His name won’t mean much to sporadic tennis followers, but Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi will contend along with Djokovic, Nadal and Federer for the prize named after Stefan Edberg. Mauro Cappiello, founder and admin of STE…fans, the best Edberg tribute site on the web, explains why, in his opinion, he actually is the ideal winner.

At the end of last month, the nominees for the 2011 ATP Sportsmanship Award were made, so it will be Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi who will contend for the prestigious prize that was named after Stefan Edberg, once he retired from professional tennis back in 1996. With a disputable choice, the ATP decided to name a player unknown by large audiences like Pakistan’s doubles specialist Qureshi, together with three of the top four guys in the world singles ranking. But, even though his name won’t mean much to sporadic tennis followers and even though he will probably be overwhelmed by the other three contenders in the votations made by fellow members of the ATP World Tour, STE…fans wants to back Qureshi as the only deserving winner of the Award.

A career devoted to sports and peace
Considered he’s not an elite player, the 31-year-old man from Pakistan has done in terms of sportsmanship through the years (and not only in 2011) much more than what the other players have done combined. Through his sport, he’s gone beyond prejudice and discrimination from his country, promoting tennis as a mean for overcoming political barriers among different nations, which is the supreme way of “conducting at the highest level of professionalism and with the utmost spirit of fairness”, as specified in the award motivation.

After turning professional in 1998, Qureshi first came in the news in 2002, when he decided to partner Israeli Amir Hadad in Wimbledon and US Open doubles tournaments, despite the “cold relationships” that have always run between their two countries. This earned him and his doubles mate an Arthur Ashe Humanitarian of the Year Award for 2002. A prize that Qureshi also won last year, together with his current doubles partner, Indian Rohan Bopanna (by the way, where is his nominee for the 2011 Edberg Award?), another player from a country Pakistan has stormy relationships with.

In 2010, Aisam and Rohan have created a campaign, Stop War Start Tennis, with the aim of playing a tennis match in Wagah, on the border joining India and Pakistan, with both players on either side of the border.

The “Sportsmanship Award” is not the “Player of the Year Award”
There’s no need to add more to indicate Qureshi not only as the ideal winner of the award for this year, but also as the man who could reverse a trend that, in recent years, has seen the ATP give the prize not to the real sportsman of the year, but to the player with the best results in the season.

This has clearly happened in 2009 and 2010, for example, when Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal respectively have been voted “Sportsman of the Year”, when, in our humble opinion, they wouldn’t have either deserved a nominee. And let me remind you that, if it’s the other players who vote the winner, it’s the ATP who makes the nominees.

At the same time, it’s quite strange that, since 2004, the prize has gone to the year-end number one or two. Is it really so hard to find a true sportsman out of the top of men’s tennis? In our opinion, it’s a scandal that sportsmen like Mardy Fish and Andy Roddick didn’t get a nominee. Still they are American, so from a nation that gets high visibility, and are ranked or have been ranked in the top ten.

The impression is that the ATP is using this award to pump up the popularity of the most prominent players rather than to promote the fair spirit of tennis and positive behaviors by its protagonists, in and off court.

Questionable winners
We strongly believe that there should be an episode or a series of episodes to justify the nominee for a certain year and this has not happened recently.

In these two videos, you can see Roger Federer smash a racquet in frustration in Miami and speak roughly to the chair umpire in the US Open final against Juan Martin Del Potro.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w-e-Ud-ly04[/youtube] [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AZB9JfhzLzE[/youtube]

Those episodes both happened in 2009, when he was voted “Sportsman of the year”, overcoming the nominees of Ivan Ljubicic, Jarkko Nieminem and Carlos Moya. Generally speaking, Roger Federer is certainly a sportsman who has done a lot for tennis, in and off-court. He also has Stefan Edberg’s endorsement. After the two met last year in Stockholm, Stefan said: «He’s very smooth and easygoing, so I think he’s a great, great, great guy for tennis in general, I think both on and off the court». But, the fact that he is named every year, even when he doesn’t deserve it, just because he is Roger Federer, is ridiculous.

This other video shows Rafael Nadal vividly contest a decision by the umpire at the London ATP World Tour Finals, after the Hawk-Eye had shown his indication of a ball out was wrong.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BJgYfTmzuYw[/youtube]

Earlier in Wimbledon, he was (rightly) accused by his third round opponent Philipp Petzschner of requesting a “strategic” medical time out when down two sets to one. Both episodes happened in 2010, when the Spaniard was voted “Sportsman of the Year”, overcoming the nominees of Marin Cilic (?), Taylor Dent and Roger Federer.

None of us who witnessed Stefan Edberg’s career needs to be reminded that Stefan never talked roughly to an umpire, never smashed a racquet in anger and never used a medical time out to escape a difficult score situation. That’s why the Sportsmanship Award was named after him and that’s why it should never be delivered to a player committing one of the above during a tennis season.

Vote for your 2011 Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award winner»

Article written by Mauro Cappiello, founder and admin of STE…fans – a tribute to Stefan Edberg.

In the third game of the match, Courier runs into trouble on his serve: the game goes to 6 deuces, before Edberg breaks. From then on, it’s a perfect display of serve and volley tennis, and Edberg captures his first US Open title with a 6-2 6-4 6-0 masterpiece victory. Edberg put on one of the best performances in a Grand Slam final.

Edberg

Courier

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Article by Robin Finn, New York Times

He has never won a French Open championship, and if he doesn’t win this year’s, he never will.
But the 30-year-old Stefan Edberg, unseeded for his final campaign at the only Grand Slam event to elude him, took a never-say-never attitude into his match with Michael Chang today and turned a gloomy afternoon incandescent with his serve-and-volley artistry.

“I played some of the best tennis I’ve done for a very, very long time,” Edberg said after his 4-6, 7-5, 6-0, 7-6 (7-1) third-round victory.

“I’m not going out there giving him anything just because he’s 30 and it’s his last year,” said the fourth-seeded Chang. “He is not the type that wants any free handouts. I lost a little bit of timing in the third set and from there the momentum definitely shifted.”

By doing the little things right, said the 47th-ranked Edberg, he gave himself a little chance to retire from the game with all four Grand Slam trophies in his possession — an honor no male player has achieved since Rod Laver and Roy Emerson in the 1960’s.

“There’s a tiny little chance,” he said, “because I’m not feeling tired, I’m moving well, I’m serving a lot better than I’ve done for a long time. Little things that make a difference.”

Edberg didn’t cringe at the notion of squaring off against the very player who shut the window on him in the 1989 final here. Instead, he relished it. And today he got partial revenge for the loss that allowed Chang, at 17, to become the French Open’s youngest male champion and forced the Swede, then 23, to wonder if he had blown his best chance to excel on his worst surface.

Now Edberg, who bumbled away a dozen break points in the fourth set of his 1989 final against Chang, has the chance to become the French Open’s oldest champion since Andres Gomez in 1990.

“It does get tougher, but it’s possible, there’s a tiny little chance,” said Edberg, who admitted he would rather have beaten Chang in their only other meeting on clay — the 1989 final — than today.

With four rounds separating him from record-book immortality, Edberg said it will “take another four matches to make up for” what went wrong seven years ago.

One auspicious sign for Edberg, who prefers to deal in facts but didn’t mind hearing about a positive portent, is that he has won all four Grand Slam matches he has played against Chang since 1989. More important, at Wimbledon in 1990, and at the United States Open in 1991 and 1992, Edberg went on to capture the championships.
If he does it here, he’s certain to have ample support in the stands.

“You’re popular when you’re young, and then when you’re old, the people start cheering for you again,” said Edberg, who definitely had the sentiment and sympathy vote against Chang.

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” .