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"He has a nice tennis, he likes to dictate the game and has a modern style of play. He has a fantastic forehand, unlike me back then" - Stefan Edberg about his son Christopher's tennis. Read the interview

Stefan Edberg, last winner on grass

Stefan Edberg and Mats Wilander just after their handshake in the 1985 Australian Open final

from La Gazette du Tennis
by Stephane
translated into English by Mauro Cappiello

The Australian Open (named Australian Championships until 1969) is now the first and less "prestigious" Grand Slam tournament of the season (before the French Open at Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open). This is explained by its history.

In the 1920s, the influence of American Tennis in Europe, played by the great William "Bill" Tilden, met with the arrival of our Musketeers. Indeed, the World clay court Championships (Saint-Cloud) were transferred to the Stade Roland Garros, which was originally built for Brugnon, Borotra, Cochet and Lacoste to defend the Davis Cup taken from the hands of the masters on American soil in 1926. At that time, tennis was played from spring to autumn, with the sequence Roland Garros-Wimbledon as the highlight of the season. This ending was traditionally the Davis Cup final.

What is the Australian Open? Europeans did not play in the winter (at the time they summed up tennis and other occupations): therefore it was impossible to ship for 45 days to play a simple tennis tournament.

So it was a shunned tournament, even with the advent of the Open era: finals between Australians... The best players of the 1970s, Borg, Nastase, Orantes took part only once.

However, the tournament took off in 1983. Mats Wilander, runner-up at Roland Garros (against Noah, always good to remember a French victory...) takes part in the Australian Open, then programmed in December, to "prepare for the Davis Cup" which would take place on the same courts as the Australian Open. McEnroe and Lendl conform and also participate. This is truly the first edition where the world is present.

Mats Wilander, who came to practice, won the tournament. Nice surprise.

1983 Junior Edberg
This acknowledgement and the renewed interest in the Australian Open also benefits younger players (those of the juniors circuit), the best of which seems to be the 17 year old Swede Stefan Edberg. Antithesis of fellow Borg and Wilander who played a game based on rhythm from the baseline, Edberg offers a very offensive game. The same that was played by the world n. 1 at the time, John McEnroe. Aware of his lacks from the bottom line, Stefan left his two-handed backhand for a backhand today considered one of the purest and more effective tennis has known. His serve and volley sequences overwhelmed his opponents. His biggest rival at the time, Boris Becker, said: "It is unplayable." Without exaggeration. Because yes, in 1983, Stefan Edberg is unplayable: with Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open under his belt, he won the Junior Australian Open that year. This is the first and only time a player puts the Junior Grand Slam in his record.

1984, among the greats
Stefan Edberg thus arrives on the Pro circuit with the label of "hope of the tennis world." His first season on the Grand Prix is mixed, it is difficult to confirm his outstanding junior performance at the highest level. He was defeated in the second round of Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open...

However, during the summer, he won the title of Olympic champion at the Games of Los Angeles (tennis was a demonstration sport, only players aged 20 and under were involved).

He ended his season with a bang with his first ATP title in Milan by beating... Mats Wilander (who had won the Australian Open). I must say that Edberg's game is perfectly suited to fast surfaces, indoor tournaments played on carpet where he succeeded so well.

First big result in Grand Slam are the quarter-finals on the grass of Kooyong Stadium in Melbourne during the Australian Open played in December.

1985, the confirmation
Parallel to Stefan Edberg'S 1984 season, tennis world is changing: Ivan Lendl won his first Grand Slam title (in a memorable final at Roland Garros against John McEnroe) and proved that it was possible to compete and beat the biggest.

So the year 1985 begins with an awareness of young players (Becker and Edberg in particular). Stefan's attack game, even though inappropriate for the clay courts of Paris, allows him to make an excellent Roland Garros, defeated in the quarter finals by Jimmy Connors.

At Wimbledon, he will bow in the second round against Kevin Curren, who beat McEnroe in the following round before losing in the final against Becker. Yes, Boris Becker, the rival of the junior Edberg. Before lifting the trophy, the German defeated Nystrom, Mayotte, Leconte, Jarryd and then Curren. The new talents are capable of beating the best players in the world. Becker was just there to prove it.

Edberg thus arrives at Flushing Meadows with big ambitions for the U.S. Open, although he does not like this tournament. Annoyed by the surrounding noise, he can not perform his best tennis. He will lose against Connors in the fourth round.

Stefan still won three titles that year, indoor, Basel, San Francisco and Memphis. But he lacks the big Grand Slam result.

Australian Open 1985, the consecration
On the Kooyong grass, everyone agrees that Wilander (double title), Lendl and McEnroe will play leading roles. Edberg, seeded number five is the big odd of the tournament. In the second round, Stefan plays very poorly against the local Willy Masur. The Swede saved two match points before going on. An incredible victory that opened the doors to the quarter finals as the previous year. Then an easy match against the Dutch Schapers offers young Edberg the chance to challenge the World No. 1 Ivan Lendl, recent winner of the US Open. Opposition of styles, Lendl's perfect groundstrokes against the incredible volleys of the Swede. Not a gift for his career first Grand Slam semifinal.

But the game keeps all its promises. Edberg disrupts the Czech, but when the latter wins the first set at the tiebreak, the Viking is believed to have no big chances. Stefan has the merit to hold, hanging on to his efficient service, his backhand volleys and killing backhand. It glues together at one set all. And 6-1 in the third set. Lendl recovers, we will therefore see a fifth set.

Edberg, remains true to his convictions. Going forward, save all breakpoints on the fly before concluding, 9 games to 7.

Here he is in the Australian Open final. His first Grand Slam final! Cons... Mats Wilander, favorite to win, leading 4-1 in the head-to-head with Edberg. But Stefan has already beaten him in a tournament final, remember, it was in Milan.

And it is in a final without much suspense, that Stefan Edberg destroys his compatriot, yet double title holder. 6-4 6-3 6-3, a clear score and without burrs, where Edberg just played his tennis. Wilander was never able to find the solution, unable to distill his passing shots.

So the first Grand Slam title was won by Stefan Edberg in Australia. Fully deserved by this player with such a remarkable style of play.

This title is not due to chance. The natural talent of the player, the explosion of the younger generation (with Becker), playing ultra-aggressive, his fluency on grass, and good results in 1983 and 1984 make of him finally, a logic winner of the Australian Open.

Bravo, Champion.

Read the original article in French

Stefan Edberg, last winner on grass


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