By Arthur Brocklebank, Tennis Week, 2008
The fox is becoming extinct in England, but deep in middle England, Nottinghamshire an old silver fox sits alive and well in his armchair reflecting on his days of coaching Stefan Edberg and reviewing the state of the spot today. Tony Pickard coached six-time Grand Slam champion Edberg, who was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2004 and is set to make his senior debut on the Blackrock tour this year. The 42-year-old Swede will compete in Paris, France at The Trophée Jean-Luc Lagardère, September 18-21 and at the Royal Albert Hall in London, England at The BlackRock Masters Tennis, December 2-7.
Pickard still has that energy in his heart to stoke up a burning desire for anyone in the tennis profession who wants to listen and learn. He owns one of the most impressive coaching resumes in the nation, having worked with Edberg, Marat Safin, Petr Korda and a Canadian, oppphhhh I mean an adopted Brit, Greg Rusedski. Edberg amassed 41 singles titles, including two Wimbledon crowns, and 18 doubles championships in his career. Edberg and John McEnroe are the only men in Open Era history to hold the No. 1 ranking in both singles and doubles simultaneously.
It was a turn of circumstances at the beginning that would bring Tony Pickard and Stefan Edberg together. I asked Pickard, when he started playing tennis himself.
“My parents never played tennis. I was nuts on football. It all started by an accident when I was 14 years old. I loved football but one day I jumped into a swimming pool and landed on a broken bottle that cut my foot. I was in a wheelchair for six months. My sister took me to the tennis court where she played and I watched. I thought this is an easy game to play so I took it up,” Pickard says with a bemused smile as he gazed up to the ceiling.
Pickard soon played county tennis and later played several times at Wimbledon. He represented his country in the Davis cup and captained the under 21 and Davis Cup teams for Great Britain.
One incident that stands out in his playing career was in Rome at the 1963 Italian Open. He was playing the big-serving New Zealander Ian Crookenden in the Italian Championships and not only the crowd, but the line judges were losing interest.
Pickard takes up the story: “It was a match point. He served and it was at least nine inches long. The umpire looked to the baseline judge for the call, but he was turned round buying an ice cream over the fence.’ Crookenden won the point and went on to win the match. I felt as sick as a pig,” says Pickard.
Was there any possibility of an appeal I asked?
“In those days you could never appeal or you would have been brought up before a governing body committee and banned. A protest was not possible.”
By Neil Amdur, World Tennis, December 1989
By remaining true to herself, Jimmy Evert’s little girl gave new meaning to the word champion
For two decades she was Our Girl, Chrissie, Chris America, The Girl Next Door. She amazed us with her carriage, consistency and cool. And as she matured before our eyes, from a relatively shy 16-year-old Cinderella to the princess of women’s tennis, Chris Evert‘s style became the standard for others to emulate.
Great champions are measured not only by their titles but by their impact: Did their presence influence and enrich the sport? Arnold Palmer popularized golf for millions. Muhammad Ali designed new dimensions for the dweet science. Frank Shorter and Bill Rodgers stretched marathons from agony to ecstasy.
Few people have been scrutinized more on and off the field than Evert. Sure, she won Wimbledon? And Forest Hills, Flushing Meadows and Paris. But in 1974, it was “The Love Double” – Chrissie and Jimmy. Then came Burt and his “Babe”, a frolic in the Ford White House, a fairy-tale wedding with a British Knight, separation, divorce, and a mile-high romance with current husband, Andy Mill. And each time Evert added tournament titles and fresh story lines, her faithful wondered whether she was truly happy – or little girl blue.
It may have been destiny that brought Evert to tennis in 1971. It was the perfect time. Even with the most successful sports marketing program in history, women’s tennis would not have gained the same overwhelming acceptance without her. If Billie Jean King was the pathfinder, blazing the trail for equality, Evert’s longetivity and feminine image shaped the tour’s identity. She was the surrogate daughter for many newly liberated women and gave curious, tennis-playing males a reason to speculate about “what Chrissie is really like.”
Mary Ann Eisel, the victim of Evert’s amazing comeback from six match points at the 1971 US Open, can still recall that historic occasion.
“If it hadn’t been me,” Eisel said recently, referring to the match that launched 1,000 wins, “it would have been someone else. Chrissie was so mentally tough.”
Wilson just released this interview with Roger Federer, in which he talks about his new Wilson RF 97 Autograph racquet, his pre-match routine, how he feels mentally and physically going into the US Open, and much more. Enjoy:
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.
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Check the rules here.