest week of his life by steamrolling fellow Swede Mats Wilander 6-4, 6-3, 6-3.
Two weeks after that, in the deciding match of the 1985 Davis Cup final, Edberg recorded another extraordinary victory, overcoming West Germany’s cannonballing Michael Westphal, 13,000 roaring hometown fans in Munich and his own acute nervousness to retain the Cup for Sweden. All of these heroics, it turned out, were performed in the face of developing mononucleosis, which Edberg’s lean, lithe body had been harboring for several weeks. A touch of mono, it seems, would he good for all of us.
As the holder of a Grand Slam singles title and the hero of Sweden’s championship Davis Cup team, Edberg now stands with Boris Becker as the hottest young player in the game. Indeed, the reserved young Swede is now emerging from the shadow of such countrymen as Wilander, Anders Jarryd, Joakim Nystrom and Henrik Sundstrom, and threatening to overtake them all as the best of the Swedes.
His victory over Wilander, the two-time defending champion at the Australian Open, is one indication of that. So is his fiery ambition. Much has been made of Wilander’s wavering interest in gaining the summit of men’s tennis. But Edberg, now 20, expresses no such diffidence. Far from it; he hungers openly for the top and will not be satisfied until he gets there. As Erik Bergelin, Edberg’s agent, notes, “Stefan even turns down exhibitions so he can concentrate on winning tournaments and climbing in the rankings.”
Now ranked No. 5, Edberg is also more demonstrative than most of his fellow Swedes. He’s never boorish on the court, but it’s easy to tell that fire burns beneath the placid exterior. He customarily reacts to errors by grimacing and spitting out an expletive that’s sure to be a Swedish version of an Anglo-Saxon four-letter word. Asked what the word is, he grins and replies, “It’s not very nice – but it’s not very loud.”
This Swede who would be king was born and raised in Vastervik, a coastal resort town about 175 miles south of Stockholm. His father was, and still is, a plainclothes policeman. Young Stefan excelled at tennis and early on developed a serve-and- volley style that immediately set him apart from all the baseline topspinners imitating Bjorn Borg.
“I always practiced a lot on my serve,” he recalls, “the second as well as the first. And I always liked to volley.”
Nobody insisted that he couldn’t win that way on clay because, from an early age, Edberg won on that surface.
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.”
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.
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
Fashion and gear:
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
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
By Emanuela Audisio, La Repubblica, 10 December 1985
In Australia the least Swedish Swede of all won: Stefan Edberg, the boy to whom Percy Rosberg, Borg’s first coach, had advised to leave the two-handed-backhand behind. “It spoils your natural aggressiveness” (he had said exactly the opposite to Borg).
A clear score: 6-4, 6-3, 6-3, to his friend Mats Wilander in the first all Swedish final in a Grand Slam tournament. It wasn’t much of a fight: the match has always been in Edberg’s hands and far from Wilander, the match time says it all: just an hour and a half.
If the seventeen-year-old Becker had triumphed in Wimbledon, in Melbourne the nineteen-year-old Edberg ruled, showing that now it’s almost exclusively the young who control world tennis. Young but not unripe, though, at least judging their results, even if they are never considered favourite at the start.
Wilander had won in Paris earlier this year, Edberg hadn’t won anything really big so far, even if in ’83 he had been the only player to win the Junior Grand Slam, even if one year later in only two weeks he had climbed the computer rankings from 83 to 17, even if he had won the golden medal in the Los Angeles Olympics, even if he had beaten Jarryd and Wilander in Milan in March ’84, even if he had swept Connors away in the US indoors in Memphis.
A good player, everybody said, and with an even better second serve than his first, more similar to McEnroe than to Borg, but a player who has often dreadful gaps in the match. Little Swedish, little patient, one who doesn’t wait for the others’ mistakes, but preceedes them.
Very good at the net, with fast starts, but difficult chases. And tennis at high level often also means chasing.
“He has a defect: he is too respectful of others, he does too much what they want”
said of him Erik Bergelin, the trainer son of Borg’s former coach. And he meant that Edberg, enterprising on court, wasn’t as much so mentally.
Young often happen not to trust themselves and it was exactly the problem of this policeman’s son grown in Vastervik in a tennis club without dressing rooms.
Becker‘s sudden and fast growth, then, had surprised him, pushing him out of the spotlights. Becker was younger, more extroverted, more spectacular, more everything. Edberg could only stay there like an unexploded bomb waiting for a maturation.
This until the Australian Open where he starts so so against Anger, where, in the fourth round, he saves two match-points against Masur in the third set, where in the semis he meets Lendl, in a winning streak of three months and 35 matches. The Czech, who hasn’t lost since the last Us Open, is forced to give up after four hours in five sets: Lendl smashes a short lob with all his anger, Edberg recovers it, wins the point under Lendl’s more and more amazed eyes, shakes his head and smiles. For the first time he looks like a Swede. The Czech accepts to play at the net, and Edberg, with soft volleys replies with kind arrogance.
In the final against Wilander he’s given unfavourite, he is 4-1 down in the head-to-heads. But the match starts and ends in his hands; only once in the entire match Wilander will get a break, in the eighth game of the last set and then he’ll say:
“He didn’t give me a chance: he surprised me with his shots from the baseline”.
His chase to Becker is successful by now: Edberg will reach the fifth place of the ATP ranking stepping over the German, who lost at his first match in Australia. The head-to-head is next to come. In Munich from 20th to 22nd December Germany and Sweden will meet in the Davis Cup final. Becker is sure to play, Edberg isn’t. We’ll see if the coach will keep on preferring “a more Swedish one” .
For the first time since Fred Perry led Britain to four successive victories in the 1930’s, a European nation retained the Davis Cup when Sweden defeated West Germany 3-2 at the Olympiahalle in Munich. The year was immensely satisfying because it saw the consolidation of the finest and most powerful all-round Davis Cup team since Neale Fraser was able to call upon the likes of Rod Laver, Ken Rosewall and John Newcombe in the early 1970’s. Hans Olsson‘s men are a true credit to tennis, not merely for their abundant and varied skills but for the refreshing spirit of camaraderie and sportsmanship that they bring to a game badly in need of it. In marked contrast to Gothenburg 12 months before, when the referee, Alan Mills, had to consider defaulting Jimmy Connors, Patrick Flodrops, the French referee in Munich, found himself pleasantly under-employed. Olsson was not so very far from the mark when, in reply to a flippant question about the need for code of conduct agreements, he replied “My boys are so good they don’t even need umpires”.
For Boris Becker, too [the Davis Cup in 1985] had become a whirl of triumph which remained quite untarnished by West Germany’s defeat in Munich. He could, it is true, have done better in the doubles but his performance in both singles, first in beating Stefan Edberg on the Friday, and then in keeping the tie alive for the Germans by outplaying as solid a competitor as Mats Wilander on the Sunday, were performances that required an extraordinary level of determination and self-belief. But not even Becker could beat the Swedes on his own. Proving their amazing versatility and depth of talent, Olsson’s team were able to shrug off the loss through illness of Anders Jarryd, their no. 2 singles player and doubles expert, and still win on a German-made carpet that was really too fast for good quality tennis. It was a tribute to the skills of all the players that we saw anything other than one-shot rallies.
Olsson’s remark after beating Australia in Malmo –
“Germany can choose whatever court they want; I have the players for it”
– was not the statement of an over-confident captain. It was merely the truth. With Wilander beating Westphal in the first rubber despite the young German’s 19 aces; Wilander and the brilliant Joakim Nystrom taking advantage of Maurer‘s service weakness to win the doubles; and Edberg overcoming his nerves (and another 22 aces from Westphal) to prove that he now has the character to match his talent, Sweden’s right to retain the Cup was never questioned either by impartial observers or even by the Bavarian crowd who devised a new form of noisy support for their players by clapping rhythmically between every point. The best team won, and, to their credit, the Germans were the first to recognise it. Now they have beaten such stalwart opposition on an alien court, with a new no.2 singles player and a reserve doubles team, it is difficult to see how anyone is going to take the Cup away from the Swedes in the foreseeable future. But in Davis Cup who knows?
By Richard Evans, World of Tennis 1986