Adriano Panatta, Rome 1978

From Inside Tennis, a season on the pro tour by Peter Bodo:

The Italians are aware of the suspicion that surrounds their championships; consequently, the difficult task of keeping a match under control is not always entrusted to native umpires. The Panatta-Higueras confrontation will be chaired by Bertie Bowron, a sixty-nine-year-old Englishman with ruddy cheeks and a head of hair as white as a cloud. Bowron is a chipper, independent fellow who has a mailing address in London and lives in his camper throughout most of the spring and summer. He follows the European tournament trail, welcome at every stop because he is a paladin of the game who accepts only expense money for his services; but his impeccable reputation did not prevent Ion Tiriac from grabbing him by an ear and dragging him around the locker room at the Foro one year because of a misunderstanding during a match.

Great expectations fill the Campo Centrale, for Panatta and Higueras are Davis Cup rivals, and their nations hold that competition in highest esteem. The Spaniard cannot match Panatta’s elegance; his service motion is studied and downright unathletic. he prepares for his forehand with a baroque, looping backswing; overall, his style suggests that he is impersonating a world-class player, but his steadiness and accuracy are uncanny. All Higueras lacks is that vital spark of genius that the deity breathes into the most attractive players.

Panatta is nervous again; the grim expression on his face implies that some battle is raging within him. He wins two points in the first game, but then only four more as Higueras, snapping top-spin balls at the lines and passing deftly, takes a 5-0 lead in the first set. The crowd broods as its hero wins only nine points and no games in the twenty-five-minute first set. As Panatta prepares to serve the first game of the new set, the familiar chant is taken up with mounting enthusiasm.
But Panatta cannot respond. When he hits a forehand too deep to give Higueras the first game, he bounces the racquet on its head twice as if to bang some sense into it. Soon it is 3-0, and the prospect of the Spaniard’s winning three love sets become a possibility. Emboldened by Panatta’s struggles, Higueras begins to push his luck. Although he is not a confident attacking player, he begins to press forward at every opportunity. In some players, aggressive play reflects a failure of nerves leading to a premature desire to end the match. With Higueras, a proficient baseline tactician, eagerness undermines his strength.
Panatta finally gets a game, breaking Higueras for 1-3. But the Spaniard breaks back and holds to take a 5-1 lead, four points from a comfortable margin of two sets to none. Panatta holds his service for 2-5, despite three set points for Higueras, and he brushes aside another pair of set points as he breaks Higueras again. When Panatta holds service at love, Higueras finds his margin reduced to a single game. He leads 5-4, and as he prepares to serve the crucial tenth game, the crowd is humming.
Again Panatta attacks. Higueras chips a backhand pass into the net, and the Campo Centrale erupts. The tumult increases through the next point, as Panatta follows a sliced backhand to the net, and it reaches another climax as Higueras misses the passing shot. Now the Spaniard is chagrined. He accepts two balls to serve, but the clamor will bot subside; shaking his head in disgust, he rolls the balls to the baseline.

“Silenzio” Bowron implores. But the crowd has engaged Higueras, who has been proud enough to stand up to it. Now it provokes and bullies him, accepting no plea and giving no quarter.
“Silenzio, cretini!” Bowron commands. The noise abates as the crowd ponders this insult.

Ultimately Higueras gets to set point again, only to see Panatta’s volley eturn the score to deuce. tHe Italian is playing brilliant tennis under extreme pressure. Higueras strikes a good serve, but a let is called. He shakes his head and questions the call, knowing that there is no hope of reversal. Still, he wins the point with a delicious lob that Panatta hits just wide with a backhand overhead. “Vantaggio Higueras.”

All semblance of restraint vanishes from the Campo Centrale when Higueras squanders yet another set point, his sixth, with a forehand error. Jeers and exhortations cascade onto the court. Again Bowron pleads for silence, but this time “per carita” – for pity.

Panatta gains the advantage when Higueras hits a defensive volley and then makes dismal work of Panatta’s equally tentative lob. Boos and whistles echo in the stadium as Higueras prepares to serve; he finally hurls his racquet to the ground, whirls, and hammers his arm at the galleries. This obscene gesture seals his fate. Within moments, a cola can strikes the clay at Higueras’ feet, and a resounding chant of “Buffone! Buffone! Buffone!” rises over the still pines.

There is nobody lingering over coffee on the charming patio now, nobody strolling by the field courts to sample doubles matches or the women’s semifinals. The awful lust of the crowd rules; the uproar has magnetized the Foro, drawing spectators as if they were steel shavings. Excited youths are perched in the trees and even on the shoulders of the statuary.
In the ensuing mayhem, Panatta’s coach takes it upon himself to seize the public address system and plead for silence. He is jeered off the court. Eventually Higueras is allowed to serve. He fends off the break point when Panatta earns another game point with a fluky forehand that skips off the net cord for a winner.

As Higueras starts his service motion, a one-hundred-lira coin strikes him on the ankle. The Spaniard holds up play to summon the tournament referee, who has been lingering near the sideline, to remove the coin. This further angers the crowd.
Higueras’ game has gone to pieces; blinded by rage, he denigrates the lineage of the entire audience and nets an easy backhand approach shot to surrender the game for 5-all in the second set. Panatta wins the next game at fifteen holds a set point of his own against Higueras’ serve. The first ball Higueras delivers is a fault, but Bowron awards him two serves because of the noise. Higueras wins the next point for deuce. The tumult accompanying his subsequent fault again forces Bowron to award the Spaniard two serves. But this time, the referee steps from the shadows to overrule Bowron.
A moment of discussion between the two officals ends with Bowron announcing, “Grazie”. He waves at the crowd and climbs down from the chair, refusing to brook his violation of the rules, which clearly state that the tournament referee can only intervene at the request of the umpire. Bowron is replaced by a Roman, but there will be no more controversy. With the only man who stood for him gone, Higueras capitulates; his two feeble backhand errors give Panatta the game and the set, whereupon Higueras stalks to the sideline, yanks his jacket from the back of his chair, and quits the court.

There is pandemonium in the passageway beneath the stadium. Tournament officials gesticulate wildly at each other. As Bowron tries to make his way through the tunnel to the clubhouse, Higueras catches up with him. “I want to shake your hand,” the Spaniard says. “I want to thank you because you did the right thing.”

Kjell Johanssen, the number-two Swedish player, is in the locker room when Higueras barges through the door and cries, “I had to quit or else I would have killed somebody!”
Later Johanssen said,

“Higueras is the most honest guy in the world. There’s no way he would act the way he did without the best reason. It’s unbelievable! Panatta lost every match, but he’s in the final!”

He shook his head but he couldn’t deny Panatta his due. “It’s incredible how well that guy can play under pressure, isn’t it?”
Breathless reporters and amazed officials continued the debate in the pressroom. Marty Mulligan of Fila stopped by, as excited as the rest of the company.

“I know Borg only plays here because of his contract with the shoe company, but if this kind of thing happens tomorrow, he won’t come anymore. This tournament may be finished forever.”

Pete Sampras, 1990 US Open

From Hard courts: real life on the professional tennis tours, by John Feinstein:

This was a great day for American tennis. In 1986, one American man, Tim Wilkison, had reached the Open quarterfinals. Four years later, there had been five American quarterfinalists. No American had been in an Open final since McEnroe, in 1985. Now, with Agassi having beaten Becker, the US was assured of having the men’s champion for the first time since 1974. The USTA was taking all sorts of bows for his renaissance, but it had almost nothing to do with it. None of the top young Americans were products of the USTA’s programs. One, Michael Chang, had benefited from some clay-court coaching from José Higueras, but that was it. The rest were products of their families, private coaches, and their own desires.

The crowd didn’t care about any of that. It just knew McEnroe was on court. Sampras, who had been the hero Wednesday, against Lendl, was now cast in the role of villain. He was ready for it.

“I know they’re all going to be for John,” he had said on Friday morning. “If I was sitting in the stands, I would be for John. I understand it, but I just have to shut it out. I think the match will be decided by who can come closest to keeping his level where it was Wednesday. One of us is bound to have a letdown. I hope it isn’t me.”

In truth, it figured to be Sampras. He had played the match of his life on Wednesday to beat Lendl. On Thursday morning, over breakfast at Wolf’s Delicatessen, Blumberg told him that he had concluded a lengthy renegotiation of Sampras’ contract with Sergio Tacchini. The new contract was for five years and would guarantee Sampras at least $4 million, although it could go considerably higher if Sampras continued to improve.

Having beaten Lendl, having become extremely rich, Sampras would have been excused if he had a letdown against McEnroe. It never happened, though. He came out bombing untouchable serves, and before McEnroe knew it, the first set was gone, 6-2. In the second set, McEnroe began to creep into the match. down a break, he broke back to 4-all with a miraculous scoop half volley. For the first time all day, the crowd was into the match.

If it bothered Sampras, it didn’t show. He hit two perfect returns at McEnroe’s feet to set up a break point. McEnroe , trying to avoid another return like that, went too much on a second serve and double-faulted. Sampras calmly served out the set.

What was happening there? How could McEnroe, who had played so superbly in his last two matches, be getting manhandled like this? In a sense, McEnroe was looking across the net and seeing himself, circa 1979: young and brash, supremely confident, and equipped with one weapon – the serve – that could keep any opponent off balance.
The difference, of course, was in Sampras’ demeanor. He wasn’t bratty at all. He played one point, then another. No flash, no dash, no whining or crying.

“I wasn’t always that way,” he said. “When I was fourteen and I was still playing from the baseline with a two-handed backhand, I was a real whiner. But then I saw some tapes of Rod Laver, and I said, ‘That’s the way I want to be.’ I’ve tried to act that way ever since.”

He was succeeding. Much as the crowd wanted to see McEnroe complete his miracle, it couldn’t help but marvel at Sampras. McEnroe did come back and win the third set, but even with the crowd now manic, Sampras didn’t wilt. He started the fourth set with his sixteenth ace of the day, broke McEnroe to go up 4-2, and served the match out, ending it with – what else ? – an ace.

McEnroe walked off to one last huge ovation. He was disappointed but not devastated.

“I don’t think I played badly,” he said philosophically. “His power really put me off. He served well when he had to. I think he’s really in a groove right now, and that’s a good thing. I think the guy is really good for the game.”

He smiled.

“Hope springs eternal. Rosewall played in two Grand Slam finals when he was thirty-nine. I’ll be thirty-two next year. The next time I play Sampras or Agassi, they’ll be favored. The pressure will be on them.”

Lendl had said that the key for Sampras was to forget he was playing John McEnroe. He had been able to do just that, largely, he felt, because he had played McEnroe earlier in the summer, in Toronto. Then, it had taken him a set and a half to forget who his opponent was and just play. This time, he had come out firing. He had beaten Muster, Lendl, McEnroe. The question now was, could he do it one more time?

Michael Chang and Stefan Edberg, Roland Garros 1989

From Love Thirty, three decades of champions – published in 1990

The Roland Garros Stadium in Paris has come to be regarded as a graveyard for the American dream. Few Americans are attuned to sliding about on Europe’s slow, loose-top surfaces and patiently manoeuvring for their points. In terms of temperament and background, the nation’s leading players have mostly favoured hustle and bustle, fast action, and short points. It may be that a series of six Davis Cup defeats in Paris in consecutive years (1928-33) gave Americans an enduring, negative attitude towards the alien and hostile territory of Roland Garros. There ensued, with a hint of sour grapes, sporadic comments disparaging the French Open championships. Some Americans avoided the tournament, or regarded it merely as rigorous preparation for Wimbledon. Whatever the reasons, until 1989 only five Americans had won the men’s title, all between 1938 and 1955, and in the next 33 years only five more had managed to reach the final. It took a little Chinaman to show them how to win the toughest of all tournaments. […]

Chang‘s parents, both reasearch chemists, have done their best to merge Eastern and Western cultural values and the blend is reflected in his tennis. Moreover, Chang has been a devout Christian since 1988. He is adamant that it is for the Lord to decide whether he wins or loses: but equally adamant that he will not get a nod from the Almighty unless he bends mind and muscle with total commitment. […]

Agassi, almost two years Chang’s senior, reached the French Open and US semi-finals in 1988 and looked the obvious man to carry the American flag when Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe passed it on. Chang gave us pause for thought in 1989 but Agassi may have the more exciting future if he can tighten his concentration and, tactically, learn to respect the odds – which should come naturally to any man born and brought up at Las Vegas.
Of the other players born in 1970 or later, four could be particularly worth watching: Jim Courier and Pete Sampras, both Americans, Goran Ivanisevic (a Yugoslav from Split, which also produced Nikki Pilic, one of the most engagingly argumentative chaps to enliven the early years of open competition), and Sergi Bruguera of Barcelona, who charmed us by the manner of his progress to the last 16 of the 1989 French championships. The long-limbed Bruguera has an elegant command of spins and angles and could develop into an enchanting clay-court expert. But one never knows what the future will have to say to the young.

Back to Chang, whose mother travels with him as ‘road manager’ and also looks after the cooking and laundry, joins him on fishing trips, and teaches him Chinese. In 1987, at the age of 15 years and 5 months, Chang became the youngest winner of the US boys’ 18 singles title. This was much to the credit of his fist coach, his father, a self-taught player who had taken up the game two years after Chang was born. Later, Chang was to benefit from the acquired wisdom of Brian Gottfried and Jose Higueras. His 1987 boys’ title earned him a place in the US Championships, in which he beat Paul McNamee. In 1988 he turned professional and headed for Paris, where he was overawed and given a hiding by McEnroe. But Chang had Leconte on the ropes for two spectacular sets at Wimbledon and at Flushing Meadow he beat the seeded Jonas Svensson and came from behind to win two consecutive five-set matches and reach the last 16. Agassi stopped him.

None of this prepared us – nor, one suspects, did it totally prepare Chang – for what happened in Paris in 1989. He had been a professional for a little less than a year and had played in only four Grand Slam events. But he came from behind to beat the first and third seeds: Ivan Lendl by 4-6 4-6 6-3 6-3 6-3 in the round of 16 and Stefan Edberg by 6-1 3-6 4-6 6-4 6-2 in the final. The Lendl match lasted four hours and 39 minutes, the final three hours and 41 minutes. At the risk of being too glib, one suggests that Lendl was outsmarted, Edberg outlasted.

Lendl did not take enough tactical initiatives. He seemed to think that if he kept pounding away from the baseline the lad would eventually be too tired and too inexperienced to do anything but lose. Chang did tire, too, but only in the legs – and Lendl was not cute enough to exploit blatant indications of cramp. Mentally, Chang was the sharper of the two when it mattered. Serving at 4-3 and 15-30 in the fifth set, Chang surprised Lendl with an underarm service that left Lendl embarrassingly exposed at the net. When Lendl was serving at 3-5 and 15-40 he missed his first service – and Chang wobbled forward on rubber-like legs to receeive the second ball while standing between the baseline and service line. The crowd roared at the little chap’s cheek. Lendl paused, to think about it: and then served another fault and was out of the tournament. Those two ploys by Chang were legitimate tests of Lendl’s alertness, nerves, and technical resilience; and there were no complaints from the ever-pragmatic Czechoslovakian.

The final was shorter because Edberg’s forecourt game abbreviated the rallies, one way or the other. In the first set Chang was all over him. Then Edberg took charge, finding his rythm with service, approach shot, and volley – and playing discreetly aggressive clay-court tennis to lead by two sets to one. The crux came in the fourth set. After an early break each way, Edberg had a total of ten more break points, the last of which would have left him serving for the match. But it was Chang who broke through, with the help of some good returns and, from Edberg, a few tired errors. That was how it was in the fifth set, too. Some of the spring had gone from Edberg’s legs and he was no longer quite confident enough on the forehand or quite quick enough when going to the net. But it was a classic final, an exemplary contrast between a nimble and crafty baseliner and a specialist in the service and volley.

Not that Chang could be dismissed as merely a baseliner. That was the basis of his game but he was more versatile and assertive than the likes of Bjorn Borg, Guillermo Vilas, Mats Wilander, and Lendl. His groundtrokes were admiably sound, whether he was going cross-court or down the line. Given a short ball, Chang went for a winner or a penetrating approach shot – and, rather like Ken Rosewall, ghosted his way to the net as imperceptibly as a gentle breeze on a summer night. He seemed to have the knack of being in two places at once: and was impressively secure with his volleys and overheads. Chang took the ball early when returning service. As he is only 5ft 8in tall this was particularly prudent when he was challenged by Edberg’s high-kicking ball.

Chang’s outstanding qualities lay in the brain and the legs. He was always thinking and never missed a trick. His quick anticipation and sturdy legs enabled him to parry most thrusts, until his opponent made a mistake or gave him the chance for a telling riposte – a passing shot or lob, or a sudden acceleration of pace. There was logic in everything Chang did and displayed an instinctive flair for reading his opponent’s game and making astute, split-second decisions. Against Lendl and Edberg in turn he gave wonderfully precocious deadspan performances. Ruminating on Chang’s contemplative bent for fishing one felt a wave a sympathy for fish.

Chang was brought up on hard courts but may excel only on clay, as he did in 1989. He will grow stronger but is unlikely to get much taller. One cannot be optimistic about his chances of acquiring the power to win major titles on the faster surfaces.
We noted that, for all Chang’s cunning and tenacity, he was outgunned by Tim Mayotte in the 1989 Wimbledon and US championships. Like Wilander and Boris Becker, who also won Grand slam championships at the age of 17, Chang has built a big reputation on small foundations – in terms of experience, that is. But his place in the game’s history is already unique: and that has to be a comforting feeling for a God-fearing young angler who hooked a couple of very big fish while he was still settling down on the bank.

Manolo Santana Roland Garros

From Love Thirty, three decades of champions – published in 1990

One of the craziest anomalies of the 1960s, a decade in which the great champions were bared from the great tournaments, concerned two Spaniards born within nine months of one another duing the Civil War. There was nothing to choose between their levels of performance. But Andres Gimeno turned professional in 1960 and played his best tennis in the proud, exclusive environment of Jack Kramer‘s tour. Towards the end of the 1960s, only Rod Laver and Ken Rosewall were better players.
But superficial historians may recall Gimeno only as the chap who, at the age of 34, won the 1972 French championship from an unusually modest bunch of challengers. By contrast Santana stayed in the ‘shamateur’ ranks, picked up an impressive array of Grand Slam titles, had a wonderful Davis Cup record, became a national hero, and captivated everybody in sight. So Santana received far more publicity and achieved a bigger reputation, except among the cognoscenti. Santana played no better than Gimeno did but had the more spectacular game, the more crowd-pleasing court presence, and probably a greater depth of competitive self-belief.

First a word about Gimeno, who was Santana’s Davis Cup teammate from 1958 to 1960 and 1972-1973, winning 17 out of 22 singles and breaking even in ten doubles. Gimeno was 6ft 1 1/2in tall but looked even bigger because he was straight-backed, held his head high, and had a tiptoed style that suggested he was wary of damaging the court. His bearing was patrician, his manner courteous, his game elegant. Gimeno stroked the ball with the teasing flourish one associates with the bull-fighting breed. The forehand was his stronger flank and although it was sometimes said his backhand couldn’t break an egg, he placed the shot shrewdly.
Gimeno had a sure touch and made effective use of the lob. There was a purpose behind every shot he played and his game was as tidy in detail as it was sound in conception. But he had nothing that could really hurt his opponents and on big occasions he tended to be too highly strung, too diffident, to do himself complete justice. Gentleman that he was, Gimeno may have had too much respect for the likes of Laver and Rosewall.

Would Santana have done any better in that company? One doubts it. He turned down a professional offer because he considered he could more tournaments and more prestige, make more money, and have a more congenial lifestyle by remaining in the ‘shamateur’ ranks. There came a time when Santana and Roy Emerson, as the biggest fish in a thinly stocked pool, could command $1,000 to $1,500 a week. They had no illusion. They knew that they would be smaller fish in the professional pool. An embarrassing decision was forced upon them and they chose the course that suited their circumstances and their natures. It worked out pretty well for them and it worked out pretty well for Spain, too. By winning two Grand Slam titles on clay and two on grass, and twice guiding his country to the Davis Cup challenge round, Santana did even more for Spanish tennis (and the nation’s sporting reputation in general) than Severiano Ballesteros was to achieve via golf.[…]

Santana was the Ilie Nastase of the 1960s: less of an athlete, true but more disciplined in his conduct and his match-play, and in the same class when it came to artistic wizardry. An example of the shots they had in common what that rare flower, the chipped forehand, which both played with such facility that they might have been picking daisies. The joyous feature of their tennis was a common ability to mask their intentions. Their dextrous powers of deception were such that they consistently pulled off the tennis equivalent of the three-card trick.

Santana used every hue in the box during the 1961 French championships, in which he beat the top three seeds – Roy Emerson, Rod Laver and Nicola Pietrangeli – to win his (and Spain’s) first major championship. Santana beat Laver 3-6 6-2 4-6 6-4 6-0. Laver led 4-1 in the fourth set but, emmeshed in a beautiful network of shot-making, could not win another game. In the final, Santana beat a kindred spirit, Pietrangeli, by 4-6 6-1 3-6 6-0 6-2. It was a sunny afternoon and the arena was as much an artists’ studio as a tennis stadium. Each man in turn stepped up to the canvas while the other was, so to speak, taking time off to mix his colours. The vast assembly could hardly believe their luck. Ultimately Pietrangeli, champion in the two previous years, had to admit that he was the second best. […]

They met again in the 1964 final but by that time Santana’s star had waxed and Pietrangeli’s was beginning to wane. On clay, Santana had proved all he needed to prove. So he concentrated his attention on the grass-court bastions: and had luck on his side in that, at Forest Hills and Wimbledon in turn, the most fancied contenders never turned his path. At Forest Hills he played only two seeds, Arthur Ashe (5th) and Cliff Drysdale (8th), and at Wimbledon he played only one, Dennis Ralston (6th). Never mind. Santana beat everybody he had to beat. He had conquered the ‘shamateur’ world on the two extremes of clay and grass.

There was an engaging but frustrating appendix to the years of glory. In the 1969 French championships Santana and Gimeno, both 31, clashed after a nine-year beak. It was Madrid vs Barcelona plus, for watching players, a leftover battle between the now united ‘shamateur’ and professional armies. For two sets, Gimeno was too nervous to play his best tennis, whereas Santana’s shot making had a subtle splendor about it. Then Gimeno settled down and in the stress of combat santana pulled a groin muscle and eventually had to retire. Gimeno won 4-6 2-6 6-4 6-4 1-0.

Santana and Gimeno had explored different avenues in their pursuit of fame and fortune. Their joint achievement was to lift Spanish tennis to a level it had never reached before: a level that was consolidated by Manuel Orantes and to some extent Jose Higueras. Orantes was runner-up for the 1974 French title and in 1975 he won the first of the three US Open contested on a gritty, loose-top surface.
That was a memorable triumph for two reasons. In a semi-final Vilas led Orantes by 6-4 6-1 2-6 5-0 and had five match points. Orantes won, but he was up half the night because he could not tourn off the bathroom tap and had to find a plumber. Then he went back on court and, in the final, gave Jimmy Connors a lesson in the craft of clay-court tennis.

Roger Federer interview by Arthur Pralon for L’Equipe, translated by Tennis Buzz

Q: How the idea of an association with Stefan Edberg was born?
After my split with Paul Annacone (in October), I finished the season with Severin (Lüthi), then he and I, we discussed. We asked ourselves if we needed someone else in the team. Who? Why? How many weeks a year? I only had a few names in mind , and Stefan was one of them.
I really did not think he would be available, because he’s been off the circuit for 15 years. But he is one of my childhood hero so I said: Why not try to contact him. He needed a lot of time to make his decision, he really was not sure of himself! (Laughs.) But he was very flattered and he finally agreed .
He came to Dubai and spent a week all three (with Severin), so that he get an idea of my daily life, because all the top players have their own arrangement. I wanted him to meet my family, my team, so that he feels the most comfortable possible. After that, I asked him again whether he wanted to work with me and he agreed.

Q: How will you organize?
Severin keeps travelling with me most of the time, and Stefan has agreed to accompany me at least ten weeks a year, slightly less than what my former coaches used to do. I’m really glad he could find time for it. I am very excited, and he also, even if he had never imagined to coach someone.

Q: What will he bring to you?
A: I’m sure he can bring a new perspective to my game. I see him more as a source of inspiration, a legend of the game who joined my team, than a full time coach. We’ll talk a lot. In fact, neither he nor I really know how it will happen. But we’re both excited to be back together in Melbourne (next week).
There is no real expectation, we just want to spend quality time together. I have always have former players by my side: Lundgren, Higueras, Roche, Annacone, Luthi. But I’ve never had someone as successful as Edberg. His generation is the one that impressed me most as a junior, so the priority was to find someone of his generation to help me.

Q: So, we guess you followed with interest the announcement of the collaboration between Novak Djokovic and Boris Becker…
A: Yes, I never thought Boris would embark into this, he would coach. But it’s great for them and great for tennis. I am pleased to see former legends try to help the next generation.

Q: To work with Edberg means that you will play a more attacking tennis?
A: You think if will resign if I don’t play serve and volley (laughs)?
It will be interesting to see if he thinks it is still possible to do many serves and volleys on today’s slower courts, or if there are other ways for me to go to the net. In any case, all Edberg will tell me will mean a lot to me.

Q: Let’s talk about your offseason. What about your back problems?
A: I have done more than what I expected, and it’s really encouraging. This year I haven’t played any exhibition, which allowed me to train extremely hard, and for a longer period of time.
For the first time for more than a year, I’ve been able to train three or four weeks in a row without any problems.
In 2013, every time I had small problems, pains, including back, and it cost me confidence.
For a few months now I can move again without problems and I can give myself fully, especially mentally. I completely recharged my batteries.

Q: Many people speculate on your chances of capturing another Grand Slam title? Where do you have your best chance?
A: If I play my best tennis, probably Wimbledon, then the US Open, the Australian Open and Roland Garros.

Q: We’ve seen you with a new racquet at the practice here
A: Yes, this racquet is different from the one I’ve tried last summer (in Hamburg and Gstaad).
Wilson worked over details that I notify them. They sent me the first batch of racquets after the US Open, and a second one after the Masters.
I chose a frame and I trained with it for two and a half weeks in Dubai. I feel very comfortable, more comfortable than with the racquet of last summer. This one is more like an extension of the one I used previously, with a futuristic look. I can not wait to see how it will happen in matches.

Q: Has the weight of the racquet changed?
A: In fact I don’t even know! Only my stringers and Wilson know that. I’m not controlling every detail.