From Pete Sampras’ autobiography, A champion’s mind:
Shortly after the US Open, we played our Davis Cup semifinal against Sweden on indoor clay at the Target Center in Minneapolis. Because clay was not my best surface, I played only doubles – with McEnroe. We toughed out a real war with one of the best doubles squads of the era, Stefan Edberg and Anders Jarryd.
This was my first Davis Cup experience as a “doubles specialist”, and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the assignment. Doubles is an enjoyable sideshow at most tournaments, but it has a starring role in Davis Cup because of the format. As the third and only match on Saturday, doubles is the kingmaker in Cup play. Most Davis Cup teams that enjoyed long-term success were anchored by a great doubles team. When a tie is 1-1, which is often the case after the Friday opening singles matches, getting to that 2-1 lead can be huge. It also didn’t hurt my own enthusiasm level, or results, that my partner on some key occasions was McEnroe. Remember, it was McEnroe’s own longtime partner, Peter Fleming, who famously quipped, when asked to name the best doubles team of all the time “John McEnroe and anyone”.
We went on to meet the Swiss team in the 1992 final, on an indoor hard court in Fort Worth, Texas. Gorman, perhaps still mindful of Lyon, decided to play it safe. He named Courier and Andre, who were both playing very well, to the singles slots, and put me down for doubles, again partnered with Johnny Mac.
That was fine with me – Andre had proven himself a great Davis Cup singles player. He’s an emotional guy who really gets into all the hoopla. Jim was right there with Andre as a Davis Cup warrior. He gave his all, he was gritty and very cool under pressure. We had, arguably, the greatest Davis Cup team of all time – and a pretty subborn bunch. In the opening ceremony, the promote wanted us to wear these ten-gallon hats and it kind of freaked Jim out. He snapped, “I’m not wearing that stupid hat!” So there were no cowboys hats.
The Swiss had a very tough two-man team consisting of Jakob Hlasek and Marc Rosset. Both guys were very good on fast courts, which is unusual because most Europeans prefer the slower clay. So much for our home-court/fast-court advantage. Hlasek was in the midst of his career year in singles, and Rosset was a guy with a game as tricky as it was big. He could play serve and volley, even though his career moment of glory occured on slow clay a few months earlier, when he won the singles gold medal at the Barcelona Olympic Games.
Andre won the opening rubber, but then Rosset showed his mettle with an upset of Jim. McEnroe and I would be playing Hlasek and Rosset in what suddenly looked like a critical doubles match. And when we lost the first two sets, both in tiebreakers, it looked like tiny Switzerland might pull one of the most shocking of Davis Cup upsets – and on US soil, no less.
John was in one of his McEnroe moods. Throughout the match, he trash-talked Hlasek, a very quite but cool guy who minded his own business and got along with everyone. John was suffering, and coming dangerously close of losing control. But then he was unlike anyone else in that he often played better after going nuts. Some of the line calls in the first two sets seemed dodgy, and in the third set John finally lost it over another apparent bad call. He started in on the umpire, and he just kept going on. He yelled at the official, and he yelled at our own captain, Gorman (for not making more of a fuss and “standing up for us”). He was just going ballistic in general, in any direction he wanted, long after the point in question was over.
Finally, I just lost it myself. I turned on John and snapped,
“John, it’s over. Done with. Let’s not harp on what happened three games ago, it’s time to move on, man.”
For some reason, my own little outburst had two welcome results. It calmed John down (emotionally, if not verbally) and it fired me up. We won the third set and adjourned for what was then still the required ten-minute break before the start ofthe fourth set. John and I came off the break with wild eyes and fire in our bellies. It was one of those rare occasions when I got into the emotion of it all. I was pumping my fist and yelling. McEnroe must have said, “Come on, let’s kick ass” a thousand times. We clawed and fist-pumped and yelled our way to a not very pretty but extremely relieving win, 6-2 in the fifth.
Although I became very emotional in that match, in general John and I were like a Jekyll and Hyde pairing; I tended to be cool and forward-looking, he was hot-tempered and all wrapped up in the moment, always ready for an altercation. He thrived on that, and I understood it. We were good for each other. He pumped me up with his emotional outbursts, even if I didn’t show it, and I calmed him down with my self-control, even if he was, externally, still the same contentious, fiery player.
The next day, after Jim beat Hlasek to clich the tie, I became a Davis Cup champ. It mattered not at all that I had played only doubles in the final; I had done my share all year and felt as proud and entitled as if I had played every singles match for the United States in our drive to win the Cup.
Photo credit: Paul Zimmer
Enjoy the second edition of Break Point, our monthly roundup of the best tennis-related articles on the web:
– another veteran player, Pat Cash talks about life on the Seniors tour: A Week With Tennis Champions: Private Planes, Celebrities and Locker Room Gossip
– ever wondered what it’s like to be a ballboy at the US Open? Enjoy this Grantland post: I Tried Out to Be a US Open Ball Boy and Saw Dave Chappelle, and All I Got Were These Two Lousy T-Shirts.
– in May 1984, six of the world’s Top 10 were American, as were 24 of the Top 50. 30 years later, there are only 3 Americans in the top 50, with a chance at winning a Slam really close to 0. Can US Men’s Tennis Rise Again?
– the story of Irish player James McGee, who qualified for the main draw of the US Open for the first time of his career: James McGee rekindles fond memories of grinding out wins in Gabon as he aims for the bright lights. Also James great blog post on financing the tour.
– why Wimbledon defeats the #USOpen game, set and match in the social media arena, by Tennis Buzz contributor Andreas Plastiras.
– and finally, Mauro’s article on how Stefan is transforming Federer into an “Edberg 2.0”
Photo credit: Margaret
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 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
1991 US Open: Connors, 39 qualifies for the semifinals
1991 US Open: Seles and Capriati introduce power in womens tennis
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
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
Andre Agassi gives the Open crowd one more thrill ride, August 31st, 2006
Who will win the 2014 US Open?
- Roger Federer (41%, 59 Votes)
- Novak Djokovic (28%, 40 Votes)
- Rafael Nadal (12%, 17 Votes)
- Grigor Dimitrov (4%, 6 Votes)
- Other (4%, 6 Votes)
- Milos Raonic (3%, 5 Votes)
- Andy Murray (2%, 3 Votes)
- Kei Nishikori (2%, 3 Votes)
- Tomas Berdych (1%, 2 Votes)
- Stanislas Wawrinka (1%, 2 Votes)
- David Ferrer (0%, 0 Votes)
Total Voters: 143
Who will win the 2014 US Open?
- Serena Williams (38%, 22 Votes)
- Eugenie Bouchard (17%, 10 Votes)
- Maria Sharapova (16%, 9 Votes)
- Other (12%, 7 Votes)
- Petra Kvitova (7%, 4 Votes)
- Simona Halep (5%, 3 Votes)
- Li Na (2%, 1 Votes)
- Jelena Jankovic (2%, 1 Votes)
- Victoria Azarenka (2%, 1 Votes)
- Agnieszka Radwanska (0%, 0 Votes)
- Angelique Kerber (0%, 0 Votes)
Total Voters: 58
By Selena Roberts, September 1, 1996, New York Times
Stefan Edberg realizes his top 10 years are behind him, tucked away with everything else in a hope chest of sorts. Edberg’s career is something to be opened years from now, when his velvet volleys will be re-discovered, when his gentleman’s demeanor will likely seem antique with the new breed of player crashing around the courts now.
Edberg is elegant, as classy as a chandelier, hanging over tennis for so long that no one wants him to go out. That’s why Stadium Court, madhouse central, was packed to its railings Tuesday afternoon as Edberg opened his last U.S. Open with a roaring upset of fifth-seeded Richard Krajicek.
They jumped to their feet again Friday night, popping up like submerged corks when he wore down an injured Bernd Karbacher. Amazing how an injury can be the cause for such celebration.
That’s because so many see Edberg as one of a kind, not just another champion who has kissed two Wimbledon trophies, and lofted another two at the Open, all among his six Grand Slam titles.
This is his last chance to add another. No more Slams, he promises. He will not reappear like an aging prizefighter. It’s time to go at age 30, eligible for the senior discount in tennis years. But is there one more Slam left for before it ends?
“I’m always being realistic,” he said Friday night after Karbacher, who was down two sets to one, retired with a hamstring pull. “I think there’s very little chance, but nothing is impossible. If I play great tennis, that could take me a long way. A lot of things can happen, like tonight, when a guy gets injured. Maybe it’s going to happen more, who knows? I’m two for two now. Krajicek had a nosebleed, so …”
So there was laughter. Edberg broke up the place, a witty side of the often reserved Swede that he has kept to himself for years. He is not keen on outbursts, always the perfect fit for a game that falls silent during a point.
That makes the site of the Open an odd match for Edberg. But it seems he has grown accustomed to the LaGuardia flight patterns, the rumblings of the 7-Train, the Long Island Rail Road and crowds that have strengthened their vocal cords through years of hailing taxis.
“There were times when it was difficult to cope with the conditions,” Edberg has said. “It’s New York and there’s so much happening.”
But winning can make you comfortable on a pin cushion. Whatever prickliness Edberg might have had for the Open at one point, it was soothed when he won the title in 1991, slipping by almost unnoticed when Jimmy Connors was all the rage at the end of his career, the player making all the noise in so many of the night matches.
But nighttime has been the wrong time for Edberg in the past, his 7-4 Open record in the dark being one very good reason. And in the past, the stirring in the seats might have annoyed him. Now, with time, he finds the things that go bump in the night almost charming.
“The crowds can be very loud, especially when you’re playing in the evening,” said Edberg. “I’ve been here playing against Connors and it can be very, very loud. It makes it exciting at the same time.”
Connors made a late-stage run at the Open at the end, thrilling everyone with his semifinal appearance in 1991. Is it Edberg’s turn? Could he become the crowd mascot?
“I don’t think that’s going to happen too many times,” Edberg said. “I think in 1991, when Jimmy got to the semifinals, it was just incredible all of the people coming out. It was like Connors-mania in America. I think it takes an American, somebody special like Jimmy. For me that year it was actually great, because all of the attention was on him. I could sort of quietly go through that year.”
That’s just like him, silent and serene. It’s only now that people have really started to take notice. Isn’t that always the way it is? When a champion leaves, suddenly people realize what this person has meant to the game.
“I think Stefan is a professional that every young person, every athlete should strive to emulate,” Andre Agassi said.
Agassi is a guy who is often a loud bang to Edberg’s muffled ways, a splash of fluorescent color to Edberg’s conservative tennis whites. Yet, even Agassi realizes what style Edberg has.
“I think he reflects discipline, commitment, ability and talent,” Agassi said. “He gives back to the game.”
All of those gifts will be stored away when Edberg departs, gifts only to be discovered again and again.
“He only adds to the game,” Agassi said. “Really, his image and his person is impeccable.”
“After Wimbledon, I lost four straight tournaments on my surface of choice, outdoor hard courts. But I went deep in three of those events (Los Angeles, Cincinnati and Indianapolis). I made two semis and a quarterfinal, and I lost to a Grand Slam champion (or future Grand Slam champion) each of those times (Richard Krajicek, Stefan Edberg and Patrick Rafter, respectively).
I felt fine going into the US Open, and it was one of those years when the draw simply opens up like the vault of a bank, leaving the gold there for the taking. The toughest guy I faced during the Open was Michael Chang in the quarters, and by then I had too much game for my childhood rival. I simply overpowered him, playing out the most basic storyline in men’s tennis.
I faced a surprise finalist at Flushing Meadows, the Frenchman Cédric Pioline. This was a guy with a tricky game; he was a good mover, and he had a stroking repertoire that he used to good effect to keep opponents guessing. But it was also his first Grand Slam final, and that’s a pretty daunting assignment for a guy well along in his career, unaccustomed to the thin air at the peak of the game.
One of the curveballs thrown at guys who get one or two chances at the golden ring of a Grand Slam title is the conditions that greet you on the big day. Nobody daydreams about playing a Grand Slam final under diificult conditions that make it tough to play your best or most attractive tennis. In the finals of your dreams, the sun is shining, the air is still, the crowd is poised and hanging on every forehand and backhand with oohs and aahs.
But it rarely works out that way. It was windy on the day of the Open final – it seems like it was always windy in Louis Armstrong Stadium – and that probably bothered Pioline. I went into the match thinking How do I win this match with the least amount of drama and trouble? I played within myself, and he seemed nervous and not entirely comfortable on the big stage.
I won 6-4 6-4 6-3, and the match marked the beginning of the period when I dominated the game.”