by Laurent Trupiano
translated into English by Mauro Cappiello
Stefan Edberg with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal during the trophy ceremony of the 2006 French Open
There are moments of happiness for a magazine, a meeting with Stefan Edberg took us to the seventh heaven of the interview.
Absolute class, a rare and precious word, the greatest Swedish serve & volleyer explained the attacking tennis in a garden of the Lagardère Trophy.
This interview that you find here in its entirety will be a page in the "GrandChelem 10" which comes out this Wednesday in the 690 points of our network.
When Federer has unveiled his 2009 program, it is even more relevant.
You came to Paris with your children, is it important to you that they accompany you?
I ended my career in 1996. My daughter was only 3 years old then. This is strange because she’s never really seen me play. So I think my kids will enjoy seeing me a lot.
I noticed they were particularly proud of their dad during the game...
Oh yeah? (Embarrassed smile). This is a very nice thing to be able to manage work and family life. Even though it's been a while since I have last played, I tried to do my best in front of them. And then be able to travel in cities around the world with the whole family, this is a good opportunity to combine everything.
I saw that they had even come camera in hand...
Oh, you saw! (Laughs)
Stefan, we do not see you as much as Björn and Mats. I say this because Mats comments tennis every week. What do you think of the men's tour?
Firstly, I want to clarify that I do not watch much tennis on television. I do not play nearly as I did before.
Past 10 years. I try not to miss the big matches like finals or semi-finals. But I do not have much time because there are plenty of other things I love to do. As far as tennis today, my reflection is that Nadal and Federer dominate tennis in a way never seen before. The two of them won almost all the Grand Slams in recent years. They won almost every tournament they attended. They play a lot of finals, beautiful finals. I think these two are incredible. These are great for tennis players and the game
Do you think there is no comparison with your time?
There is no comparison. When I played, there were plenty of players capable of winning a Grand Slam: Courier, Sampras, Agassi, McEnroe, Lendl, all big names who could win titles. Now look, Nadal and Federer share almost everything. Since the 70s, I do not remember seeing it. So my thinking is that these two guys are really good and they are a little better than the others.
Then a little provocation, you say they are really good. Is it not that the others are not good enough?
I do not know, because I'm not quite tennis assiduous. To say how good they are I should be on the courts. Watching tennis on TV is not the same thing. There is always a question as to whether the others are at the level. I think so. Rafa and Roger are just exceptionally good.
You have a big French fan called Guy Forget. Two years ago, we asked what Federer should do to beat Rafa. He replied, "If Stefan Edberg was still playing he would beat Nadal 7 times out of 10" because you would make him a first serve and volley and then a second serve and volley, and that throughout the entire match. Do you think the same?
Clearly to beat Nadal, he should not play from the baseline. Because at this game he is the best. To beat him you have to attack, play a different game. I'm really surprised that Roger Federer does not play like that. At Wimbledon, for example, he came to the net once in ten. If I were his coach, I would have asked him to come to the net at least 7 times out of 10 against Nadal, just to break his rhythm. I think you do not have many players who play like I did or as Becker or McEnroe did in attacking first and second. It's a shame because it is very difficult to play against someone who always breaks your rhythm and it's very frustrating. But at the same time it is a very difficult game to play.
But do you think it is still possible to play like this, with the current grass, rackets and strings?
It’s got to be more difficult. I know they made balls slower, heavier. They cut the grass a little higher, so slower. It is therefore more difficult. It is a style of game that needs speed. It happens to see Roger go to the net against Nadal and having to volley without control. Sometimes you can read the disappointment on his face as if he had missed something... But now he can’t exclusively play serve and volley. He needs to play a little serve and volley, do it game after game with regularity. Because playing quite a serve and volley game is currently too difficult, even impossible. I think he should adopt a more attacking game strategy because now everybody knows how he plays and everyone wants to beat him. If he goes 5 times out of 10 to the net, it will destabilize his opponent. The opponent will not know what to expect from his serve. "Is he going to come to the net or not?". Roger is capable of it and I think that's a key for him.
When you say that there is no more serve&volleyer as you were. Is that a disappointment for you? Can it change?
Frankly, it would be nice to see more players go to the net. I'd like to see more variation in the game because everyone plays from the bottom in the same way.
Did you think Roger plays differently?
Yes of course. He does not play like any other. It would be nice to see someone control the game at the net. The problem is that the players are now great on groundstrokes but do not play very well at the net. Serve and volley is a style of game that requires more technical and physical training. You need to start playing serve and volley very young if it is difficult.
Would you be interested to play just a few points against Nadal? McEnroe did for 10 minutes at Wimbledon.
Of course. Anyway it's always good to play against the best in the world. It would be a good challenge. I could feel his ball striking and I am convinced that at the first touch of the ball, I would say "wouahou!". But one must get used to his shots little by little.
Talking about other players. who are you interested in? Have you some names?
Okay, there are not many Swedes... But there are a lot of interesting French players… And then there's Djokovic who has already won a Grand Slam. He will surely win another. Murray is the player who reaches high, he should be in several Grand Slam finals quickly. There may be other players who can come to challenge Roger and Rafa but it will take time!
Which current player impresses you?
I love Roger’s style. He plays tennis I would have liked to play. If I was playing tennis now I would not go to the net all the time. I would stay over the baseline. But at the same time it is very exciting to see Rafa play. He is a tiger and it's really interesting to see. All great players have something more.
Do you follow women’s tennis?
Not much. But I do not look too much of men’s tennis either.
As we are in Paris, can we go back to your final at Roland Garros lost in 1989? So we are 19 years later, can you give us hindsight analysis of your match?
First I said that it has not been 19 years of suffering. But this is a match in which I would like to have played a few things differently. There were a lot of break points in the fourth set. If I had converted the break points, I probably would have won this match. I would have had to win this final but I did not! At the time, I was disappointed, very disappointed because I knew I would not have had the opportunity to win the Roland Garros every day. I wasn’t wrong.
It was a special year...
Yes very special. There were many things that happened. Michael Chang, Lendl, Becker I played in the semifinals. Lots of things happened during that tournament...
Wasn't Michael the one you wanted? It was his first final, he was supposed to be quickly overtaken by you...
It was his first final and since then it was the only Grand Slam that he has won. He deserved it (laughs).
What do you do now?
I work. I'm pretty busy at the moment. I live in Sweden. I work from my home or office in the financial community. It takes me a long time. But I love what I do.
Which qualities from sports can you use in your new job?
I think that, as an athlete, you're used to working for a long time, to be very concentrated. I think in the workplace these are strengths. There are so many relevant qualities from sports in the middle of business. In tennis, though, you're very framed. There’s the referee, linesmen. Now you have Hawk-Eye itself to tell you what is good or not. In business, it’s not the same. You must maintain human relationships, the goals are different. In my opinion, it takes more than five years to be good in this environment. Business is swimming with sharks.
Yet we have a picture of you as a shy person. It's hard to imagine you in that environment. How did you do?
Being in Sweden helps me. Things are done quietly. You can trust people.
What, Is it not the same in France?
If so this is exactly the same (laughs) No, I know that in southern Europe is a little different mentality but I know how you walk.
Talking of the future. Your children came to see you play. Are they practicing tennis?
Christopher plays a little tennis. Both really like sports. But the number 1 concern is school.
Last question, can you say something in French?
«Je voudrais une table pour deux personnes» ("I'd like to have a table for two, please") (laughs)
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