from Daily Mail
by Mike Dickson
It was a trend started by Andy Murray’s hiring of Ivan Lendl and we see its ultimate manifestation in the fascinating sub-plot to Sunday's men’s Wimbledon final.
Boris Becker and Stefan Edberg faced off 35 times in their career, with three of those being on this very same occasion. Now the rivalry rekindles itself by proxy, with their respective coaching charges Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer going for the ultimate prize.
It is a sweet coincidence that this will also be the 35th meeting between this afternoon’s finalists, although their career record against each other (18-16 to the Swiss) is much closer than the 25-10 superiority of the German over the Swede.
However, Becker is painfully aware that in three of their four Grand Slam final meetings he lost, and that includes two of their three consecutive Wimbledon finals between 1988 and 1990.
A quarter of a century on, Edberg barely looks a day older than he did then, that sublimely easy mover who could glide to the net as if his feet never touched the ground, so often delivering a beautifully executed volley to win the point.
He has lived an uncomplicated, low-profile existence since and is said to have multiplied his fortune from tennis by working as a high-end financial planner for himself and others. Becker has had a far more complex existence in both his business and private lives, and middle age is a more obvious intruder on his much larger frame.
‘Stefan was my biggest rival,’ said Becker. ‘Always a nice guy off the court but a very difficult opponent on it. He always had such control of himself and was such a great natural athlete. In some ways losing that 1990 final was one of the most difficult matches to get over in my career. In these matches, we can give our players some of the things we learned from our experience.’
Murray’s partnership with Lendl has spawned a host of copycat arrangements. Croatian quarter-finalist Marin Cilic, for example, works with his compatriot Goran Ivanisevic, and Japan’s rising star Kei Nishikori is with Michael Chang.
In all cases the modern-day players are seeking to garner that little bit of stardust from those they once idolised. Federer has described Edberg as his boyhood hero, and this year it has been clear that the Swede has acted as extra inspiration — hard to find when you are a 32-year-old who has won 17 major titles and has nothing to prove.
The key to Federer’s longevity is quite simple: he loves the game as much as he ever did and the Swede, now 48, is part of that, as is the challenge of doing it with a large, young family in tow.
‘Stefan is clearly a piece of the puzzle but then so is my fitness trainer and Severin (Luthi, his longstanding general coach and confidant), and everybody around me,’ said Federer.
‘They make it possible to wake up every morning motivated, healthy, fit and eager to play.
‘The fun for me is being able to do it at this age. I know so many people on the tour after being on it for so many years and travelling on it is still something I really enjoy. It’s the whole package. You’ve got to love the game because if you don’t, it’s too hard to keep going.’
Federer is a month away from his 33rd birthday. We should enjoy him while we can because even he cannot keep going for ever.
It is hard to imagine him going all the way at any other Grand Slam but a key this fortnight has been that he has got through his matches relatively quickly and that they have been on what is, for the body, the most forgiving of surfaces.
Only on grass, where his ability to come forward is most rewarded, can you look at this match-up and struggle who to pick as favourite.
Do not believe that there is anything other than a massive incentive for Federer to win. Aside from wanting to prove wrong those of us who believed 2012 would be his last Grand Slam title, it is a priceless, and possibly last, opportunity to add to his tally. With Rafael Nadal on 14 Slam titles but aged 28, it could be very tight who ends up with the most, and one more for the Swiss might yet make all the difference.
There is also not a great deal of love lost between Federer and Djokovic, the 27-year-old Serb who hardly lacks for motivation either.
For such an incredible competitor it is remarkable that Djokovic has lost five of his last six Grand Slam finals, and he is without a major title since the Australian Open 18 months ago.
His most lacklustre display in all of those was probably this time a year ago, although he faced an inspired Andy Murray at the height of his grasscourt powers, plus the whole of the Centre Court.
Federer is certain to be the huge sentimental favourite again today, and the crowd support could be a factor again.
And do not underestimate how important this is for Becker. His appointment last December was greeted with much scepticism, and with Djokovic’s other coach Marian Vajda absent (he wants to travel less) the German has been running the show.
For Becker, a Djokovic victory would represent quite a comeback in itself.
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